The need for efficient and low-cost internet connectivity in Nigeria
The poor state of internet connectivity has been detrimental to economic development in Nigeria. The Ookla Speedtest Global Index reports that Nigeria’s average internet download speed currently stands at around 10.02 megabytes per second, which is way below the global average of 22.99 megabytes per second. As a result of this, Nigeria ranked 108th in internet download speed out of 132 countries in August 2018. The Nigeria Communications Commission reports that within January and July 2018, 956,546 new internet users were recorded, making the number of total internet users 105 million as of August 2018. This represents a 22% minimum internet penetration.
Photo credit; thepcworks
These numbers show that Nigeria ranks 8th among the top 20 global internet users, surpassing the number of users in developed nations like the United Kingdoms and France. (internetworldstats). It is high time Nigeria puts its ranking as the world’s most populous black nation making the country level-up with other developed nations. According to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016, internet connectivity is a major accelerator of economic growth; with every 10% increase in connectivity, there is a 1.38% corresponding growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The high cost of internet connectivity in Nigeria is of great concern due to the fact that many businesses and individuals, most especially the start-ups and youths can barely afford its cost. It also adds to overhead costs of small-scale enterprises which drastically increases the cost of doing business in Nigeria. Therefore, the high cost of internet connectivity affects the growth of businesses and the quest for acquiring valuable knowledge through the internet, thereby impeding the probability of businesses and individuals to produce world-class technological innovations. Despite this challenges, a certain level of progress has been recorded in the information technology sector, but not enough to compete with the rest of the world. Therefore, there is a need for government to create an environment for proper funding, creative capital support, and proper policies to support a robust economic and social environment, as well as protection and sustenance of investments already on the ground, in order to make connectivity more accessible, efficient and affordable. Indeed, the internet has paved way for quite a number of Nigerian start-ups which started with a few employees to grow into multi-million dollar corporations like Andela, Ventures, Itanna, and CCHub. Director-General of the National Information Technology Agency (NITDA), Dr. Isah Ibrahim, during an IT program aimed at encouraging innovations in the ICT sector stated that start-ups contributed $101 million to the Nigerian economy in the first three quarters of 2018. The advent of these companies has increased employment opportunities in the tech sector, thereby contributing to the nation’s socio-economic development. Economic opportunities are brought to millions of people within the shortest possible time to trade in goods and services. Also, the required skills to enable individuals survives in an ever-changing technology-driven world can easily be acquired at the individual's pace through fast and affordable internet connectivity, thereby giving room for other economic and social activities to thrive. It is quite common for Nigerians to make great advancements in innovation if the conditions are favorable. Lately, a few private firms have made moves to boost internet connectivity in the country, most notably the launch of 5 new Google Stations in Lagos State, which is Nigeria’s largest commercial city and more recently on December 6, 2018, in Abuja, the nation’s capital. This move is aimed at granting access to millions of Nigerians across the country in order to spur economic and social growth. Therefore, it is imperative for the government to capitalize on this move by funding or subsidizing a national backbone network in order to encourage the building of critical infrastructure needed to create a platform where access to efficient connectivity would be high and at minimal cost. This would also lead to lifting the pressure 105 million Nigerian internet users are putting on existing infrastructure. The Government needs to put measures in place to checkmate the vandalization of communication infrastructure across the country. The government also needs to speed up implementation of the National Broadband Policy (NBP), which was launched in 2013 by Former President Goodluck Jonathan, and finalise permits to licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) to ease the development of infrastructure in that regard, as well as the licensing of additional backbone networks to improve internet connectivity and drive down cost.; this move is expected to provide internet access to every nook and cranny of the country and boost every sector of the nation's development. Strong policies also need to be formulated to pave way for competitiveness and creation of values in Nigeria’s socio-economic sector Looking at the nearest future where internet connectivity goes beyond connecting devices and people, to connecting almost everything from cars, planes, home appliances, water plants, fish ponds, and many others; it is high time Nigeria explored the potential of its massive number of internet users to revolutionize the nation’s socio-economic status and take its rightful place as the giant of Africa.