Lagos, Wi-Fi and living in a new world
The Lagos State government has continued to demonstrate its readiness to be counted among the best metropolitan areas in the world with its deployment of Information and Communications Technology for many aspects of its service delivery. Recently, it announced the installation of free internet access at parks. Its LASG Job Portal was used in the recruitment of 7,000 officials for the Neighbourhood Security Corps, making it the first state in Nigeria to provide an on-line platform for application, testing and recruitment. This bold initiative is commendable and must be complimented by a responsible citizenry in the positive utilisation of the facilities.
The advent of Package Switching Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) heralded the progressive reduction of paper work. The internet has also sped up processes in many facets of human life. To use the words of computer guru and co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates book of the same title it is now: “Business at the Speed of Thought” for Lagos. In every corner of the globe, people are benefitting from the reduction in the time lag between conceptualisation and realisation. As in the rest of the world, however, Nigerians have been susceptible to the dangers. This is because it is man who decides to what use he will put every endowment of nature and every new invention.
It is noteworthy that Lagos State carved out a Ministry of Science and Technology in keeping with the direction in which the world is moving. It was this delineation that permitted focus on Information and Communication Technology. The Job Portal is also a way of generating statistics on unemployment in the state. In addition, there is another portal called “Citizens Gate” which facilitates two-way communication between government and the populace.
The resultant reduction in need for physical presence at offices will reduce traffic on the roads during working hours and help the economy. The Lagos State government is optimistic about the positive use of social media as a catalyst for development; in “improving budgeting, preventing waste and encouraging savings” that will yield funds for providing other services to the public.
The concerns about choice of positive or negative use also apply to the free wireless internet access in selected locations. Where available, it permits people with computers, smart phones, or other devices to connect to the internet or communicate wirelessly with one another within a particular area. Although there is no accurate data about the percentage of the Lagos population using these gadgets, not all who do can afford 3G or 4G high speed connectivity. However, many secondary and tertiary institutions already engage their students on-line and they will benefit from free public Wi-Fi, by utilising on-line learning methods and reading e-books. The facility is also useful in emergencies and for developing businesses.
Of course, there are drawbacks. The free internet access will attract a great number of users and this will eventually reduce speed of data and limit data usage per device in a given period. The world today is replete with incidents of hackers. There was a case in which a researcher hacked into the devices of all users who had connected to the Wi-Fi. This possibility poses great threat to the security of a broader spectrum, like a city or country. Hackers can easily gain access to users’ conversations, credit-card numbers, automated teller machine passwords and encrypted user names.
The sharing of confidential data over the internet would become risky due to susceptibility to cybercrimes. Many internet users operate mobile banking and they can unknowingly become victims of hackers. Experts inform that even if necessary measures are taken to keep public Wi-Fi secure, hackers can create fake hotspots with a portable user device called “pineapple”. Unsuspecting users will become easy targets of cyber crimes. Corporate espionage and stealing of data can result in huge losses. All these notwithstanding, Lagos State has done well by making its citizen live in the 21st Century.
The Lagos State announcement on the initiative even included assurance of training programmes for authorised users, representing ministries, departments and agencies. While the state takes one stride after another in its determination of making Lagos a globally competitive metropolis, the Federal Government and other states must take note and act like Lagos so as to avoid increasing the dichotomy in standards and conditions between this centre of excellence and the rest of the country.