Connect with us

Technology

Affordability Barrier to Internet Access in Nigeria—Research

Published

on

Affordability Barrier to Internet Access in Nigeria—Research

By Dipo Olowookere

Compelling Mozilla-backed research, carried out by Research ICT Africa, finds that significant barriers to internet access remains in four African countries – Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

The research aims to understand, from a comparative perspective, how the citizens use the internet when data is subsidised and when it is not.

Knowing that affordability is one of the primary barriers to Internet access and particular optimal use, the main objective of the focus groups was to obtain qualitative information that reflects the perceptions of female and male Internet users, new users, and non-Internet users from urban and rural locations about how people use the Internet.

A 2016 International Telecommunications Union report estimates that only about 25 percent of the population of Africa has access to the internet.

It was discovered that in all the countries, across demographics, access to subsidised data did not result significantly in new users going online.

Also, use of subsidised data is just one of many strategies employed by users to manage costs in these four African countries.

Furthermore, uptake of zero rating varied across the four countries. Awareness was low and scepticism of free services was high in Nigeria, whereas in Rwanda bundles with unlimited WhatsApp and Facebook were very popular. In Kenya and South Africa, the zero-rated services were welcomed for their cost-reducing nature.

In addition, there was substantial interest and uptake in Equal Rating-compliant, partially subsidized data bundles that provide access to the entire internet not just some parts of it (e.g., Cell C’s offering of 250MB between 1 am and 7 am for R6 in South Africa or an MTN bundle in Rwanda for Rwf 800 (USD 0.96) that provide 24 hours unlimited data).

Likewise, poor network quality and coverage limited the consumption of subsidised data since some respondents, especially in rural areas of Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa, reported that telcos with those offerings did not have coverage in their area. Indeed, many of these users only have access via the most expensive operator in that country.

Equally, women face additional barriers to internet use, including concern of being exposed to inappropriate content online and its consequences in their intimate relationships and family responsibilities.

“Our research reveals that a significant urban-rural divide remains in opportunities to access the internet.” said Dr Alison Gillwald, Executive Director of Research ICT Africa. “Too often the debate over zero rating glosses over the fact that many people in rural communities don’t even have access to the best subsidized offerings and have to spend largely disproportionate amounts of their already low income on mobile access, and that’s assuming they can even find electricity to charge their devices.”

“Given all the controversy around zero rating, it’s surprising to see how few research respondents in these African countries actually use or depend on zero rated data. We are, however, seeing a lot of interest in Equal Rating compliant models which provide access to all of the internet, not just some parts of it,” said Jochai Ben-Avie, Senior Global Policy Manager at Mozilla. “More must be done to connect the unconnected. This research makes clear that it’s critical we all focus more on barriers like healthy competition outside urban areas, electricity, digital literacy, and gender power relations.”

Mozilla-backed research reveals affordability a barrier to internet access in Nigeria

Zero rated services are still relatively new to the Nigerian market, with Airtel launching Facebook’s Free Basics and Facebook Flex only last year. Awareness and use of zero rating remains low in Nigeria, a country which enjoys some of the cheapest data prices in Africa.

Results of the research showed that many rural users see the internet as their access to the civilized world and the gateway to the places around the globe where they have friends and family.

In addition, overall awareness and use of the internet has gained traction especially as social interactions, business or career enabler, and majority of participants, whether in rural or urban areas, rank the purchase of data high on their personal expense list.

Furthermore, there is a general belief that mobile network operators charge a hidden tariff, and whatever airtime is on the phone will be eventually deducted by the operator if one subscribes to a subsidized service.

Also, many non-users want to use a “big phone” (a smartphone) and would rather wait until they can afford one than use a more limited version of the internet.

Though the price of brand new smartphones keeps dropping and they can be bought for as low as $20, affordability challenges persist.

“Even in a country with some of the lowest rates for data and devices in Africa, the cost of buying a smartphone in Nigeria is still a challenge for many,” said Dr Alison Gillwald, Executive Director or Research ICT Africa. “Affordability gets disproportionate attention, but we need to do much more to improve digital literacy and supply side issues like network quality and speed.”

“This research demonstrates that Nigerians want access to all of the internet, not just some parts of it,” said Jochai Ben-Avie, Senior Global Policy Manager at Mozilla. “If we’re to bring all the internet to all people, we need to do more to improve digital literacy and understanding of the internet, especially among low-income individuals and those in rural and deep rural communities. At Mozilla we believe in equal rating for all internet users so that this shared global resource is not held hostage by the wealthy.”

