Free Internet Crucial to Minimise Digital Divide, Says Tijani

A free and secure Internet can close the digital divide and create innovative opportunities on the continent, the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr Bosun Tijani, has said.

Tijani stated this at the just-concluded Africa Internet Governance Forum at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

The minister, who addressed the forum virtually, noted that Nigeria was conscious of all the dynamics of emerging technologies around Internet usage and would continue to work with countries in Africa on different fronts to ensure that the Internet was effectively governed so its innumerable resources could be leveraged for citizens and nation’s growth.

In a statement, he said: “The need for our consistent collaboration to develop our economy collectively is preeminent in the agenda of the current administration in Nigeria.

“It is through this kind of forum that we can bridge the digital divides, enhance cybersecurity, ensure digital rights, and foster innovation. It is, therefore, our collective duty to ensure that the Internet remains open, safe, and beneficial for all.”

The minister further encouraged stakeholders to prioritise a collaborative approach to creating policies and strategies that will shape the future of the Internet in Africa.

Also at the event, the Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, provided insights on the Nigerian Communications Commission’s commitment to enable a secure Internet ecosystem in the country through various regulatory initiatives.

According to him, Nigeria had attained tremendous growth in broadband penetration, basic Internet usage, and voice subscriptions.

The NCC CEO noted that as the host of this year’s edition of the AfIGF, Nigeria was focused on sharing experiences with other sister nations in Africa as well as learning from the AfIGF parliamentarians from Africa.

At the event, the Chief of the Section on Innovation and Technology at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Mactar Seck, highlighted, “I sincerely thank the EVC of the NCC, Prof. Danbatta, who is playing a great role in the development of digital technology in Nigeria. I also appreciate the AfIGF Secretary General, other sister agencies, and the Multistakeholder Advisory Group that made the event successful.”

The Secretary of the African Parliamentary Network on Internet Governance, Samuel George of Ghana, called for free Internet “that is inclusive, safe and secured for all citizens of Africa”.

He added, “For Africa to be self-sufficient, it must create an enabling environment and laws and provide digital infrastructures for young innovators to strive. This will, in turn, promote indigenous and local content development in technological development.”