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The Last Six Inches of Internet Access

Greengirl at the A4AI Nigeria Multi Stakeholder Forum. Abuja, Nigeria.

March 12th 2014, remains a historic date in the global ICT world, because it marked the 25th birthday of the Web. In like manner, March 11th,2014 will no doubt remain a remarkable day in the record books of Information and Communication Technology development in Nigeria. The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) Nigeria Multi-Stakeholder Forum debuted on that day. On a personal note, the date has become very important and special because it also marks the day I first met face-to-face with three members of the World Pulse Online community, whom I have been interacting with virtually. What a rare privilege to be at the event, representing my local work and World Pulse alongside other Nigerian grassroots women change leaders from the World Pulse Online Community!

The event which commenced with a welcome address by Dr. Tunji Olaopa, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Communication Technology was well attended by participants drawn from across the public, private, academic & research, and civil society sectors. This was followed by introductions and key note address by Sonia Jorge (Executive Director, A4AI) and Ms. Omobola Johnson, the honorable Minister of Communication Technology, respectively. In her speech, Ms. Johnson shed great light on the mandate, activities as well as ongoing efforts in her Ministry.
"According to the A4AI Affordability Index report, “84 percent of Nigerians live on less than 2 dollars per day and the World Bank that 63 percent live on less than $1.25. "A prepaid mobile broadband user subsisting on $2 per day who wanted to use 1GB of data per month would have to spend 22 percent of their monthly income to do so” stated Mrs Omobola Johnson. This she said, is a far cry from the UN Broadband commission target, adding that Nigerians will either have to increase their average monthly income or drastically reduce the average cost of access for Nigerians to meet this target. She also said that the Ministry of Communication technology shares a number of common goals with the A4AI, like that of advancing affordable access to both mobile and fixed-line internet in developing counties.

The eye opening panelist session focused on ‘Key barriers to affordable internet in Nigeria: Stakeholder perspectives’. The team of panelists was very representative as it was made up of key players from the various major sectors present at the event. The moderated discussion identified the key challenges to broadband affordability in Nigeria. These include but not limited to the following:
• A lack of reasonable rights of way;
• Multiple taxation;
• Difficulty in getting State governments to buy in;
• Unfavorable regulatory environment;
• Language gap;
• Poor infrastructure;
• Connectivity issues, among others.

Of particular interest to me was the issue of language and inclusion highlighted by Dr. Tunde Adegbola, a researcher, scientist and consulting engineer of African Languages Technology Initiative. He noted that the last six inches of accessing the internet remains a barrier particularly in the light of language. He pointed out that inclusion has been overlooked and he termed it as “an unwritten need”. On what needs to be done to bridge the gap, he said that “there was need to mainstream language into ICT development”.

When Mr. Lanre Ajayi, the President Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria another panelist was asked how he is going about representing voices, he explained that “there was an urgent need to look into and rework Spectrum management, emphasize regional capacity, introduce license free spectrum and remove impediments of high spectrum cost.

Listening to and gaining insight about so many unfamiliar technical terms was quite enriching. I also gained insight into the key priorities of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) towards supporting the implementation of the broadband plan. Dr. Eugene Juwah, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC said ‘’there was need to emphasize on public enlightenment".

The second moderated discussion session saw participants break into work groups which were each assigned the task of identifying priority issues for coalition engagement. This was a welcome development as the session provided participants with the opportunity of discussing, deliberating and identifying priority issues to be addressed based on the A4AI best practices for policy and regulation. The work group I belonged to focused on Market competition; and I found the session very informing, educative, inclusive and engaging. I was able to intellectually interact with and learn from expert s in the ICT sector; on a one on one basis.

For example, I was able to share my thoughts about the evolving 'Smart Women Project' championed by the Ministry of Communication Technology; which seeks to bring the catalytic potential of ICTs within the reach of all Nigerian women. The project has been of special interest to me and I have been following the trend of events around it . I made the most of the opportunity by sharing about my digital training and advocacy experiences and the ongoing World Pulse Women Weave the Web campaign with Mr. Seyi Onabanjo, Special Assistant (Local Content) to the Honorable Minister of Communication Technology. In turn, he offered to introduce Busayo and I to the National Coordinator of the Smart Women project. Although we were unable to reach out to her before she left the venue of the event, there will definitely be a follow up.