Mozilla-backed research reveals Kenyans offline due to prohibitive costs and security fears

The Communications Authority of Kenya reports that some 38 million people – about 82 percent of the population – were online in 2016. The four mobile operators in the country have 4G internet connections on mobile but not in all parts of the country.

Researchers’ gathered that social media tops the list of uses for the internet and there is even a perception among some users that the internet is about social media just like the price of data bundles and internet-enabled phones render the cost of doing what most users want to do online prohibitive to many.

Also, strategic solutions for high costs include working late into the night before reward bundle periods expire, visiting friends who have Wi-Fi at home, and using multiple promotions from different operators, while even when people have smartphones, they do not always carry them for offline security reasons. In particular, there are concerns that, thieves may frequent areas with free public Wi-Fi in order to steal patrons’ internet enabled devices.

Furthermore, national network coverage was seen to be a challenge for both voice and data particularly in rural areas.

“While internet access is good in Kenya relative to elsewhere in Africa, real barriers remain to internet use,” said Research ICT Africa Executive Director Dr Alison Gillwald. “If we don’t look beyond access issues to the real concerns around privacy and security, for example, we’ll never bring all of the internet to all people.”

“One participant in this study reported concerns about getting skin cancer from their phone, proving there’s a lot more we still need to do to improve digital (and health) literacy,” said Mozilla Senior Global Policy Manager Jochai Ben-Avie. “At the same time, Kenyan internet penetration is on par with some of the most developed countries, and that’s due to the ingenuity of Kenyans to find ways to connect despite the relatively high cost of data.”

Mozilla-backed research reveals heavy use of subsidized data in Rwanda

Internet use and access in Rwanda has been exploding largely due to the Government of Rwanda’s Vision 2020 to enable Rwanda to leap-frog the key stages of industrialization and transform her agro-based economy into a service, information-rich and knowledge-based one that is globally competitive. While internet penetration is relatively high, the diversity of content accessed by participants in this study is relatively low. This is of concern.

Results of the research showed that most participants only use a very limited number of websites and services, and make heavy use of subsidized data.

While the use of subsidized data services allows mobile network operators to retain a large number of subscribers that use the internet, an Airtel representative was quoted as saying the company is considering ending their current zero rating offers because the majority of users that are benefiting from zero rated services are no longer using other services, and therefore are not spending on data.

It was also found out that the types of bundles and packs from the three MNOs keep changing almost every week due to tough competition going on, and some promotion offers – including zero rated services – are not even publicized on the website to prevent competitors access to the information.

In addition, the majority of participants with mid or high income when asked how they would react if subsidized data was no longer available, responded that they may reduce the time spent on the internet, while participants with low incomes responded that they may stop using the internet.

Significant access barriers remain, especially in remote areas, including the cost of data as well as illiteracy and lack of understanding of foreign languages to manipulate devices and understand internet content, the research discovered.

“Rwanda has been a real leader in bringing people online, including through innovative models like internet connected buses and other public Wi-Fi efforts,” said Dr Alison Gillwald, Executive Director or Research ICT Africa. “The limited number of sites and services Rwandans use points to the need for the government and other stakeholders to consider issues beyond access that leave many Rwandans accessing just a small part of the internet.”

“While it’s inspiring to see the boom in internet access in Rwanda, many Rwandans are still stuck in the walled gardens of subsidized services and haven’t experienced the full diversity of the open internet,” said Jochai Ben-Avie, Mozilla’s Senior Global Policy Manager. “Rwanda is a fascinating testbed of different experiments in connecting the unconnected and we hope the Government of Rwanda and other stakeholders will focus on solutions like Equal Rating that seek to bring all of the internet to all people.”

The research sees opportunity and a greater outlook in the future of internet use for these countries. Infrastructural issues still need to be addressed in rural areas, in particular to increase quality of service, which would allow users to choose any operator offering the cheapest product. The intensity of use could be enhanced through redirecting universal services funds directed at access, often by subsidising the already planned roll out of services, towards supporting the rollout of public Wi-Fi points at all public facilities such as schools, clinics, libraries and police stations.

