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Drop in African internet usage, a minus for connecting the unconnected

As many crusaders of internet uptake continue to decry the observed drop in internet usage, especially in major economies of Africa including Nigeria and South Africa, they have expressed fears on what will encourage the connection of yet to be connected people.

Latest report of the 2016 Global Internet Report released by the Internet Society said internet users in Africa dropped from 20 per cent in 2015 to 15 per cent last year, thereby raising concerns on the fate of emerging shift from resource based economy to knowledge economy.

The Internet Society is a global cause-driven organisation governed by a diverse Board of Trustees that is dedicated to ensuring that the Internet stays open, transparent and defined by you (individuals).

Because of the report which agreed that the drop was not peculiar to Africa alone, experts say connecting the unconnected will take significant and concerted efforts.

According to the report, more than half the world’s population was not yet online as at 2015, even as the growth has ebbed to eight per cent in 2015.

Accordingly, the 2016 Global Internet Report said “The fact that growth rates keep falling with Internet penetration still below 50 per cent is cause for alarm.”

Europe is still leading with 76 per cent of the population online, “But Africa, which just surpassed 20 per cent of the population online, has also seen growth rates fall significantly, albeit to 15 per cent,” the report averred.

Here in Nigeria, statistics released by the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) showed disparities and no clear pattern of either growth or fall in usage.

For example, as at January 2016, the country had 95.7 million internet users but it dropped to insignificantly to 93.6 million in February and further fell in March, April and May to 92.2 million; 91.1 million and 92.3 million respectively.

Analysts however, linked the differential fluctuations to drop in income of internet users due to recession and inflationary trend as rise and fall hovered between 93.3 million and 91.8 million from June to December 2016.

Taking a look on the emerging trend in internet usage, President of Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engineer Olusola Teniola said apart from observed poor services from some networks which can frustrate some internet users to the extent of dropping it, the economic situation has not encouraged networks to invest much on their facilities due to forex crisis.

He noted that government need to create Special Avenue that will afford networks to access forex seamlessly so as to further upgrade their installations.

Another reason, according to him that will further hobble uptake of internet in Nigeria is the imposition of nine per cent Communication Service Tax (CST) on data users by the government if the bill at the National Assembly sails through.