Editor's Note: This is the first part of a series on internet governance in Nigeria.

As the internet pervades every area of human life, internet governance has become a topical issue across the world. But in Nigeria, not many people are interested in the conversation.

Internet governance is the development and application by governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the internet.

It is pertinent to note that internet governance differs from e-governance. While e-governance is concerned with the use of technology in governance, internet governance is about the policies and rules associated with access to and the use of the internet. Issues such as internet access, data privacy, free speech online, digital trade and cybersecurity are within the purview of internet governance.

Globally, the efforts of the stakeholders in internet governance, including organisations such as the Internet Governance Forum and the Internet Society have continued to yield good results. For instance, the United Nations declared unrestricted access to the internet as a human right in 2016. And more recently, the European Union published the General Data Protection Regulation to regulate how the data of European citizens are collected and used on the internet.

Internet Governance Issues in Nigeria

Low internet access is one of the internet governance issues in Nigeria. In 2018, Nigeria’s internet penetration rate stood at an estimated 47.1%.  According to Internet World Stats—the premier website for internet usage and other related statistics, an internet user must meet two conditions:

  • The person must have available access to an internet connection point
  • The person must have the basic knowledge required to use web technology

In light of these prerequisites, there are only a few internet users in Nigeria. Considering the level of illiteracy, particularly digital illiteracy, and the rate of internet penetration (47.1%). Although literacy rate as of 2015 stood at 59.6%, 95% of Nigerians do not own a personal computer.

The high cost of internet subscription also contributes to the low internet access in the country. On average, one gigabyte of mobile data goes for ₦1,000. That is 3.3% of the new minimum wage (₦30,000), which has not even been implemented.

This is a problem because the benchmark for affordable internet according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet is 2% of one’s monthly income. Because Africa’s figure is 8%, it's tempting to want to excuse Nigeria's 3.3%. But when considered from a global perspective (as it should be), it is a problem that must be solved.

The basic problems of low internet access and digital illiteracy pose a challenge to having conversations about internet governance in Nigeria. The average Nigerian has little knowledge of how the internet works and finds internet connection unaffordable. Therefore, it would be difficult to make them consider other such issues like cybersecurity, data privacy, free speech online, digital rights, etc.

What to Do?

There have been various efforts towards enlightening Nigerians about issues of internet governance. The Nigeria Internet Governance Forum and the Nigeria Youth in Internet Governance Forum are moving the needle in this direction.

However, Nigeria needs to solve its basic internet problems. From the aforementioned definition of internet governance, the onus lies on the private sector, governments, and civil societies. These are some solutions that should be considered:

  • Provision of affordable internet services. Nigeria was one of the first countries to endorse the affordable internet initiative, yet it has not implemented it.
  • The widespread provision of public Wi-Fi services for ease of internet access. Perhaps, in the similitude of Google Station.
  • Exposure of primary and secondary school students to the world of computers and the internet through the provision of adequate devices and internet connection.
  • Greater implementation and monitoring of computer/internet education in schools.
  • More intensive crackdown on internet scammers. They displace the trust of people who don't know better on the internet.

Read the second part of this series on internet governance in Nigeria here