Emma Okonji

ATC Nigeria, in collaboration with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund and Jobberman, is deploying digital villages across Lagos that will serve as Information and Communications Technology (ICT) skills acquisition centre, designed for youth empowerment.

According to ATC Nigeria, access to the internet is widely seen as a human right in the eyes of millions of people around the world. The internet has evolved to a point where people see internet access as vital for them to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights such as education.

The company however decried the limited internet access available to Nigeria, especially its youths that are multitasking and are in need of internet assess for innovation in the digital era.

It said in spite of the many benefits of the internet, its reach in Nigeria and Africa remains limited. “Cost, scalability, power outages and educational barriers are only some of the challenges facing the mass roll out of internet in Africa. Although Nigeria is ranked as Africa’s highest internet user, it’s youths still find it difficult to have ubiquitous and cheap internet access.”

Citing the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) figure on the number of internet users, which is put at 98.3 million as at November 2017, ATC Nigeria said approximately 50 per cent Nigerians do not have access to Internet, when compared with the 98 million Nigerian population. Those that have access to the internet, pay heavily to have internet access, which invariably slows their rate of innovation, ATC said, adding that it was the reason why it decided to deploy digital villages across the country, beginning with Lagos, in partnership with Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and Jobberman, to enable Nigerian youths have access to skills development centre that is equipped with internet access.

To address the challenge, ATC Nigeria is leveraging its communications infrastructure in an innovative way by creating what the company refers to as “Digital Villages,” near its communications tower sites.

Digital Villages are retrofitted steel shipping containers equipped with work stations to accommodate twelve computers and equipment such as scanners, photocopiers and projectors. Digital Villages utilise the uninterrupted power supply and broadband link from ATC Nigeria’s tower sites to provide host communities with free education and training in ICT and entrepreneurship.

They also support the ongoing efforts of the federal and various state governments to provide youth development and empowerment schemes for indigent youth and young graduates, and enable communities to access government e-services, helping improve the efficiency of vital government programmes.

Digital Villages are deployed by ATC Nigeria in underserved and often destitute communities with reasonable population density to maximise their use.

According to the company, as at May 2018, 73 young Nigerians had successfully graduated from Digital Villages across the country after completing four-week courses in ICT and entrepreneurship.

Executive Secretary, LSETF, Mr. Akintunde Oyebode, commended ATC for deploying one of such centres in Makoko, a suburb of Lagos.