By Joy Odor
The Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has called on the Federal Government and its relevant agencies to take urgent measures to reverse the steady decline in the number of Nigerians online, saying the Government’s efforts should now be geared towards ensuring that every citizen is connected to the Internet rather than pushing those already connected off the grid.
In a statement issued in Lagos, MRA’s Communications Officer, Mr. Idowu Adewale, noted that from the monthly figures published by the National Communications Commission (NCC) of active Internet subscriptions in Nigeria, the number of active Internet subscriptions in Nigeria has been steadily declining over a period of eight months, between November 2020 and June 2021, the latest month for which subscription data is available.
According to him, in November 2020, there were 154,437,623 active Internet subscriptions in Nigeria across three different communication technologies, namely the Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication, fixed wired telephone, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), but the number dropped slightly to 153,873,786 in December 2020 and then sharply to 150,898,122 in January 2021.
Mr. Adewale observed that since then, the figure has continued to fall monthly at an alarming rate, going to 148,133,233 in February 2021, 144,581,026 in March; 141,407,324 in April; 140,132,128 in May and currently standing at 139,814,913 as at June.
He stressed that “The rate at which Nigeria is bleeding Internet subscribers is extremely worrying and unacceptable, particularly at a time when the global preoccupation and efforts are directed at ensuring that all remaining unconnected people around the world get online.
This situation in Nigeria obviously constitutes an impediment to that global effort.”
Mr. Adewale said: “Besides the fact that access to the Internet enables people to exercise and enjoy their rights, the lack of access obviously has other far reaching negative consequences for those who are excluded, for the quality of lives that they have, their livelihoods as well as their participation in many social, economic and political activities.
Even before the current COVID-19 context, many public services and benefits were becoming available virtually only to those with Internet access.
In the current environment where many social and economic activities are taking place online, there can be no justification for this situation which serves to deprive significant numbers of citizens access to such services and benefits.”
He called on the government and its various departments and agencies with responsibilities in the Internet and telecommunications sectors to make a serious effort to identify the causes of the steady decline in Internet subscriptions, adopt and implement measures to address them and other barriers to connectivity for all Nigerians, including the high cost of data and devices such as smart phones and computer equipment.