Other factors limiting the digital participation of the poor and unskilled, particularly women, will require policy interventions than extend way beyond digital policy to the much greater challenges of human development. Without interventions to redress broader social and economic inequality in society more the entry of more sophisticated services and devices will amplify digital inequality.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

Technology

Data Protection Bureau Honours Nigeria ID4D

Published

on

Data Protection

The Nigeria Data Protection Bureau (NDPB) has honoured the Nigeria Digital Identification for Development (ID4D) Project with an Institutional Pillar of Support Award in appreciation of the project’s support to the Bureau.

According to a Press Release signed by the Nigeria Digital ID4D Communications Manager, Dr Walter Duru, the Award was received by the Nigeria ID4D Project Coordinator, Musa Odole Solomon, at the 2023 edition of the annual National Privacy Week Dinner/Award and First Year Anniversary of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau, held at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, at the weekend.

Presenting the Award, the National Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau, Dr Vincent Olatunji, commended the Nigeria Digital ID4D project for its support to the Bureau, reiterating commitment to continue to partner with the project.

Olatunji, who thanked the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Ali Pantami, for his leadership roles, described the Nigeria Digital ID4D as a Pillar of Support to the Bureau.

He reiterated the commitment of the NDPB to creating awareness of data protection and privacy in the country, urging stakeholders to continue to support the Bureau to achieve results.

“The journey of the NDPB started under the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). NDPB is a year old. In the last one year, a lot has happened. We are grateful to the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, who stood by us all the way. Awareness creation is very important to us. The task requires collective efforts. We are here today to thank you for your support, and we are looking forward to the future.”

Receiving the Award, the Project Coordinator of the Nigeria Digital ID4D project, Musa Odole Solomon, described the NDPB as a “worthy partner”, pledging the project’s continued support to the Bureau.

“From the inception of the NDPB, we have been working with them. From day one, we knew they were worthy partners. The achievements recorded and the level of collaboration could not have been possible without the kind of leadership in place at the Bureau. We will continue to support the Bureau.”

Delivering his keynote address, Nigeria’s Minister for Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Pantami, described data privacy and protection as critical to the nation, assuring that the data protection bill was set for transmission to the National Assembly for consideration.

It would be recalled that the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau had communicated its intention to honour the Nigeria ID4D project at the Bureau’s one-year anniversary.

In a letter dated 26th January 2023, with the subject “Conferment of Institutional Pillar of Support Award”, signed by the National Commissioner/CEO of the NDPB, Dr Vincent Olatunji, the Bureau expressed appreciation to the project for her invaluable support.

The letter reads in part: “I am pleased to convey the decision of the Bureau to confer on your highly esteemed institution the “Institutional Pillar of Support Award.”

“This award is in recognition of your invaluable support towards the establishment and growth of the Nigeria Data Protection Bureau.”

Continue Reading

Technology

Google Search Trends Show Interests of Nigerians in Artificial Intelligence Grow

Published

on

Artificial Intelligence

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

New search trends released by Google have revealed that Nigerians are more interested than ever in Artificial Intelligence (AI) as their interests grew by 100 per cent in 2022 from 2021.

According to Google search Trends, search interest in “artificial intelligence” reached a record high in 2022 in Nigeria and across the world, with top trending questions in Nigeria including “what is AI art”, “what is deep learning in artificial intelligence”, “how to become an AI engineer” and “when was artificial intelligence invented” – all of which have been searched 5,000 per cent more in 2022 than 2021.

Other searches included “what is artificial intelligence all about” (+370%), “is artificial intelligence a course” (+260%) and “what is artificial intelligence” (+130%).

Google, which views AI as a solution for addressing significant societal challenges like climate change, recently shared their approach to pursuing AI responsibly, which includes the need to prioritise building and testing for safety, and prioritising its purpose for the public good.

“It’s great to see people in Nigeria showing more of an interest in the transformational technology that is AI. AI is already a key part of many of our lives – in fact, if you use Google tools regularly, you’re probably using AI without even realising: it’s what helps Maps give you the fastest or most fuel-efficient route or Search to find what you’re looking for.

“We’re continuing to pursue AI boldly and responsibly – creating tools that improve the lives of as many people as possible,” the President of Google Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Matt Brittin, said.

The trends, released today, also show that people in Nigeria are increasingly interested in protecting their cybersecurity and online privacy.

In 2022, searches for “computer security” were the top form of security searched worldwide and in Nigeria, while “cybercrime” was searched at record levels globally. Nigerians frequently searched for cyber security – with “what is ethical hacking” increasing by over 5,000%, while searches for “what is cybersecurity” and “what is a virus in a computer” increased by 200% and 80%, respectively.

