Governments often meet with stiff opposition when they try to develop and promote policies that will regulate how IT, especially social media, is used by its populace. It is often seen as a move to stifle freedom of speech which is the basic right of the citizenry.
However, there has been calls recently by many quarters and schools of thought for the regulation of the sector linking such calls to the flagrant abuse of the platform by many Nigerians who they alleged were rather than utilizing the world of opportunities available on social media for the development of the nation were using same to tear down, defame and slander enemies or opponents.
Similarly, Nigerians, like other nationals across the globe, have also witnessed the adverse effect of IT where they have become victims of various internet crime syndicates who fleece millions of their hard-earned savings or valuables.
Speaking at the just concluded 2018 edition of ‘Nigeria Internet Governance Forum’ in Abuja, themed: ‘Internet: An Enabler for Good Governance’, the Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, said government would continue to seek a more assertive role in the governance of the internet and technology, even as it would continue to push the boundaries of accepted normative standards.
He said: “We need to look forward to the possibilities that the internet is yet to bring. The promise the internet held 26 years ago still holds true and we will continue to believe and advocate for the benefits it brings, the ability to inspire and its capacity to change people’s lives. Nigeria represents dynamic change, new ideas, and the next generation of leaders. An internet that includes Nigeria means an internet that exists for the good of all people, one that is shaped by diversity, inclusion and equal voices.’’
He, however, expressed concern over unlawful use of the internet to perpetrate crime in the society. He said bad actors would continue to attempt to hijack the very nature of the internet to cause harm where it was designed to help.
“However, we have the moral responsibility to protect our culture, youths and other vulnerable groups on the Internet. We take the issue of child safety online to be very important and will continue to do all that is necessary to ensure that our youths are engaged in the right direction,’’ he said.
Speaking on the development of the nation’s nascent e-government sector, the minister said the Federal Government was investing in e-governance to make it easy for citizens to access government services.
He said government was aware of the difficulty faced by Nigerians in transacting businesses online because IP address traced to Nigeria are sometimes restricted or blocked by some major e-commerce sites.
He said: “We are aware of fraudulent activities of some Nigerians in the past, so government has taken some cybersecurity steps that will reduce activities of fraudsters online.”
The minister who added that government has the moral responsibility to protect its citizens including children online said it would ensure that the youths were engaged in the right direction.
He also said government was currently working to resolve the perennial Right of Way issue that hindered connectivity and stalled ubiquitous internet in the country.
“Besides government plans to lay about 18,000km of fibre optic cables to further help the country in meeting and surpassing its target of 30 per cent broadband penetration plan by end of 2018”, he said.
He said broadband would be used in agricultural, health, educational and other sectors of the country.
In her welcome address, the chair, NIGF Multi-Stakeholders Advisory Group, Mrs Mary Uduma, said NIGF was the local initiative of the United Nations (UN) Internet governance agreed on by the whole world in 2005.
NGIF, according to her, is a stakeholders’ platform that discusses public policy issues pertaining to internet, such as internet security, good governance
“We have brought internet experts to dissect this along the line of global discussion in areas of access inclusiveness and diversity, cyber security and trust,” she added.
In his remarks, the executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the commission would license three additional Infrastructure companies (INFRACOs) bringing the number to seven to boost broadband penetration in the country.
He explained that the three INFRACO companies’ licenses were awaiting approval as the commission had licensed two additional infrastructure companies earlier in the year to lay the foundation for internet penetration and increased broadband services.
Danbatta represented by the director, new media and information security, Mr Haru Alhassan, named the two Infraco companies as Zinox Technology Limited for Southeast and Brinks Integrated Solutions Limited for Northeast.
The NCC helmsman said the growth of the internet had been enormous, adding in 2012 there were 28 million users in the country but as at May 2018, there were over 103 million internet subscribers.
According to him, this evolution shows the importance of harnessing the benefits of internet for good governance.
“This figure of the internet subscribers’ data highlights the importance and the value of internet.
The event is very important in bringing various stakeholders to discuss issues of internet governance,” he said.
Earlier in her paper presentation, the former minister of education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili said the internet had come to disrupt the monopoly of supply side of governance. She said Nigerians were now making those ruling them responsible through feedback to them on the internet.
She called on those in the government to be alive to their responsibilities as the citizens are monitoring through the internet.
In his remarks, the vice chancellor of Nasarawa State University Keffi, Prof Muhammad Mainnima, said the theme of the forum was apt and worthy of participating in as Nigeria approaches the 2019 general elections.
Represented by the deputy vice chancellor of the university, Prof Grace Penal, he noted that Information Communication Technology (ICT) has significant role to play in the elections.
“While we agree that internet can promote good governance, it is important to think of how to make Nigerian cyberspace safe and secured. Therefore, it is my sincere hope that this year’s conference will add value positively to the narratives of good governance powered by the internet,” he added.
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