The online community is growing very fast and might someday outnumber the world’s population – with over a billion websites now online. More so, it’s fast becoming an integral driver of development in today’s societies. This has positioned it as the fifth estate of a society rather than the outranked entity it used to be.
As the gospel of change and development reaches a climax across the globe, developed nations are fast to employ the strengths of the digital age in fast-tracking societal integration. Consequently, developing nations like Nigeria are beginning to lay hold of this indisputable reality – the role of internet in improving the social, economic and political standing of a society.
Come to think of it: the one-click wonder of today was obviously not a thought so easy to come by in the 1990’s when the world was awed by the magic of the internet. Surprisingly, by 2006, upon the birth of the fourth generation (4G), internet had become a part of daily life; and could then be considered as a major contributor to the nations’ economic fortune or woes. Ease of internet access had become the eighth wonder of the world.
It’s noteworthy, however, that the present-day Nigeria has the highest number of internet users in Africa, and 10th in the world chat – ranking above UK and France. With over 70 million internet users and over 3.9% penetration rate, Nigeria has a potential that can be awakened by investing in the future of internet. The nation, therefore, must channel huge investment into key areas that relate internet with its socio-economic and political relevance, such as:
Job Creation and Entrepreneurial Development: Among the numerous crises militating against Nigeria, unemployment seems to pose the greatest threat in recent years. Conversely, with internet accessible to over 38 per cent of Nigeria’s population, unemployed people can be fully engaged with jobs like: Online editors, content creators, digital media curators, Public Relations Managers, etc. Through the internet, platforms like OLX, Jumia, Konga, etc., have recorded immense success. If issues of growing terrorism and economic retardation must become history, Nigeria must engage her numerous idle hands.
E-Commerce: If terms like “Our server is down”, “System currently inoperative”, “End Usage Delay”, etc. will become history in Nigeria’s commercial sector, better and swifter access to internet connection must be a national priority. In other words, Internet is capable of easing e-banking and e-commerce users of the provoking burdens of connectivity. Even more, companies and business owners might no longer need to sacrifice hundreds of thousands on the altars of newspaper outfits, just to advertise their goods or announce job vacancies available for only a few. With just a click – rather, a tweet – they can get that done and receive instant feedbacks.
The testimony of Bangladesh continues to validate the magical contribution of mobile money to national development. In just about four years after the Central Bank of Bangladesh introduced mobile financial services, 19 banks have registered over 18 per cent of the country’s population.
Education: The impact of an enlightened people in a society cannot be overemphasized. In Nigeria, however, many academic institutions, from primary to tertiary level, are devoid of ultramodern standards capable of stirring young people’s entrepreneurial acumen. This is evident in many dimensions; chief among them being the stale academic curriculum which has little or no relevance in 21st century work environment. To reduce this menace and the social threat posed by the millions of uneducated and physically challenged, Nigeria must shift its gaze towards correspondence studies and distance learning institutes.
In 2012, Gossy Ukwanwoke launched Nigeria’s first private online university, Beni American University. In 2015, the National Open University of Nigeria graduated about 7,000 students – more than any offline University ever graduated in a year. While these achievements deserve applause, blind eyes must not be turned to the scantiness of such platforms, and the failure of the Open University to achieve “total online”. Perhaps, this is a clarion call to the government to accredit more Online study platforms to help abate the overwhelming bitterness of the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board and the annual extortion of poor parents in the name of “Post-UTME”.
Since the digital age has pulled down the “wall of Jericho” hindering the flow of data, ideas and information across nations, freer and less-frustrating access to the untapped digital wealth is required, thereby giving students better access to, and exchange of, information at local and international levels.
Health Services: Taking a short stroll along the street of history, one would recall that Nigeria became a reference point of excellence when the spotlight of the WHO brought the country to the envy of other Ebola-infiltrated nations. October 20, 2015 goes into the annals of Nigeria’s history when the nation was declared free of the deadly disease that has claimed thousands of lives worldwide in recent years. However, contributions of platforms like www.ebolafacts.com are invaluable to the achievement of such a great feat.
The digital platform has also aided in organizing donations for helpless individuals dying of acute diseases. A recent instance that gained some momentum was the #SaveSeyanu campaign, aimed at raising funds for the 21-year old Oluwaseyanu who was to undergo a surgery. Weeks after the plea had been propagated, the success of the Seyanu’s operation was announced and Nigerians were glad to have helped save an integral part of her future.
Internet can also aid health care delivery as a result of its growing need in tele-medical applications including connecting remote super computers to lasers for precision, focusing, transmission of digitized X-ray photographs, etc. Besides, it will be leverage where registers are kept digitally.
Advocacy and Citizens’ Engagement: Until recently, the Nigeria’s concept of “Democracy” since 1999 proved to be a betrayal of the real explanation of the word. The representation of the people’s opinions, which was supposed to determine the product of the nation’s leadership, suffered terrible neglect. However, internet penetration is rapidly rescuing the drowning voices of advocacy. From Europe to Middle-East to Africa, the success of online advocacy is fast becoming evident.
The internet, especially through Social media, has greatly helped in driving Nigeria’s democracy. This irresistible force of limitless opportunities has immensely improved citizens’ engagement in societal affairs ranging from Politics to Economy to Sports to Education. During the 2014 national conference, for instance, the website www.nigerianationalconference2014.com and the hashtag #NationalConfab were created to engage citizens’ opinions. Perhaps no other has ever gained such international momentum as the #BringBackOurGirls, and #OccupyNigeria.
Agriculture: The success of this sector in any society is a function of the cooperation and mechanism exemplified by the various stakeholders, chief among them being the farmers. It’s noteworthy, however, that beyond planting, farmers will need to commercialize their products, which will require a fluids flow of information, social interaction and practical understanding of the market status quo. They will need information on fertilizers, seeds, prices, weather situation, agricultural innovations, and outbreaks of diseases.
On a general note, it will be unfair to pretend like there are no challenges embattling the proliferation and impact of internet usage in a nation like Nigeria. Some of these systemic barriers, which have grown unabated over the years, include: Epileptic Power supply, the cost of purchasing internet gadgets and accessories, poor ICT education, among many others. If this gospel of change must transform the lives of Nigerians, we must see it from Saint Internet’s perspective.
Just as electricity was vital to the industrial age, internet poses as the lifeline of the information age. And, like many other developing countries, Nigeria is yet to fully embrace the influence internet access has proven to have on economic and socio-political affairs.
Adeniruju Adedapo Treasure