A Staggering Two-Thirds of Nigerians are not Online, Says Research ICT Africa

Ms. Alison Gillwald, Executive Director, Research ICT Africa

A staggering two-thirds of the adult Nigerian population, which is approximately 80 million people, do not use the Internet, according to the latest survey findings by Research ICT Africa (RIA), a continental think tank based in Cape Town, South Africa, which seeks to fill a strategic gap in the development of a sustainable information society and digital economy.

It working paper titled “After Access 2023: Digital Nigeria Post the Pandemic”, released in March 2024 ahead of the full report due later in the year, showed recent trends in Internet access and usage in the country, as well as identifying the barriers to access and the limitations preventing deeper digital engagements.

This report is based on the survey undertaken in 2022 for 2,230 households and individuals, as well as 718 microenterprises.

RIA said the findings from these nationally representative surveys provide the first glimpse into how Nigerians interact with ICT at a national level post the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that “Key to these findings is the importance of addressing the demand-side issue of digital skills in Nigeria — lack of digital skills, awareness, and affordable access to smart devices — as well as the supply-side infrastructure necessary to increase access.”

It noted that on the positive side, Nigeria has the 10th cheapest mobile data prices in Africa, according to its latest Africa Mobile Pricing (RAMP) database but stressed that “Internet access costs have jumped nearly fourfold to become a significant barrier for 14 percent of non-users, up from 4 percent in 2018.”

RIA said the cost was cited as a limiting factor preventing approximately half of Internet users from accessing the Internet as much as they would want to while gender and geographic inequalities remain largely unchanged since the last.

It also noted that After Access survey with Internet access is currently 54 percent higher for men compared to women and access 75 percent higher in urban areas compared to rural areas.

RIA said almost half of the individuals not using the Internet lack the necessary knowledge, skills, and devices to access the digital world, pointing out that given Nigeria’s size and potential, the survey results present an opportunity for immediate and effective policy actions.

It identified the actors that can implement the strategies recommended in the report to expand the number of Nigerians who can use the Internet and deepen the usage of those already connected.

The policy recommendations include:

• The Nigerian Government to facilitate the deployment of advanced (4G & 5G mobile and fibre optic) networks across the country; work with the private sector to mobilise and deploy capital in the provision of affordable and accessible devices, platforms, and digital literacy programmes among the population; and encourage the development of content and applications that are culturally relevant and available in local languages.

• The telecommunications regulator to undertake a market review to assess dominance in the market; resolve inefficiencies in the “middle mile,” that is the network infrastructure that connects local networks; mandate operators to ensure that services and devices are readily accessible and user-friendly for marginalised groups; and develop and implement targeted policies and initiatives that license smaller players focused on serving rural and underserved communities.

• Mobile network operators to offer more affordable and competitive tariffs and packages; collaborate to address common challenges in infrastructure, spectrum, and resources and to explore opportunities to deepen inclusion.

• Consumer rights and civil society groups to collaborate with the government, regulators, operators, and development partners to implement widespread digital literacy programmes; and organise forums and consultations for information sharing and consensus building.