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Why Impediments To Nationwide Broadband Would Continue

Digital literacy levels and demand size for internet service are critical to broadband internet drive to rural areas

Isaiah Onwuanumba

Internet connectivity is very poor and almost non-existent in places outside Lagos and other major cities in the country. The reasons are because of a number of factors and these impediments are certainly here to stay.

Broadband delivery to the ‘Last Mile’ or last end user would remain elusive in Nigeria in spite of 10 terabytes internet bandwidth capacity provided by undersea cables of Glo 1, Main One and South Atlantic 3(SAT3).

The apparent inadequate transmission links in the country is threatening the ability to carry broadband internet services to remote places, especially by leveraging the submarine cables. First is hurdle associated with setting up a transmission Station (BTS) and the day to day running costs.

The UNION gathered that a 27KVA generator consumes 3 litres of diesel per hour depending on the age of such generator. This is about 72 litres in 24 hours or 2160 litres in 30 days. At N150 per litre, an operator uses N3.24 million to power a BTS, according to Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON). This cost excludes other costs such as security, land charges, Community charges, and charges by Local, State and Federal Government agencies.

So, operators must site BTS in Places where these sundry charges would be justified. And such places must exclude sparsely populated localities where demand size for internet is negligible.

Again digital literacy levels and Demand size for internet service are critical to Broadband internet drive to rural areas as this would propel investors to channel available bandwidth capacity and thereby create access.

There have been efforts set to tackle problems associated with access to broadband enabled internet but lack of sizable demand for broadband services across Nigeria is the biggest and long standing obstacles to true broadband development.

The fact that large chunk of the Nigerian population know little or nothing about what to do with internet is a great setback for further investment. Internet is not cheap. Investors want to be assured that there would be maximum return to investment before staking their monies.

In the western world, a home is made ready with water, gas, electricity and internet ports. In that clime, people can work, buy, pay bills, school and even play within internet. That is made possible because of high levels of digital literacy.

In Nigeria, however, the demand size of the population that sees internet as a necessity could rarely justify the massive investments needed to channel high speed internet connectivity to homes and offices across the federation.

Poor demand size of internet services was also revealed when Nigeria bagged 67th position at the end of 2013 Web Index Rankings. World Wide Web (www) ranked Nigeria 67th out of the 81 countries in its annual web index for 2013. Countries were scored in the areas of internet access; freedom and openness; relevant content; and empowerment. Nigeria scored 20.2 per cent with universal access score at 29.0 per cent, relevant content 13.6 per cent and freedom and openness was 37.1per cent, just as the impact and empowerment was scored 13.1 per cent. In that index, South Africa and Mauritus ranked above Nigeria.

Commenting on the lack of internet access in places out Lagos because low demand could not drive investors in those places, Chief Executive Officer at MainOne Cable Company, Funke Opeke said ‘‘a lot of online business models are being launched in Lagos. Am yet to see online businesses being launched in other remote parts of the country because of the access to internet. Internet is not as accessible or consistent in other places as it is in Lagos.’’

According to her, two categories of issues have been identified. ‘‘One is at a micro level and has to do with infrastructure. We operate in West Africa and we cannot afford to ignore the issues that are involved. At the macro level we have the issue of investment.’

Speaking further, she noted that ‘low digital literacy levels which clearly affect demand size of ICT. We have an issue here. The system here which has continue to improve to make easier to do business quickly and move forward and make investment that requires high capital investments that telecom have become.

‘‘We have close to 10,000 terabytes of capacity now available on the coast of West Africa. If you put a ratio it will increase by a factor of 1000 the amount of capacity available. But when we look at what we enjoy in terms of internet access, the cost that we pay, the speed we get in terms of input, the consistency and quality; we cannot say it is quite the same proportional in terms of the equation as represented at the end.’’

In addition, she explained that ‘‘we have significant cost reduction and capacity being available. But at individual device level people still have to get to Lagos before downloading material from the internet. Depending on the type of your service you still not easy to click and get video updates. Video downloads takes times.’’

According to Founder, Telecoms Answers Associate, Titi Omo-Ettu, the only way to justly billions of Nigeria investors stake in bringing Fibre cables is to have demand for broadband services. According to him, there is latent demand for internet, yet Nigerians do not know what to do with internet. ‘Out side Lagos and few other cities there is urgent need to activate demand for internet services,’ he said.

According to reports, a typical Nigeria would prefer to acquire the latest entertainment gadgets and cable television but would not bother about internet.

The Union gathered that in order to propel investors to drive internet penetration, Nigerian population must be aware that they can buy and sell, pay bills, works, and communicate through internet. They must be aware that it is possible to live and make a living through the net and is even cheaper. These would not be possible without government across the divide playing a part.

Government must take the lead in creating demand for internet services. One of the ways to begin is to ensure that all public documents and registration form must be make available online. All formal complaints, enquiries, directives and regulations should be made online through the internet. People should be directed to online in whatever they want to do with government at Federal, State and Local Government levels.

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