Experts Call for Unhindered Internet Access 

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Emma Okonji

Participants at a one-day conference in Lagos, have stressed the need for unhindered internet access to further deepen e-Government activities. 

They were, however, worried about the high cost of internet access in Nigeria, which they said would continue to limit the number of people who want to access government activities online. 

They blamed government for its short-sightedness to the challenges affecting the growth of e-Government among Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, and stressed the need for stakeholders to hold special sessions with National Assembly members and make input on how best to drive the initiative.

The Chairman, MTN Board of Directors, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, in his keynote address at the conference held recently, said there was need for collaboration between government agencies and private ICT players like FinTechs that provide eGovernment solutions.

The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta who was represented by the Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, said: “To achieve e-Government across MDAs, there is need to increase the number of fibre connectivity deployment from the current 42,000km to 127,000km. Nigeria needs additional 30,000km of fibre infrastructure, aside the expectations from operators to expand fibre development. 

“Nigeria also needs to deepen e-Government activities by examining four dimensions as directed by the International Telecoms Union (ITU), which include: Infrastructure, Policy, Governance and Outreach dimensions.”

In his presentation, the CEO of Internet Xchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN), Mr. Mohamed Rudman, observed that in spite of the five broadband submarine cable operators that have berthed at the shores of Nigeria, cost of internet access remained very high in the hinterlands. 

He, therefore, called for unhindered internet access and the need for ubiquitous internet access.

Rudman, further stressed the need for data sovereignty that would protect local internet service providers and help them to grow local internet traffic and localise internet traffic generated within Nigeria. “Currently Nigeria has between 40-50 per cent local internet traffic, but it could be increased to 80 per cent if local internet service providers are encouraged with favourable policies,” Rudman said. 

The conference looked at the possible barriers militating against achieving e-Government among MDAs and identified some barriers like insecurity, policy inconsistency, lack of coordination of government activities, lack of adequate infrastructure, sabotage among social miscreants, and diverse culture of Nigerian citizens. 

Continuing, Danbatta said e-Government could take the form of application of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to enhance efficient, effective and accountable exchanges along four primary government service delivery tracks namely: Government-to-Citizen or Government-to-Customer (G2C); Government-to-Business (G2B); Government-to-Government (G2G); and Government-to-Employee (G2E).

He quoted a recent World Bank report, which pointed out that, while some countries were grappling with implementing their e-government strategies, others that have been seen as some of the leaders in e-Government have now embarked on the next stage of their service transformation journey, often referred to as ‘Digital Government’. 

“The paradigm shift means that while building on the investments and transformation made during the earlier phases of e-Government, and while some of the principles are still being developed, the next stage promises a sharper focus on the business principle that digital services should be the principal channel for delivering better governance,” Danbatta said.