An intriguing and informative article posted on the ‘Nigeria Village Square’…
I class myself as a friend of Nigeria, being currently on my 48th visit to your country from my native UK. While in Nigeria, I have gained first hand experience of what we call the digital divide. This simply means the division between those who have and those who don’t have access to modern information technology.
The proportion of households that have broadband connections to the internet is now 63% in the UK, while in Nigeria it remains well below 1%. In the UK the cost is £10-20 (N2,300-4,600) per month – or even free bundled with a telephone package – while in Nigeria it can cost at least ten times that amount outside the major urban centres.
A true Government is mirrored through conducting free and fair elections, with the participation of informed citizens. Citizens need access to information and in today’s world this means digital connectivity. Where are the reliable, secure and affordable broadband internet connections throughout Nigeria? In many places you need a satellite link, and solutions with a high level of security and privacy are very expensive.
The need for connectivity is there, the thirst for information among citizens is there, and there is no shortage of valuable natural resources to generate the necessary national wealth. But not enough is happening. There seems to be a massive gap to be bridged. The wealth is not being connected quickly or directly enough to the public benefit in this, as in a number of other areas of public life in Nigeria.
What can be done? There has been much debate on questions like this, but recently I heard a fundamental answer coming from what seemed to be an unlikely source –T.B. Joshua speaking in a church service shown on Emmanuel TV. There are fine aspirations from the communications regulator for ubiquitous broadband in Nigeria, but interestingly it is a pastor who has put forward a principle which could go a long way in helping to achieve it.
He said that countries in Africa should stop trading their mineral resources for pounds and dollars and instead trade them for technology.
This is a very interesting way forward. Let the nation be given direct help from more developed countries with technology in exchange for oil and other mineral resources, and then use honest principles to deploy the technology for the benefit of all and not just the privileged few. This would avoid the corrupting influence of money and channel resources more directly where they are needed.
Everything big has to start small. It is not too late for Nigeria to reap the economic and social benefits of advanced technology. Indeed when it comes to the deployment of new technologies, there are advantages in starting later than the more advanced countries. You can leapfrog the intermediate technologies and go straight to the latest without the inertia of everyone having to change over.
The implementation of a broadband infrastructure is one key area of technology in which direct assistance could be provided under this new approach. One option for a low-cost solution outside the major urban centres might be to employ neighbourhood mesh networks using wireless technology sharing the UHF TV bands on a licence-exempt basis. This is an area of active development in the US and UK but its greatest benefit is likely to be felt in countries like Nigeria which do not already have a ubiquitous wired infrastructure.
This is just one example. There are many others in the field of communications, as well as in other areas such as healthcare and transport, which could be provided by the more developed nations under this proposal and would enhance public life and help generate economic growth in Nigeria.
My hope is that Nigeria’s government will be foresighted enough to listen to its own man of wisdom, and not leave it to other countries alone to reap the benefits.
Written by William Graville
SOURCE: Nigeria Village Square