Google is using AI to address security challenges – including on Gmail, which automatically blocks more than 99.9% of malware, phishing and spam and protects more than 1.5 billion inboxes using AI.

With more people using the internet than ever before to manage every aspect of their daily lives, people in Nigeria are also interested in increasing their privacy online. Searches for “private browsing” surged in 2022, increasing by 70% – while Nigerians searched for “one-time passwords” more than any other country worldwide. Searches for “password manager”- a Google tool that makes it easy to use a strong, unique password for all of your online accounts – also reached a 10-year high in Nigeria.

People in Nigeria also turned to Google to help them better understand the economy, learn new skills and build their careers.

2022 was an uncertain year economically, reflected in the search trends.

Searches for inflation hit an all-time high worldwide and a 10-year high in Nigeria. Searches for “causes of cost-push inflation”, “creeping inflation” and “what is a recession” increased by over 5,000%. People also took to Google to understand the causes of rising prices and how to reduce them – with searches for “how to save heat”, “how to save water” and “how to save money” increasing by 370%, 80% and 22%, respectively.

People in Nigeria aren’t just turning to Google to understand these issues – they’re also looking for resources to navigate these challenges and build their careers. Searches for “how to learn coding” doubled, while searches for “how to learn video editing” (+450%), “how to learn web development” (+350%) and “how to learn photoshop” (+130%) also increased.

People also turned to Google to prepare for job interviews and find new opportunities: with search interest for the topic “job” increasing by 50%. Google itself continues to offer training and advice to those who need it most, having provided digital skills training to 22 million people across Europe, the Middle East and Africa since 2015 through their ‘Grow with Google’ programme.

People in Nigeria care about building a more sustainable future – and are using Google to understand how to do that.

The trends released today also show that people in Nigeria value environmentalism and sustainability. Across the world, searches for “climate change”, “climate crisis” and “sustainability” reached record highs – while in Nigeria, searches for “eco anxiety”, “greenwashing”, and “veganism” are at an all-time high.

Nigerians are also increasingly searching for “green energy”, “sustainable art” and “low emission vehicle” – all rising over 5,000% – as well as “renewable fuels” (+330%), “green growth” (+330%) and “solar fuel” (+240%).

Across the world, searches for environmental disasters were searched more than ever – including “drought”, “flood” and “landslides”, while in Nigeria “heat wave” has reached an all-time search high.

Google is no stranger to increased interest in sustainability – and, as well as working to achieve net zero emissions across all of its operations and value chain by 2030, is committed to enabling everyone to make more sustainable choices.

Over the last few years, Google has made changes to its core products, which reach billions of people each day, to help users make more sustainable choices.

Last year, Google released eco-friendly routing in Europe, which uses artificial intelligence to help show Google Maps users the most fuel and eco-efficient route, as well as the fastest.

The tool is already estimated to have saved more than half a million metric tons of carbon emissions – equivalent to taking 100,000 fuel-based cars off the road. Google also made changes to its Hotel, Flight and Shopping tools to help users see which options are most sustainable.

Continue Reading

Technology

Starlink is Now Available in Nigeria—SpaceX Confirms

Published

on

Starlink is now available in Nigeria

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Nigerians and tech startup owners can now heave a sigh of relief as Starlink is now available in Nigeria, according to SpaceX.

The internet service provider is owned by a billionaire businessman and owner of Twitter, Mr Elon Musk.

The federal government held meetings with the management of the company to introduce its services in Nigeria. The network was earlier expected to commence its operations in the country last month.

However, after the wait, SpaceX has confirmed the availability of the Starlink network in the country and would be expected to take a huge chunk of the broadband market with competitors like MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9mobile, Smile, Spectranet, and Swift.

Nigeria is the first African country to receive Starlink service.

“Starlink is now available in Nigeria, the first African country to receive the service,” a message posted on the Twitter handle of SpaceX on Monday night stated.

Starlink, according to its profile on Wikipedia, is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage to 47 countries. It also aims for global mobile phone service after 2023.

With Starlink, users can engage in activities that historically have not been possible with satellite internet, as its high-speed, low-latency service is made possible via the world’s largest constellation of highly advanced satellites operating in a low orbit around the Earth.

Continue Reading
%d bloggers like this: