Mr. Tony Ojobo, president, African ICT Foundation (AfiCTF), has called on the government of Nigeria to adopt UNESCO’s Internet Universality Indicators otherwise referred to as ‘ROAM-Indicators’ to deepen the developments associated with Internet penetration and usage.
Ojobo made the call in his presentation titled: “The World Wide Web: Creating Opportunities for a New African Digital Economy”, during the 2021 World Wide Web Day conference, organized by the Center for Cyber Awareness and Development (CECAD) in Lagos, stressing that the set of 303 indicators by UNESCO aim to assess the state of Internet development at the national level by adopting the principles of human Rights, Openness, Accessibility, Multi-stakeholder participation.
38th UNESCO General Conference of November 2015 endorsed the Universality of the internet with focus on a set of indicators known as ROAM-X: Rights, Openess, Accessibility, Multi-Stakeholder engagements/participation and Cross-cutting indicators; these underpin, the evolution, growth and the development of internet in line with the UN SDG’s.
Ojobo who doubles as the founder of TechX Innovation Hub (Enugu), said that adopting ROAM-X Indicators will send positive signal to critical stakeholders in the industry, especially as universality of the Internet is critical for the development of African economy.
“Adopting ROAM-X Indicators clearly spelt that rights to the internet guarantees unhindered access and freedom and it is sine-qua-non to the growth of African digital economy
This principle also connotes that open access and non-discriminatory policy is critical ICT development in the Continent. Accessibility is key for all demographics especially in the rural communities. Therefore, a multistakeholder approach is necessary to ensure no community or group is left out”, he said.
Why Digital Inclusion?
The AfictF President said that COVID-19 has even made it imperative to ensure ‘Digital Equity’ and ‘Digital Equality’ in Africa where Internet access, devices & technology support, become readily available.
In his words, “COVID-19 caught the World unprepared and access to information saved lives because information is power.
On the flip side, we need to consider the rural population who lack access to life saving information particularly now we are faced with the third wave of COVID-19.
Large number of both Urban and rural population are still unable to afford digital or smart devices because individual’s purchasing power is getting lower by the day.
826 million students were out of School in Sub-saharan Africa due to digital divides in distance learning observed during COVID-19 Pandemic. Globally 1.5 billion students and 63 Million primary and secodary school teachers were affected, according to UNESCO’s report released on April 4, 2020”, Ojobo said.
Speaking further, he regretted that only 43% of Africa are on the internet, which is approximately 590 Million of the African population of 1.37 Billion.
Where Africa Stands (GSMA 2020 African Report)
“Nigeria has a population of 211.4 Million with highest number of users at 154 Million and 73% internet penetration.
Kenya has a population of 54.9 Million with the highest internet penetration at 85.2% or 46.8 million users, according to Internet World Stats, December 2020”, he quoted.
Ojobo maintained that digital adoption is critical for e-opportunities viz-a-viz education, commerce, health and agriculture.
What’s in the basket for All?
To this end, he said that the five A’s for ICT Development and Digital Inclusion (5As4ICTD) include Awareness, access, availability, affordability and adoption.
He reiterated that internet is a Fundamental Human Right (FHR) and must be guaranteed for all adding that any attempt to infringe on this right will stifle innovation and creativity, which will hurt the African economy.