Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Internet access as fundamental right


A call for Internet access to be seen as fundamental right of every Nigerian topped discussion at the recently held Nigeria Digital Sense Africa forum’10 in Lagos, as part of the internet community-based sensitization for the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF) coming up in September, writes REMMY NWEKE.

The annual public sensitization programme of Digital Sense Africa (DSA) for the nation’s Internet community to engage on the proposed 2010 Internet Governance Forum (IGF), recently ended in Lagos with discussion centred on the fact that Internet access should form part of the fundamental rights of citizenry.

Welcoming participants to the forum, the second in the series to be hosted by DSA, the Executive Director, Mrs. Nkemdilim Nweke, noted that the forum has become an annual rallying point for the Internet stakeholders in the country in raising and addressing salient issues concerning the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, with particular reference to the Internet Governance-related issues and development in Nigeria.

She noted that in effort at achieving the aforementioned goals, DSA strives to offer stakeholders the relevant platform to articulate a stand on Internet Governance and effectively align Nigeria’s position into the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF), slated for Vilnius, Lithuania, between September 14 and 17, 2010.

With this year’s theme on the ‘Five Years of IGF: The Way forward for Nigeria’ she said that DSA in collaboration with the Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria (IXPN) and IceCool Contracts came up with a collaborative site; www.igf.org.ng/ to enable stakeholders in the country to share information on IGF locally for the benefit of all Nigerians. Just as experts were selected to dwell on managing internet crucial resources, reflective of security, openness, privacy and access for a developing nation like Nigeria.

Also, she said, other experts were chosen to present motivational talks on the use of Internet for worthy livelihood and viable businesses in the country, with particular objective of guarding the youths aright and reducing the vexed cases of cyber crime.

Mrs. Nweke used the opportunity to applaud the judiciary in the country for the recent court ruling on the sale of 2.3GHz spectrum, describing it as a welcome development, “A victory for democracy and a way forward for the growth of the telecom sector particularly and generally, as the future of lies on the internet.

In his remarks, the chairman of the occasion and president, Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN), Chief Samuel Adeleke, tasked youths in the country on use of internet; saying that youths should take the bull by the horn and explore the internet positively. He recalled that hitherto in Nigeria some creative individuals came up with the concept of filling bread nylon, tagged ‘ice water’, which was being sold at traffic jams due to the tropical weather of the country and people were patronizing it.

“Those of you who remember the initial pure water that is, a polythene or nylon bag used for bread, filled with water and wrapped on top,” he noted, stressing that it was then called ‘ice water.

As said by him, the person that has the best of innovative ideas would carry the day, just as pointing out that the idea came because it was usually sold on the road at traffic jams and along the line, some individuals decided to package it into pure water, which is today being sealed by machines for mass production and in fact being produced at almost every cranny of the country.

Adeleke, therefore charged Nigerian youths to be an idea creator as far as the internet is concerned, because by the time others would realise it, he or she must have made sufficient money.

Also speaking, the president, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajay, said that in discussing Internet Governance, there are key issues that come to the fore, namely security, openness and privacy as well as access, diversity and critical Internet resources. He did not see the reason why some computers could not be made to use local languages to enable locals to read their own information on the internet in their own languages or local dialect. Asserting, “This means, we must have computers that could be used in those local languages that have key board that support local languages.”

Stressing that the likes of Google and Yahoo are companies that are solely based on the Internet and they are making more money than the oil companies in Nigeria and there are some other smaller Internet based entrepreneurs doing great.

In a goodwill message, presented by the former Communications Minister and Commissioner at NCC, Chief Olawale Ige, on behalf of the acting Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Stephen Bello, commended DSA and other partners for the forum and promised that NCC would continue to support the forum to get more Nigerians acquainted with the values embedded on the Internet, urging that the communiqué is expected to represent the feelings of Internet community in moving the nation forward as Internet evolves.

For the Permanent Secretary, Ecological Fund office at the presidency, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote, who until recently was the chairperson, the Presidential Inter-Ministerial Working Committee on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), Digital Sense Africa deserves commendation for this initiative in sustaining the programme as a prelude to the global Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

Noting that DSA as a private initiative has succeeded where government agencies failed, as far as this forum is concerned and asked the organizers not to relent, because Nigerians and internet community need such forum to remain on top of ideas for their various contributions, both locally and internationally.

Mrs. Odusote, also advocated that access to internet should be declared the right of every Nigerian, saying, “The nation needs a forum like this to enable her articulate her position at the global IGF. With attendance as this it shows the power the private sector has over the public sector in using the internet to network.”

The former .ng point of contact for Nigeria, also said though several attempts in the past to hold similar function were not successful, but that the private sector is beginning to wake up the spirit once again, just as she called for massive enlightenment on the potentials of the internet.

Dwelling precisely on “Nigeria in WSIS; Five years of IGF,” said that for the nation to benefit optimally from the current internet access, the service has to improve.
Odusote traced the history of IGF to the conclusion of the two-phased WSIS, which Nigeria as a leading light desirous of development actively participated. She outlined the efforts of the federal government since then in a booklet from her committee’s report to the organizers, which were promptly distributed to participants.

Chief host, the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who was represented by the State Commissioner for Science and Technology, Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat, said that the Statewide Information Technology programme, known as the Global Computerization Project (GCP) was initiated to benefit the workforce.

