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Knowledge is Power: Uncomplicating Broadband Affordability Issues in Nigeria

Here at A4AI, we are excited that Nigeria — the first African country to join the Alliance — has formed a national action plan and is working to finalise concrete work plans to tackle some of the policy and regulatory obstacles currently blocking the road to more affordable Internet prices in the country. We recognise, however, that bringing these local stakeholders together is just one piece of the puzzle. The policy and regulatory issues we are working on can be complicated, and we can only be an effective coalition if we ensure that A4AI stakeholders and coalition members are informed about and feel empowered to address these issues.


As part of our mission in our countries of engagement, A4AI aims to build the knowledge and capacity of the stakeholders we work with through workshops focused on specific priority issues. Following our successful Nigeria coalition meeting in Lagos on July 14, A4AI hosted two workshops on July 15 to explore two of the three priority topics that the Nigeria coalition has identified as key to expanding affordable Internet access in the country — Spectrum Policy and Consumer Awareness of the Internet. Below are some takeaways from our first workshops in Nigeria:


Why does spectrum matter?


Steve Song, a consultant and expert on spectrum issues, led our Spectrum Policy workshop. Steve provided a primer on spectrum policy and argued that policy and regulation must keep pace with technological change and support demand for wireless broadband, especially by encouraging the creative use of spectrum such as Wi-Fi and Television White Spaces (TVWS). Stakeholders were particularly interested in how these spectrum technologies could greatly expand access in rural areas.


Some of the workshop takeaways:


  • Representatives from both the Initiative for Elimination of Violence against Women and Children and the Medical Women Association of Nigeria said their organisations would benefit greatly from the expansion of Internet access in the rural areas in which they work. Entrepreneurs developing technology to provide Internet through Wi-Fi and TVWS could provide Internet at a low cost in these areas, and in turn stimulate more demand for Internet services from rural residents.


  • Nigeria’s telecommunications regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has approved a TVWS trial in the country, leaving room for policy and regulation development around the use of white spaces. The NCC is also interested in approaching Nigerian Internet service providers (ISPs) for support to roll out these technologies.


  • Internet Solutions CEO Olusola Teniola said his company could make a better case for expanding Internet services into rural areas if they had access to free or cheaper spectrum.


What is the Web Nigerians want?

During the second workshop, Consumer Awareness of the Internet, we presented the basic Web Index and Affordability Index indicators on the status and impact of the internet in Nigeria as compared to other countries, and asked participants to think about their answers to one question: “What type of Web do you want?” Dozens of colorful Post-it notes filled the walls of the room with statements of people wanting everything from a Web that empowers women and youth, to one that protects users’ privacy and upholds human rights.


Participants then brainstormed strategies and activities within four categories that could contribute to building the Web Nigerians want, including:


Impact and Empowerment:

  • An awareness campaign that informs the public of the benefits of the Internet, including how it can be used as a tool to encourage skills development and provide education services.


Freedom & Openness

  • A framework for online privacy stating that the government should not be able to routinely collect your data and retain it indefinitely, and outlining a clear and transparent process for government data collection.
  • An Internet governance model that upholds and supports human rights, openness, inclusiveness and net neutrality.


Relevant Content

  • Media training for local content creators to teach them skills such as search engine optimization and video editing.
  • Policies to encourage the creation of local content on education, agriculture, entrepreneurship and health.


Universal & Affordable Access

  • Requirements for Internet services to be high speed [1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) minimum] and reliable.
  • A “grace period” where the private sector, in collaboration with governments or donors, provides free Internet access for a limited time period to stimulate demand in communities.


The feedback and ideas generated during these workshops will be integrated into the work plans crafted by the Nigeria Coalition’s Open Access & Infrastructure Sharing, Consumer Awareness & Pricing, and Spectrum Policy working groups.


We will continue to host similar capacity-building and knowledge-sharing workshops on different topics in each of our countries of engagement to equip our stakeholders with the knowledge needed to achieve our shared mission of expanding affordable Internet access in their countries.