By Tola Adedamola
NIGERIA is expected to benefit from a new project partnership between the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the European Commission (EC), targeted at promoting Internet services and skills for everyone worldwide over the next three years.
The ITU-EC project, ‘Promoting and measuring universal and meaningful digital connectivity’, will leverage EUR 3 million (about $3.3 million) over three years to advance holistic policy approaches and provide recommendations on boosting good-quality Internet and mobile access. The project is part of the European Union’s Global Gateway initiative.
Nigeria, which has over 150 million Internet users via the narrowband and some 84 million through broadband facility, is a strong member of the ITU as represented by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). However, despite the various investments that have gone into the sector, the country still has some 141 access gaps, where about 25 million Nigerians reside.
Indeed, ITU, the United Nations specialised agency for information and communication technologies and the EC launched the project jointly at the Transform Africa Summit currently ongoing in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, from April 26 to-28.
ITU Secretary-General, Doreen Bogdan-Martin, said: “This new partnership between ITU and the European Commission offers a unique opportunity for strengthening multilateral cooperation to expand meaningful connectivity and drive sustainable digital transformation.
“It puts digital at the centre of our common efforts to help the world get back on track to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
Universal and meaningful connectivity represents the possibility for everyone to enjoy a safe, satisfying, enriching and productive online experience at an affordable cost.
According to ITU’s Facts and Figures 2022, 5.3 billion people around the world are online today. Yet many only enjoy basic connectivity, and the remaining 2.7 billion people, roughly one-third of the global population, are totally unconnected to the Internet.
Moreover, multiple digital divides persist across and within countries; there are fewer women online than men globally; and universal connectivity remains a distant prospect in the least developed countries (LDCs) and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs).
“The potential of the Internet for social and economic good remains largely untapped today: one-third of humanity remains offline, and many users only enjoy basic connectivity,” said Dr Cosmas Luckyson Zavazava, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, adding “this new ITU-EC project will mainstream universal and meaningful connectivity and encourage countries to adopt a holistic approach, which is a necessary condition for a prosperous and inclusive society.”
The new project, in line with ITU’s mission to connect the world and leave no one behind, as well as the objectives of the European Union’s Global Gateway – aims to make universal and meaningful connectivity (UMC) a top policy priority; generate more and better UMC data; and improve evidence-based policymaking, fund sourcing and project implementation.
The ITU-EC project will help to direct investment and assistance efforts on targets for universal and meaningful connectivity established by a multi-stakeholder working group, including some 40 representatives from a diverse set of stakeholders together with ITU and the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology.