Abuja — MINISTER of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson has said that the Internet can contribute up to $300 billion to Nigeria and other African countries GDP by 2025 against an estimated 18 billion in 2013.
The minister, who stated this at the 3rd African Internet Governance Forum in Abuja, said that for a region that lags behind the world in almost every economic indicator, this translates directly to opportunities to generate income, to create wealth, to create jobs, new business opportunities and economic expansion adding that this presents the very opportunities African governments are looking for and need to transform their economies and the economic lives of their populations.
She observed that Africa, more than any other region of the world, has the most to gain from the Internet and as such must immerse itself in discussions on how it will develop and function in the future stressing that as a region we need to have a better understanding of global trends and of how they are shaping the adoption of the Internet in Africa.
Johnson noted that the World may soon be taking decisions on how the critical resources of the Internet would be managed and on how the internet would in future be governed adding that Africa must play an active role in these decisions and in the discussions leading up to them. "We need to identify and communicate the uniqueness of our environment and ensure that they are considered and are reflected in decisions that are taken at global levels".
The minister, who noted that mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to exceed 635 million by the end of this year (2014) and predicted to rise to around 930 million by the end of 2019, pointed out that such growth means that Africa is rapidly closing in on the global mobile penetration rate, which was around 92 per cent at the end of 2013, compared to around 70 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa.She stated that the steep increase in mobile usage in Africa is driven by a number of factors, in particular the additional ways in which mobile phones are used.
"Beyond conducting voice conversations, mobile phones are often the preferred channel for receiving data and for conducting transactions - our phones are our cameras, wallets, shops, music (playback) systems, movie screens, information or service centres"
According to her, "Increase in the number of mobile subscribers has fuelled increases in mobile internet use in Africa adding that are considered to be at the cusp of a mobile internet revolution. Predictions are that mobile internet use in Africa will increase twenty fold in the next five years ... this is double the estimated growth rate in the rest of the world. Lower priced devices (in particular smartphones and tablets), increase investment in network infrastructure, and increase availability of spectrum for mobile broadband, are among the factors that will drive this growth. Africa has also seen improvements in the deployment of other technologies. For example the number of undersea fibre-optic cables landing in Africa has increased from about two active cables in 2001 to around 16 by the end of this year".
"When we consider the history of economic growth of Africa, and the reality that forecasted growth of about five per cent over the next three years is predicated on the progress registered by only a handful of countries; it becomes necessary for us to seriously consider the economic opportunities the Internet presents and position ourselves to take advantage of such opportunities. Focus on the Millennium Development Goals, particularly as the deadline of 2015 approaches, highlights both the progress that Africa has made in improving the development of its people as well as the persistent and at times widening divide that exists between it and the rest of the World. How is the internet relevant to this and other such examples? By being a catalyst that can expand the scope, and increase the scale of developmental outcomes."
Johnson stressed that catalytic effect of the internet can also be seen in the area of finance where the internet and related technologies are helping to reduce the exclusion of vast segments of African populations from (formal) financial services and products adding that their impact can also be seen in the area of education where such technologies are helping to expand learning and increase the reach of teachers and the classroom beyond the reach of physical facilities.
"They can catalyse improvements in the delivery and quality of public services; in improving governance and accountability; in increasing the security, safety of the population as well as in our response to emergencies and disasters".
Reviewing the recommendations of AfIGF 2013 and presentation on the AfIGF 2014 objectives, programme and outcomes, Chief , New Technologies and Innovation Section Special Initiatives Division United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Kasirim Nwuke recalled that the September 2013 event attracted 195 participants from governments, private sector, civil society, regional and international organisations from 29 countries adding that the Forum dwelt on seven thematic sessions which includes human rights, legal and other frameworks on security; Internet as an engine of growth, Emerging issue (Internet surveillance), Internet governance principles, principles of multi-stakeholder cooperation, access and diversity: Internet as an engine for growth and sustainable development.
He pointed out that it was agreed that for the sustainability of African Internet Governance Forum, the next steps which included supporting substantive participation of Africans to the global IGF and mainstreaming AfIGF recommendations in relevant ICT policy instances beginning with the WTDC Africa preparatory meeting in Accra, Nwuke said the main objective of the forum is to examine the state of Internet Governance in Africa in the context of the theme of the ninth global Internet Governance Forum.