AFFORDABLE INTERNET AS WOMEN WEAVE THE WEB IN NIGERIA
On the 11th of March, 2014, multi-stakeholder forum took place in Abuja to deliberate on how to make internet affordable in Nigeria. At the forum four World Pulse sisters Nabiye, Olanike(green girl), celine and I was among the stakeholders at the forum. World Pulse is moving higher and higher. We were at the forum to represent World Pulse community because A4AI has been a great partner for our Women Weave the Web campaign. As usual when world pulse sisters saw each other face to face for the first time, it was as if we parted just yesterday and so we picked up our discussions where we left it online. This is the power of World Pulse community and internet. In the world Pulse, we are sisters beyond border, beyond ethnic group.
Alliance for Affordable internet is a global coalition working to make broadband affordable for all. The objective of this forum is to work on the implementation of making broadband affordable to all Nigerians. In the World Pulse community the cost of internet has always been a huge obstacle for the members around the world. This made our presence at the forum very important since we are working directly with the grassroots women that are affected by the high cost of internet in Nigeria.
At the opening speech, the executive director of A4AI emphasized that study upon study have shown that affordable internet reduce poverty, improve economic status, enhance democracy and allow people to exercise their basic human right.
In essence it means if internet is affordable to all in Nigeria, it will reduce poverty drastically and also people including women and girls will be able to exercise their human rights. Also women will weave the web the more when they can afford to access internet.
A4AI signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of Communication Technology, Nigeria in October 2013. The MOU called on A4AI to support Nigerian stakeholders in contributing inputs towards the development of policy and regulation designed to reduce the cost of Internet services and increase access in Nigeria.
The forum drew together a wide range of stakeholders including the Minister of Communication Technology, the Hon. Omobola Johnson; senior officials from the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC); other government agencies; industry representatives, leading Nigerian academics and researchers; civil society organizations; and members of the media.
The honourable minister in her address spoke on their efforts so far in making internet accessible to Nigerians. The program of the ministry which is: Leveraging ICT for National Development is one the step they have taken in achieving this. The aim of this program is to fully integrate ICT into Socio-economic development of Nigeria. The priorities of this program are infrastructure, Inclusive Development, Local content and E-Government.
The major target is to provide 2 Public Access venues to the Internet at each Local Government area. To achieve this, the ministry will need the support of the civil society and NGO in acquiring the consciousness of the people to telecommunication and also to meet to meet the unwritten needs of internet users like need to read and write which is digital literacy.
The forum at a point was divided into groups where there are deliberations and brainstorming on steps to take for the actualization of this program. In our group I was able to share with them how access to internet have empowered me to the point that what I have achieved in last five years of my access to internet is times 100 of what I have achieved in the forty years of my life. I then made a submission that affordability of internet is very important to grassroots women around the world especially Nigeria or else many Nigerian women and girls will live a life of untapped potentials.
At the end of the deliberations within the groups, the stakeholders with the team of Alliance for Affordable Internet came together as a result of the group discussion to form the priority themes in order to achieve the aim of the forum.
The priority themes were as follows:-
Open access and framework for infrastructure sharing
Transmission around the country
Public enlightenment of the safety of mars
Scheduled of priority were as follows:
• Quarterly face to face meetings until aims and objectives are achieved
• Policy proposal development by sub- groups
• Planned thematic workshops/seminars throughout the year
• Regional Events
Coalition work tools also includes:-
Moderated email discussion group for national stakeholders
Smaller “drafting committees” to address specific policy and regulatory proposal
Face to face meetings for group discussions and decision making (Quarterly & during workshops/ seminar organized
Nigerian students and rural people are the main target of this program. Digital access, Digital inclusion and Digital empowerment are the priority of the Alliance for Affordable Internet and the reason for this stakeholder forum. Therefore the campaign of World Pulse at this time is working along with the global perspective.
The deliberation in Abuja is going to help our work with women and girls in Nigeria. As internet becomes affordable in the country, the underprivileged women and school girls will have the opportunity of having access to internet without tears and they will continue weave the web.