Dr. Hamzat, represented by the Director, Computer Services in the Lagos State Ministry of Science and Technology, Mr. Jide Adenuga, in a keynote stated that at inception of the last administration of Lagos State, it was confronted with enormous challenges of effectively managing the business of government particularly in the area of operational activities, revenue generation and electronic information dissemination between offices in its domains.

Consequently, Dr. Hamzat said, the present administration led by Gov. Fashola on assumption of office fashioned out a policy thrust aimed at implementing a Statewide Information Technology programme for the transformation of the business of government in Lagos State from manual to electronic-based government.

According to him, this introduction under the Global Computerization Project and envisaged to bring enormous benefits to government was people of Lagos State in areas of governance, management of natural, financial and material resources and the State workforce. Declaring, “On our part as a government we devised a means of maintaining closer contact with the people, by launching a state of the art website, which serves as the e-government portal at www.lagosstate.gov.ng.”

He elucidated the fact that the website features include dynamic web pages with enormous bandwidth spread Statewide, which covers the whole gamut of government information online and provides opportunity to receive direct feedback from the citizens, stressing that the website also creates room for interaction and transaction online.

The over-riding objective of creating the website, he told participants, was to provide greater access to government information and promote civic engagement; hence service oriented and provides information about government activities in addition to links to some government agencies such as tax information and payment.

“In line with the expanding nature of the socio-economic activities of the State, we are determined to continuously add value and expand the contents of the website in order to compare with the best around the world,” he said.

One key thing arising from the forum was the call made by the Managing Director, IXPN Limited, Mr. Muhammed Rudman, for the establishment of a National Internet Registry (NIR) to oversee the management of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in the country.

Internet Protocol address is a numerical label assigned to devices participating in a computer network that use the Internet to communicate with each other. Also referred to as ‘IP number’ or just ‘IP,’ this code usually consists of numbers separated by three dots that identifies a particular computer on the Internet. IP started with IP version 4 (IPv4) with 32 bit address worth 4.3 billion hosts and now there is version 6, (IPv6).

Speaking on ‘IPv6 and Challenges in Nigeria’ he said that the registry when established should be tasked first and foremost to develop a National IPv6 Roadmap to strategize the IPv6 transition, nationwide, arguing that there is need to set up an IPv6 awareness and capacity building through seminars and trainings and incorporate IPv6 into the university curriculum.

The Federal Government through the regulator, NCC, he said, should as matter of urgency provide some incentives to Internet industry to encourage them to adopt IPv6-based Infrastructure. “These incentives can include reduction in regulatory fee and tax rebates,” noting that currently, Nigeria has about 300 lnternet Service Providers (ISPs), but only an estimated 20 per cent, which is 60 of the licensees are operational.

Declaring that there are only two ISPs in the country with IPv6, namely, 2001:4270:: 32 allocated to Netcom Africa on June 15, 2006 and 2001:43b0: 32 allocated to Cyberspace on March 10, 2009.

He also advised that upstream Internet connectivity providers should be asked to enable IPv6 readiness in their networks, Rudman said that the world cannot wait for Nigeria to migrate, therefore the nation needs every step forward to ensure any leap makes a milestone. Decrying that when the internet began it was in a university and they have no problems giving out IP addresses and over time, the initial IP addresses available were the IPv4 with about 4bn, which is now depleted.

Globally, he said, IPv4 remains 10 per cent, hence the introduction of version 6 became crucial, noting though that in Africa her quota is still remaining about 60 per cent at the African Network Information Center (AfriNIC) based in Kenya and 40 per cent has been distributed, while Tunisia has 2 per cent, Morocco 4 per cent, Algeria 5 per cent, Egypt 16 per cent, South Africa 59 per cent with others including Nigeria having 14 per cent.

“Most of the Internet security we have been talking about has to do with IP addresses. And because of billions of new users in China and India have new devices like mobile phones, Personal Data Assistant (PDA), cars, with IP addresses so that you can browse, IPv6 was introduced,” he said, citing an instance within an Indian refinery that runs on IP addresses using 51,000 devices and each one must have an IP addresses.

On the IPv6 challenges in Nigeria, Rudman said ISPs need business cases, but presently lack technical knowhow, core equipment compatibility issues, maintaining that lack of IPv6 upstream service providers and non request of IPv6 from end users have contributed to slow in adaptation of IPv6 in the country.

“All new IT equipment supplied to government should be IPv6 compliant and government to set target date for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to have IPv6 compliant networks.

The Paradigm Initiative Nigeria (PIN) also used the platform to showcase its achievement with the ajegunle.org, according to the programme officer, Mr. Ugochukwu Nwosu, they have made extreme progress and increasingly training youths on better adaptation and application of ICT to better their lives.

Addressing the youths at the afternoon section, the duo of Macaulay Fagbayi and Loy Okezie from New Horizons and Startups respectively; gave some insights on “Making sense out of the Internet” and “Viable Online Startups.”

The forum rounded up with a goodwill message from the Regional Manager for Africa at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Ms Anne Rachel Inne, who urged the Internet community to actively involve on Internet development as ICANN encourages down-up dialogue and pledged to continue to support DSA in its desire to educate Nigerians on Internet evolution and precisely on IGF.


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