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BROADBAND EVOLUTION AND RISING QUEST FOR STIMULUS, INTERNET GOVERNANCE

By NBF News
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THE increasing broadband capacity in the country, which is presently at 19.8 terabytes and 340 gigabytes respectively, with investment now in excess of $2.24 billion, has renewed calls for governance over the current traffic that passes  through the country and the need for stimulus packages to aid investors.

President Goodluck Jonathan was urged to heed the calls of stakeholders by introducing a presidential broadband stimulus for the Nigerian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector with the hope of boosting access to broadband and Internet deployment in the country.

These calls re-echoed again at the two-day Nigeria DigitalSENSE forum on Internet governance and broadband evolution in Nigeria, which ended last weekend in Lagos.

Executive Director, Operations, DigitalSENSE Africa (DSA), Mrs. Nkemdilim Nweke, in her opening address, said that by emulating the President of the United States, Mr. Barrack Obama who introduced a Broadband stimulus recently, President Jonathan would give unparalleled boost to the Nigerian ICT sector.

Nweke also said that access to high speed Internet network was good but the need for a good legal frame work to enable end users optimise it could not be overlooked.

Before now, the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Titi Omo-Ettu had stressed the need for government to create a stimulus package for submarine cable investors in the country.

Omo-Ettu, who said that his association would lead the campaign for stimulus, reasoned that such incentive should include, removing obstacles in the right of ways, engaging stakeholders frequently and ensuring the right business environment was created in the country.

However, experts said that less than one per cent of the huge submarine cable capacity was currently explored due to  lack of last mile infrastructure, resulting from various impediments including the right of way issues.

Meanwhile, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, at the recently held Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, said that the Commission would champion the open access module, which would make government at different levels contribute to the deployment of broadband in Nigeria.

Juwah said that instead of one payment for right of way, states and local governments would contribute the right of way as their own equity in a partnership and in doing that, would earn the stream of revenue, probably forever or for the life of that infrastructure, every month or quarterly.

'We believe that by so doing, it will lower at least the cost of infrastructure build-up because instead of seeking for this up-front payment for the right of right of way, it will become equity, investment on which there will be return. So that is one way, we want to combat the right of way issue,' Juwah stressed.

In the meantime, the Managing Director, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria, Mr. Mohammed Rudman, noted that the four submarine fibre cables, including MainOne, Glo1, SAT3 and the about to land WACS by MTN are expected to increase Internet capacity in the country by 3,967 per cent by the end of 2011.

As a result of this, Rudman noted that Cyber criminals would start to take an active interest in African Internet Service Providers, due to the continent's imminent bandwidth explosion and the lack of Internet security awareness.

He said that due to high capacity and competition, the cost of Internet would drop, adding that the low cost of Internet access would allow for very high Internet penetration across the country, and also accelerate the rate of cybercrime tremendously, if government did not take pre-emptive measures immediately.

Recently also, the President of Nigeria Internet Group, Bayo Banjo lamented that, Nigeria is being ostracised due to the increasing negative trends, arising from the various Internet frauds,  identified with the country, especially International organisations.

Nonetheless, the fact remains that porous Internet regulations have become a global phenomenon that has eaten deep into the annals of World economies with its attendant negative implications felt on the Gross Domestic Product of crime prone countries, including Nigeria.

According to the United States of America, at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia in 2005, the decentralisation of the Internet was further evidenced by the level of innovation that occurred at the edges of the network.

The summit stressed that local empowerment challenged traditional trade paradigms and reinforced the importance of all stakeholders in safeguarding the security, stability and robustness of the interconnected network of networks.  It added that what happened at one point in the network had the potential to impact other points in the network, highlighting the need for appropriate public policy at the local and national levels, supplemented by cooperation at the international level.

Reports ranked Nigeria very high in Internet related crimes, including cyber crime. Arguably, the Internet Crime Complaints Centre ranked the country third among the cyber crime committing countries in the World in 2007.

Presenting a paper titled, 'Internet Governance and Broadband Evolution in Nigeria: The Imperative of Legal Framework', at the DigitalSENSE Forum, Mr. Adewale Jones, said that the implications of broadband evolution included, faster connectivity, faster online shopping, promotion of e-governance among others.

Beautiful as these implications are without governance, Jones said that they becomes a challenge.

Jones, a legal practitioner, who identified nature of Internet governance issues to include multi-layered, fragmented, complex and highly distributed, noted that Internet governance was not one process but several processes at different levels and some overlapping. He added that the players in the processes were many-government, its agencies, its institutions, other institutions, industry, the civil society and individuals.

To curb the negative trend of Internet fraud, he said: 'There is need to collaborate with industry and civil society group and ensure the availability of content control technologies and tools.'

In his own contribution, the Chief Executive Officer, Teledom Group International, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, urged the good people of Nigeria who were in greater number not to allow a few bad elements, which was less than 0.01 per cent to continue to mess Nigeria's name on the Internet with their fraudulent activities.

Lending credence to the need to tackle the anticipated effects of broadband explosion in Nigeria, both the Central Bank of Nigeria's Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and the Director General National Information and Technology Development Agency, Prof. Cleopas Angaye urged the National Assembly to pass into law the Cyber security Bill.

Sanusi noted that modern economies depended largely on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure, which was susceptible to a lot of vulnerabilities, which could be exploited either negatively or positively.

According to the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the passage of the bill into law and proper legislation would help clip the wing of these notorious trends, adding that cyber security products were imported into the country, which had a negative implication on national security.

To Angaye, the necessary mechanism to be taken must include capacity building in the area of network security; deployment of appropriate infrastructure, passage of necessary enabling laws on electronic transactions and awareness creation on threats and activities of those involved in cybercrimes.