Nigeria ranks 4th in Africa, retains 19th on global Internet affordability
. Pantami, Danbatta assure of FG’s plans to bridge the broadband infrastructure gap
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI)’s 2021 Affordability Drivers Index (ADI) report has ranked Nigeria 19th out of 72 countries surveyed for Internet affordability in 2021. Nigeria was, however, fourth in Africa.
The A4AI Nigeria scored 68.71 out of 100 in terms of the policy, infrastructure, and how people are able to access the Internet in the country. In Africa, Nigeria is the fourth country with the most affordable Internet, coming behind Morocco, Botswana and Mauritius, which ranked 9th, 13th and 18th globally in that order.
Painfully, the report showed that Nigeria didn’t move up the ladder, rather maintained the 19th position it ranked in 2020, though with a lower score of 66.19.
A4AI, which said high ADI scores correlated with reduced Internet costs on both the industry side and for consumers, noted that the ADI scores countries across two main policy groups of the extent to which Internet infrastructure has been deployed, as well as the policy framework in place to encourage future infrastructure expansion; and current broadband adoption rates, as well as the policy framework in place to enable equitable access.
“High ADI scores correlate with reduced broadband costs on both the industry side and for consumers. As the figure shows, there is a positive and statistically significant correlation between a country’s ADI score and the affordability of a 1GB mobile prepaid broadband plan — reaffirming that improving policies and regulations to lower industry costs should be a priority for all, and particularly for low- and middle-income countries,” the organisation stated in the report.
It added that the ADI tool was developed to assess how well a country’s policy, regulatory, and overall supply-side environment is working to lower industry costs and ultimately create more affordable broadband. “In particular, policymakers and relevant stakeholders can use this tool to identify where progress is needed most,” it said.
Other countries listed to have improved in the affordability assessment include Moldova, Morocco, Botswana, Iraq, Libya, Maldives, Nauru, and Mongolia.
According to the report, the global median price for entry-level mobile-broadband services in 2020 fell within that target, at 1.7 per cent. However, the median price for entry-level fixed-broadband, that is, at least 5GB, services was considerably above the target, at 2.9 per cent of GNI per capita.
MEANWHILE, ongoing policy directions and regulatory measures being put in place by the Nigerian government towards bridging identified broadband infrastructure gaps shall be sustained in order to facilitate increased access to the Internet by citizens across the country.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, gave the assurance in their presentations during the recently-concluded virtual African Internet Governance Forum 2021 (vAFIGF2021).
The three-day yearly forum, which was held in-person and virtually, was organised with the theme: “Advancing Digital Transformation in Africa in the Face of Crisis”, and hosted by the Nigerian government. Many stakeholders within the African Information and Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem attended the forum.
Pantami, who was represented at the forum by a Director at NCC, who doubles as Adviser to the Minister on Technical Matters, Prof. Sahalu Balarabe Junaidu, said the objective of the forum was to harness digital technology and innovation, transform societies and economies, and eradicate poverty for social and economic development in the Continent.
The Minister said, with the challenges thrown up by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for Internet services has increased dramatically. He called on African citizens to access the broadband/internet services to carry out their personal and official tasks more effectively and effectively.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the increased need to embrace the digital culture. So, as Africans, one of the ways by which we can respond to the challenge thrown by the pandemic is to accelerate our digital transformation,” he said.
Pantami explained that the digital transformation strategy for Africa should be established on key foundational pillars which include an enabling environment, policy regulation, digital infrastructure, digital skills and human capacity, as well as digital innovation, and entrepreneurship.
He said critical sectors such as digital trade and financial services, digital government, digital education, digital health, and digital agriculture, are also underlining pillars of the transformation. Additionally, he said the drivers of digital transformation include digital content and applications, digital identification, emerging technology, cyber security, privacy and personal data protection, as well as research and development.
Pantami recalled that Internet usage in sub-Saharan Africa is still not encouraging, according to a report by the International Finance Corporation ( IFC ) and World Bank. However, the Minister asserted that Nigeria, with its current over 140 million Internet users, has one of the largest subscriptions in the sub-region.
The Minister said the various policies, including the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (2020-2030), and the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025, emplaced to address infrastructure challenges and enhance the country’s migration to a more robust digital economy, will also ensure that more citizens are able to have access to the Internet in the coming years.
He mentioned the recent successful auction of 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum band for the scheduled deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) networks as another important policy and strategic step taken by the Nigerian government to boost broadband penetration in the country.
Meanwhile, the Director, New Media and Information Security, NCC, Dr. Al-Hassan Haru, who represented Danbatta at the forum, reiterated the Commission’s commitment to ensuring broadband penetration through stimulating continuous roll-out of broadband infrastructure. He said the Commission is well positioned to drive government policy direction to tackle digital infrastructure deficit in the telecoms sector, as well as to explore necessary options to improve the nation’s digital ecosystem.
“The future is digital, and we should be committed to supporting and collaborating with African countries to maximise opportunities inherent in digital technologies. We should also be ready to avoid the pitfalls by instituting appropriate regulations as we are doing in NCC,” he added.