Monday, August 31, 2015

Breaking News: A4AI names Omobola Johnson honourary chairperson

The immediate-past Nigerian Minister of Communication Technology, Dr. (Mrs) Omobola Johnson has been named the honourary chairperson of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), reports ITRealms.

This appointment which took effect from Tuesday, September 1, 2015, ITRealms gathered would entail that Dr. Johnson provides the A4AI with strategic policy guidance, in addition to leading a high-level international advocacy efforts, designed to deepen Alliance as it works to drive down unacceptably high broadband prices, and bring billions more online, fast.

Dr. Johnson replaces Dr. Bitange Ndemo, former Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communication, who served as A4AI Honorary Chair from the Alliance’s creation in October 2013 until 2014.

Affirming this development, Communications Manager, Alliance for Affordable Internet, Lauran Potter noted that A4AI is the world’s broadest technology sector coalition, with over 70 diverse members and working closely with governments, companies and civil societies.

A4AI, Potter said in a press statement sighted by ITRealms that the Alliance uses a blend of research, advocacy and on-the-ground engagement to create policy and regulatory change that pushes broadband prices down.

“In under two years, A4AI has doubled membership and started work in five countries on three continents - Dominican Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, Myanmar; meaning over 300 million people stand to benefit from the Alliance’s work. A4AI’s global sponsors are Google, UK DFID and USAID, and the World Wide Web Foundation serves as the secretariat. Other high-profile members include the Internet Society, MainOne, Microsoft, and UN Women,” Potter highlighted.

Potter equally described Dr. Johnson as a consummated ICT policy professional, who tends to bring to the role over 30 years of experience across both the private and public sectors.

“Between 2011 and 2015, she served as Nigeria’s Minister of Communication Technology, where she oversaw the creation and implementation of policy to enable affordable Internet, including the development and presentation of the country’s 2013-2018 National Broadband Plan. During her time as Minister, the percentage of Internet users in the country nearly doubled from 24 per cent (2010) to 43 per cent (2014), and Nigeria became the first African country to join A4AI in 2013. Prior to 2011, she spent over two decades at Accenture, including a five-year stint as country managing director for Nigeria. Dr. Johnson holds a DBA from Cranfield University in the UK, and from 2014 to 2015 served as the Chair of the 18th session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD),” A4AI spokesperson said. 

Reacting to her new post, Dr. Johnson noted that at this era of technological innovation, it is simply unacceptable that policies and regulations still conspire to keep Internet access unaffordable for billions.

“Today, an entry-level mobile broadband package costs the average African over 15 per cent of their monthly earnings, while an average European would pay just 1 per cent. That affordability gap helps to explain why over 80 per cent of European households are online, compared to just 11 per cent of African households,” she said.

Dr. Johnson pointed out that she has seen firsthand the incredible power of the web to improve health, education, economic and development outcomes, particularly for women and rural populations.

“I’ve also seen how smart, collaborative policymaking can drive prices down fast. Now, I’m excited to be able to use my experience and networks to accelerate the progress A4AI is already making,” she said.

For the Executive Director, A4AI, Ms Sonia Jorge, the appointment of Dr. Johnson was thrilling to the A4AI team. Describing her as a long-time advocate of universal and affordable Internet access and active supporter of the Alliance’s work since the launch in 2013, hence, Dr. Johnson brings with her a wealth of experience and knowledge in the ICT field.

“As Minister of Communication Technology in Nigeria, she achieved great success in developing the policy framework for the extension of broadband infrastructure, increasing competition and focusing on reaching the most marginalised, women and rural dwellers. These policy steps allowed prices to drop and more Nigerians to come online. We look forward to working together with Dr. Johnson to advance our work and goal of making affordable broadband for all a reality, and have no doubt she will make a significant contribution,” Jorge said.

+Remmy Nweke (ITRealms) 

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