Agreed outcomes from the group discussions includes but not limited the following:
• Pricing Transparency
- promotion of safeguards for anti competitive behaviors’
• Open access and framework for infrastructure sharing
- Infrastructure investment
• Harmonization and rationalization of taxes across local, state and national levels
• Community issues and concerns
• Spectrum Policy: need for more fair allocation and innovative uses, and availability of free/unlicensed spectrum
• Data collection and indicators (Monitoring and Evaluations across areas, and systematic national level effort)
• Universal Service Fund efficiency and collaboration among stakeholders.

It is significant to mention that action plan, coalition activities, work tools and methods that will guarantee sustainability were also discussed, agreed upon and streamlined. At the end of the event, Nabiye, Busayo, Celine and I got together to review the unfolding prospects, and how we could key in as a group. Uppermost for us, was how we could effectively represent the voices of women at the grassroots, who are still excluded and caught in the web of the technology gender divide. We counted it important that we continue to represent the interests of grassroots women at the table and also ensure that they are included in the drive for affordable broadband services in Nigeria. We each left the even with a prized possession- A well laid out and packaged report on Nigerian Information and Communication Technology.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Busayo, Greengirl, Celine and Nabiye
Busayo and Greengirl
Busayo and Nabiye
Joseph, Busayo, Greengirl, Celine and Nabiye
Sonia, Busayo, Greengirl, Celine and Nabiye
From left, Mr Seyi Onabanjo Special Assistant (Local Content) to the Hon. Minister) and another partcipant during the Work Group Session.

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Comments

Thank you, Olanike, for sharing your experience at A4A1 Forum in Nigeria. I am inspired by your reporting and the coming together of many through VOF to make tangible strides for women. How could people afford internet use on an average of $2/day?

The more voices which bring awareness to this important issue, the more demand is created. Keep up the great work!

Sarah Happel, Principal
Intercultural Training & Leadership Coaching
www.SpectrumSolutions.eu

Greengirl's picture

My Amazing Coach.....

I am thrilled to hear from you and can already imagine what meeing you face-to-face will feel like. To say the very least, the A4AI Forum was worth attending; and I remain greatful to World Pulse for making it happen. Many thanks to you too for your invaluable contributions to the successes that are unfolding for me.

I am hopeful that the high rate of digital exclusion that characterize the lives of many a grassroots woman would soon become a thing of the past as we continue to speak out.

You remain a dependable and inspirational mentor. I owe you an update about happenings around me.

Loads of love,
Greengirl

Dearest Greengirl,

Once again, I am so impressed by your integrity, eloquence, commitment, intelligence, knowledge -- of environmental as well as digital issues -- diplomacy, energy and courage.

Oh, and I love that dress you're wearing in these photos! That color! Your lovely face! (etc.)

There are many things I'd like to ask about your work -- and more about what you've so beautifully detailed in this piece -- but it's way too much for me to email, so I'll wait until you come to the USA and hope and trust that I'll meet you in person.

How wonderful that you got to spend time with Nabiye, Busayo and Celine, and that you all seem to have found this A4AI event informative, supportive, fruitful and helpful.

I think you should run your country, which would no doubt benefit from your compassion, humanitarian approach, love of our planet and sharp technological knowledge. Not to mention your striking sense of fashion.

Thank you for this highly professional piece, and may it have wide readership as you continue to benefit from your A4AI and Word Pulse connections. We all benefit from getting to know you, Greengirl!

With Appreciation and Respect . . . and a big hug,

- Sarah

Greengirl's picture

Wowee!!!

I just picked up that word from you and also had a hearty and joy filled laughter when I saw this- "You should Run for President of Nigeria!". Here we go again, Sarah! You are an angel!! You have been a tremendous source of of wisdom, energy, encouragement and so much love. I am all too eager to meet you as I have so much to share with you too. Every time I think about and have an opportunity to communicate with you Sarah, it feels like I have known you for all time.

Yes, the A4AI Forum was eventful and I can never thank World Pulse enough for affording my World Pulse sisters and I, an opportunity to be a part of the land mark program. I learned a lot and I am better informed about the ICT industry in my country. It was only during the event that I realized that I knew next to nothing about happenings in the sector. I am now familiar with a lot of technical terms and have become really interested in ICT talks; having gained better understanding of the industry. It feels good to call myself a 'stakeholder'. Aha!!

