FOR a country roundly condemned for corruption, the news that Nigeria is rated 11th in Internet penetration worldwide is shocking. The Nigerian Communications Commission also revealed that Nigeria ranks seventh in mobile phone usage globally. It was also revealed that Nigeria accounts for 82 per cent of Africa’s telecommunications subscribers and 29 per cent of its internet consumption. These revelations are not only worthy of celebration but also a thing of pride.
INTERNET penetration means the percentage of the total population of a given country or region that has access to and uses the internet. The world is global, and data is considered the new oil. As the world plunges into the information age, people with digital skills are taking over the global economy, and Nigerian youths should not be left out. One of the advantages of high internet penetration is the provision of digital skills and job opportunities. Countries like Japan, the USA, China and other developed nations use high internet access to provide jobs for their youths. The significant effect of this is the improvement in the nation’s economy.
NIGERIA must explore the opportunities the internet provides to enhance its communication sector for socio-economic development. With high internet penetration, the education, transportation, health, economic, agriculture and other sectors can be improved. Internet of Things can be enhanced in Nigeria with improved penetration. Pens, glasses and other everyday items can be connected to the internet, improving security architecture. More often than not, experts have stressed the need to bolster the security architecture of Nigeria with technology.
AS desirable as the Internet of Things is in the country, the results of the 2022 Network Readiness Index (NRI) showed that Nigeria took 109th out of the 131 countries assessed to ascertain the vitality of digital communications based on four parameters: infrastructure, governance, people and impact of the technology. This indicates despite the high Internet penetration rate, Internet potential are underutilised in the country. Globally, health, education, business and other sectors are data-driven, and the socio-economic impacts are significantly observed. This is not the case for the most populous country in Africa.
NIGERIA needs improved infrastructural development. Recent data from the International Trade Office of the US Department of Commerce revealed that Nigeria is 30 per cent deficit of the global 70 per cent benchmark for infrastructural development. The 2022 Global Competitive Index Report also ranked Nigeria 114th out of 140 countries and 14th among African countries in the Global Competitiveness Index Rankings surveyed for quality infrastructure facilities. These humbling rankings negatively affect the rate of internet penetration and usage in the country. Investing hugely into infrastructural development will enhance internet use and facilitate employment opportunities, boost the economy, tame rural-urban migration and, most importantly, the ‘Japa’ syndrome among Nigerians.
NIGERIA’s average electricity generation is 3,970MW, 22 per cent below what is needed to ensure a stable power supply. The Association of Nigeria Energy Distributors (ANED) suggested that Nigeria needs to generate at least 30,000MW to guarantee stable electricity across the country. Internet use cannot be guaranteed when most areas in the country experience epileptic power supply.
AS Nigeria grows in internet penetration, there is also a need to improve the available bandwidth in the country. The world is currently exploiting a 6G network, but we have yet to explore the possibilities of having a 5G network. Another factor to be addressed is our untamed thirst for imported products. Nigeria needs to look inward and produce IT tools rather than relying on importation. Importation will only improve other nation’s economy at our own expense.
REGARDING human resources, a recent report by GetBundi, a Nigerian STEM and Digital Skills Institute, revealed that 85per cent of Nigerian graduates lack digital skills. Universities are problem solvers everywhere in the world. Still, the Nigerian institutions are poorly funded, lack adequate facilities and are more theoretical than practical. The current curriculum in tertiary institutions must be upgraded per global demands. With 85 per cent of graduates without digital skills, internet underutilisation is assured.
NIGERIA has brilliant and ‘smart’ youths that can exploit digital opportunities. With the proper training and knowledge, harmful internet applications for scams can be changed. These skills can be converted into profitable ventures. There is a need to create functional and efficient tech hubs nationwide for young people to upscale relevant digital skills to drive a digital economy. With these in place, distance learning, remote work, business operations, civil service and other sectors can be enhanced for efficiency. What is also essential is to have a change in attitude towards knowledge acquisition. Our penchant for quick money syndrome and things to get better overnight must be changed.
AS a matter of urgency, the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani, and his colleagues need to work on exploiting the internet as a viable means of job and wealth creation, investment in the digital economy, attraction of foreign investors and engagement of relevant stakeholders.