Nigeria signs-on to affordable Internet access

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By Love Anuforo

Nigeria has signed on to a continued commitment to advancing the policy and regulatory reforms  required to cut down cost of connection, thereby facilitating affordable internet access for all Nigerians.

The Honourable Minister of Communication, Barrister Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, during the 5th Edition of the annual Internet Freedom Forum (IFF) held in Lagos, recently, signed the three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the World Wide Web Foundation-the host of Alliance for Affordable Internet’s (A4AI) secretariat.

Barrister Adebayo Shittu signed the MoU in renewal of Nigeria’s membership in the   Alliance   for   Affordable   Internet ( A4AI ) – a   global   coalition   dedicated   to   reducing   the   cost   of   internet   access.

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), Nigerian Coalition, coordinated by past Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest C. Ndukwe, aims to increase the affordability of both mobile and fixed-line Internet access in line with the sustainable development goals as well as provide a unified voice and coordinated focus on addressing the shared goal of open, affordable access to the Internet in Nigeria and indeed in the developing world.

The meeting was targeted, amongst others, to report the activities of the working groups, publicly launch the African Regional and Nigeria Affordability report, review how Nigeria is doing against global and regional trends, also discuss and offer inputs on the intended Internet Industry Code of Practice.

The Internet Freedom Forum (IFF), as acknowledged by the Minister,  is an annual forum organized for with the sole aim of bringing participants in Nigeria, Africa and from other climes together under one umbrella to hold discussions that would enrich and broaden the conversation issues on Internet freedom and digital rights in Africa.

For this course, A4AI Coalition has been working round the clock to chart a way forward towards deepening broadband Internet access and affordability in the country.

The exposition, The Minister added, “will go a long way in placing the coalition in a better position in its efforts to improve internet affordability for all Nigerians. Also, it would help in positioning the country as potential leader regionally in Africa and with a global outlook on affordability.”

The Minister announced that the Country’s ICT development blue print and National Broadband plan would be  implemented holistically for the next two to three years.

Barrister stated that The development of mobile services in Nigeria has been a direct result of the liberalization of the Nigerian telecommunications sector, which began in 1993 with the establishment  of some Ministry’s parastatals.

In what looked like a  response to the questions on the network situation in Nigeria today, The Honourable Minister said that the Federal Government of Nigeria recognizes the urgent need to increase access to, and usage of, Internet and broadband in Nigeria.

 As part of its over-reaching national development plan, Vision 20:2020, which outlines the Federal Government’s aim to make Nigeria a top 20 global economy by 2020, with ICTs given a central role.

 In order to rationalize the work towards achieving Vision 20:2020, the Government of Nigeria has developed the new ICT strategic roadmap, which is before the Federal Executive Council for approval, it details how Nigeria will leverage ICTs to become a knowledge-based, globally competitive society by 2020.

In   the   three-year  period covered by  the initial  MoU  over  100 stakeholders   have come  together  to form   the A4AI-Nigeria   Coalition,  which  is   working   to  tackle policy and regulatory barriers  to  affordable internet   access  in   the   country.   Recent   coalition   advocacy  efforts have   resulted   in   the   Nigerian   government’s    endorsement    of   a   new,   ambitious    ”1   for  2″   affordability   target     —    1GB   of   mobile   broadband   access   priced   at   2%   or   less   of   average  monthly   income   —   which,   if   achieved,   will   enable   millions    more   Nigerians   to   afford   to   come  online.    Commenting   on   today’s   signing,   A4AI   Deputy   Director   Eleanor   Sarpong   noted:    ”We   congratulate   Nigeria   for   its   renewed   commitment   to   ensuring   affordable   internet   access   for  its   people.   The   inclusive,   multi-stakeholder   approach   of   the   A4AI-Nigeria   Coalition   has   shone a  clear   light   on   the   barriers   to   affordable   access   in   Nigeria,   and   the   practical   solutions   developed  by   the   Coalition   have   started   to   produce   great   results.   A4AI   is   delighted   to   have   the   opportunity  to   continue   to   work   toward   achieving   the   policy   change   necessary   to   make   online   access   a   reality  for   all.”

Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) Report shows that high cost of broadband may hinder the Achievement of UN Global of Universal Internet Access by 2020, the Minister added.

Barrister Shittu also made a wake up to the Ministry of Communication, urging them to brace their activities by working round the clock to set a more ambitious target for getting broadband prices down; thereby accelerating progress.

In the words of the Minister, “a lot of work needs to be done; immediate collaborative action is required — let’s work together to build open and competitive markets that can drive affordability, applicability, availability and accessibility (4As).”

According to the Minister, “a stakeholder consultation  on the establishment of an Internet industry code of practice has been approved and the NCC will soon invite all affected and interested stakeholders for consultation as part of our internet Governance functions.  The Ministry, through the NCC seeks inputs from stakeholders in the development of a code of practice in support of an open internet.