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Digital divide or technology gap, which is the gap that exists in various aspects, including internet access, computer literacy, and skills required to navigate the digital world, has indeed widened in Nigeria, due to advancements in global technology.

While developed nations are creating new technologies that will propel the digital age, Nigeria and other developing nations are having to play catch-up due to inadequate ICT infrastructure.

For instance, most of the conversation in the broadband industry in the world is about the 5G and its numerous advantages, yet Nigeria’s path to fully utilize the potential that comes with 5G continues to drag due to low smartphone penetration in the country, occasioned by poverty, illiteracy, and unawareness.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) latest report revealed that, 2G continues to be the dominant technology in Nigeria’s mobile market with 57.84 per cent of Nigeria’s 224.7 million mobile subscriptions were on 2G network as of December 2023.

The report stated that 31.33 per cent of those subscriptions were on 4G; 9.80 per cent were on 3G, and 1.04 per cent were on 5G, indicating low smartphone ownership in the country, despite sustained network investments by telecommunication firms like MTN.

High cost of smartphones

According to a 2023 report by DataReportal, the percentage of people with access to smartphones in Nigeria is between 11.8 per cent and 18.9 per cent, based on a population of over 211 million people and estimates 122.5 million internet users in the country.

This is even as the chief executive officer of MTN Nigeria, Karl Toriola, identified the high cost of mobile phones as an obstacle to achieving digital inclusion in Nigeria.

The CEO of MTN, who disclosed this in a recent interview on Arise TV, averred that, while a lot of people would prefer to shift their consumption from traditional voice and circuit switch services to data services, they are limited due to the high cost of 4G and 5G enabled phones.

For instance, as of November 2023, Nigeria witnessed a surge in the availability of 5G-enabled smartphones, making high-speed connectivity more accessible than ever before, but the prices of these smartphones, which ranges from N120,000 to over N2 million, is far above the reach of the 88.4 million Nigerians who are living in extreme poverty.

Toriola fittingly explained it when he said, “The biggest barrier to that is actually the cost of handset and I think that’s one of the biggest rivals. Of course, the affordability of data is a key issue, but affordability of smartphones is a challenge to actually produce that data capacity in a rapidly currency devaluating macroeconomic.

“Also, while the global demand for smartphones has led to a reduction in smartphone costs, Nigeria alone might not generate enough demand to bring down prices as quickly.”

Addressing the issue

To make cellphones more accessible, Toriola proposed that local assembly may help lower production costs and remove customs taxes, while underlining the significance of working with regulators.

On what MTN is doing to addressing this issue, the CEO said, “MTN is actively working with the minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, and regulatory authorities to address the issue of device affordability and promote digital inclusion in Nigeria.”

He emphasized how crucial a person’s overall credit score is while financing their mobile gadgets, adding that, “There are quite several companies in Africa that are working on that in partnership with us, and while it may take a bit of time for that momentum to be built, our mobile money PSB – MoMo will enable us to predict behavioral patterns and credit worthiness.”

Toriola stated that MTN wants to increase the accessibility of smartphones to a larger demographic by developing these technologies, enabling responsible long-term smartphone payments.

Roll out of 5G, Fibre to more states

The CEO disclosed that the rollout of 5G has quadrupled towards the end of last year, while assuring that MTN will continue to bring first class technological connectivity to Nigerians. “We are very proud of what we have achieved so far, and we think there is a huge opportunity to serve customers with better quality of service,” he added.

He disclosed that the telecom company is rolling out more fibre cables, to bring internet connectivity closer to the people. “We want residential homes and offices to be connected to uninterrupted internet. We are going to be a big part of fibre organisation of Nigeria as we continue to logically resource services product content around music, voice, gaming, and education.

“We are so passionate about the digital agenda of the honourable minister and the parastatals that report to him in the transformation of the economy of Nigeria to a digital economy and we are going to work with him to make it a reality,” Toriola assured.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Royal Ibeh

Quelle/Source: Leadership, 12.03.2024

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