Telecommunication companies in the country owe it as a duty to quicken the process of deployment of broadband infrastructure to solve the problems of poor or slow connections which now characterise data services delivery, writes ALEXANDER CHIEJINA
The computer age is one era that has been marked by lots of inventions and display of unprecedented human ingenuity. This has in deed revolutionised the global society as well as transformed economies and technological systems. Over the past three decades, important technological developments had created a global environment that has brought people across the globe closer.
The Internet, as an integrating force, has moulded the technology of communications and computing to provide instant connectivity and global information services to all its users. This tool has no doubt made significant impact in the business world with applications such as e-commerce, online banking and e-payments, e-health, e-learning and e-government rapidly evolving. While some older people still struggle to embrace this emerging trend in ICT, most individuals across the globe can't even imagine life without it.
However, as Nigeria continues in its quest to become one of the 20 leading economies by 2020, stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector are concerned about the current level of internet connectivity, quality of service and penetration in the country. This is against the backdrop of the experience in other countries where speedy broadband penetration has been contributing substantially to economic growth.
While some schools of thought are of the opinion that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecom industry regulator, is not doing enough to encourage providers of fibre optic backbones that have since landed their submarine cables at the country's shores, others believe that improving broadband penetration will go a long way in increasing internet access in the country.
In a recent interview with Business Day, Lanre Ajayi, immediate past president, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), revealed that last mile connectivity would make the difference as it will allow for broadband availability and penetration if operators are encouraged to take broadband to all nooks and crannies of the country. Ajayi noted that there is over 70million telephone access and 20 million people have access for internet in Nigeria today which is a wide gap.
According to Ajayi, "The question to ask then is what about the people in the rural areas, are they not Nigerians? And how you will know that we are doing pretty well in the area of internet connection is when you compare the number of people who have access to internet to the number of people who have access to telephone services. We should not forget that the internet enables us to do more things than the telephone. Don't forget that you can make phone calls on the internet, Voice over IP. How come that these people making calls on phones cannot have access to the internet. How can broadband accessibility be fast tracked in this circumstance?
"There are three segments to internet delivery: The international link, national backbone and the last mile. On the international link, we seem to be making some progress with the landing of Main One and the Glo 1. We now have three cables including the Sat 3 cables. Some others are still coming even as people have started foreseeing the possibility of glut. The next one is the national backbone. That is the fibre cable that will link all the major cities together. Some progress has been made but they are not good enough. I think that is where a whole lot of job is required to be done now.
"Then the last mile; this has to do with the connection between the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to homes and institutions. That one is the easiest part but we are having some challenges in that area.
That area is better done by wireless spectrum. In doing this wireless technology, we require spectrum and our spectrum management," he concluded.
Lending his view, Genevieve Anemelu, an IT expert at Zenith Bank, Lagos, stated that It is no more news that poor internet service is one of the major problem confronting Nigerian internet users (either for business or personal use). Anemelu stated that customers have to wait several minutes to load a webpage.
According to Anemelu "If you use dial up services like GSM and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA networks), they have their problems.
The situation is this-it is either the internet service speed is terribly slow or too expensive or a horrible combination of both.
These service providers are busy trying to out-do each other with adverts and promos, instead of concentrating on their core areas - quality service delivery and ultimately customer satisfaction. A solution to improved internet access is by having a broadband internet access in the country."
With firms erecting structures for broadband platforms and as the number of people online in Nigeria continues to grow, International Telecom Union (ITU), the world telecom regulatory body had tasked Nigerian government to drive broadband penetration in the country, insisting that broadband is the digital right of every citizen. This is because there are unlimited opportunities on the internet for Nigerians to tap into.
For Emmanuel Ekuwem, Immediate Past President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) Nigeria would achieve speedy development in 2011, if the country embrace broadband internet to its fullest.
According to him, broadband internet access would enhance efforts at job creation, wealth creation and poverty alleviation.
"ICT will accelerate our meeting of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It will engender an overall national economic growth and development. We will all gladly experience an ICT-based increase in our GDP. Who will not be happy to see a creative explosion of a feeling of national rebirth and well-being among the citizens of Nigeria? All these good things can only be possible when we have a ubiquitous availability of broadband services in Nigeria," Ekuwem disclosed.-