I still owe you a post about my Journey to World Pulse . I will do my best to put my thoughts down this Weekend. The post will be dedicated to YOU!!!!!!!!!

Thank you so much for always making my world go round!!!! God bless you for all time.

Very warm regards, appreciation and admiration,
Greengirl

gunu_k's picture

Very Well Written Article

Dear Greengirl,
your report of the meeting is very informative. You have really chalked out a detailed programme for using ICT for furthering the development of the underprivileged. Congratulations.
Subhadra

Subhadra Khaperde
India

Greengirl's picture

Hello Subhadra

Thank you so much for you very kind words. I am glad that you felt informed after reading the post. I am learning by the day that ICT tools can be deployed in very positive ways to bring about much need change in our personal lives, community, and the world.

In appreciation,
Greengirl

Precious M's picture

Thanks for educating me!

Dear Ola,

After reading your writeup, I feel like I actually attended the forum with you.
Thank you for documenting it so well.

Regards,
Precious

My pen speaks

Greengirl's picture

Greetings and Gratitude

It feels good to know that the article gave you a feel of what transpired at the Forum. Your voice always counts! I am so glad that you reached out with your thoughts.

Together we are stronger, and will continue speaking out to make our world a better place.

Blessings,
Greengirl

Tam's picture

The Visible Power of Sisterhood

Dear Greengirl,

To have been able to put into place such down to earth steps forward at this conference, is such a victory. To see the photos and to read about you World Pulse Sisters meeting in person, sent a wave of energy all the way here! I am so happy for all of you, and for how all of you affect all of us.

With Love,

Tam

Greengirl's picture

That wave energy!

I will call that wave of energy, a 'World Pulse Inspired Energy'! I find it heartening and refreshing to know that the wave is making the rounds through the bit I shared. Thank you for reading and sharing your powerful and very reassuring thoughts!

Much love to you Tam!

Greengirl

binapatel33's picture

Thank you.

Thank you for sharing your story. It is wonderful to see the strides taking place to incorporate technology and women! How do you feel about all of this? I want to hear your voice in all of it and your personal opinion. How does this affect you personally?

Thank you again,
Buna

Kind Regards,
Bina Patel
hc Mediate, LLC
www.hcmediate.com

Greengirl's picture

Great question!!!!

Dear Bina,

First, I must let you know that I appreciate the time you spared to read my post. I feel heard and encouraged to keep sharing.

The question you asked is such an important one and I find it appropriate that you raised it. I have been using ICT tools and had access to the internet for about fourteen years now, and all the while never considered myself a stakeholder. Being a part of the forum helped me to appreciate that I was not just an ICT user but that I also had a role as a partner in the sector. The very engaging and eye opening sessions brought about this realization. One of the very empowering outcomes of the Forum is that I am now listed among an emerging A4AI-Nigeria Stakeholder Coalition. I have now developed keen interest in happenings within the ICT sector in Nigeria and beyond.

To learn more about my personal opinion, you may want to read another story angle which I also shared in my journal: http://worldpulse.com/node/86463.

Thank you so much for your invaluable feedback. Please feel free to reach out again and again. Let's keep the conversation on!

Warmly,
Greengirl

binapatel33's picture

Wonderful and thank you for

Wonderful and thank you for your reply. So the post and the additional journal entry is exactly what I wanted to hear and see! I wanted to see your experiences and I agree that the technology has been a huge boost for communication. I am proud to read about your efforts and personal commitment! keep up the good work my dear friend!

Bina

Kind Regards,
Bina Patel
hc Mediate, LLC
www.hcmediate.com

Greengirl's picture

Thank you Bina.........

Thank you Bina for your very kind words of encouragement. Here we are, communicating because of the power of technology. I am learning by the day and I remain hopeful that the little and big efforts I contribute towards making our world a better place will always count.

Love,
Greengirl

Greengirl's picture

Thank you Bina!

Thank you Bina for your very kind words of encouragement. Here we are, communicating because of the power of technology. I am learning by the day and I remain hopeful that the little and big efforts I contribute towards making our world a better place will always count.

Love,
Greengirl

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