The modern wave of internet has taken the second largest continent, Africa, by storm, and Nigeria is no different. According to the World Bank, 32.9% of the population in Nigeria was dependent on the technologies of this age like, High-speed Internet, Broadband and LTE Broadband amongst others, as of 2012.
Third generation (3G) mobile and WiMAX wireless broadband services are being rolled out at a rapid pace, backed by new national and international fiber links. Nigeria ranks 8th out of a total of 212 member countries of United Nations in terms of number of internet users. Contrastingly, it occupies 128th spot in terms of internet penetration.
According to Internet World Stats, there were 55.9 million Internet users, representing 32.9% of the population of Nigeria in 2012. During the same year, number of Facebook users totaled to 6.6 million, being the most popular internet activity amongst Nigerians.
According to World Economic Forum, out of every 100 urban Nigerians, 50 access the internet monthly, 58 have internet capable mobile phones and 21 have smart phones.
It is noteworthy that 25% of expenditure on internet is due to e-government initiatives in Nigeria. Even more public expenditure is expected due to the recently approved National Broadband strategy. This strategy calls for expanding Internet access and high-speed mobile wireless coverage to 80% of the population by 2018, and migrating additional public services online. Also, additional submarine cables are scheduled to go online this year.Konga and Jumia have become major online retailers in Nigeria. Paga is emerging as a key player in mobile payments and Jobberman has created a digital marketplace for employers and job seekers.
Nigerian government has started mobile technology to revamp its system for delivering fertilizer subsidies. The new program, Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES), launched in 2012, sends subsidy vouchers to farmers’ mobile phones and directs them to the nearest dealer for redemption. Previously, only 11 percent of farmers actually benefited, and huge sums were lost due to corruption.
Digitization is also making progress in the field of education. The UNESCO and Nokia “English Teacher” program combines in-person seminars with a service that sends primary-school teachers educational content and daily messages with pedagogical advice via their mobile phones. The project launched with support from British Council and the National Teachers’ Institute of Nigeria is one of the first attempts to employ mobile technology to improve tools for primary school teachers.E-commerce sector is witnessing several fast-growing new companies such as Jumia, Konga, and WebMall Nigeria due to digitization. Euromonitor International research firm says online sales in Nigeria nearly doubled over the course of a year, to N3 billion in 2012 from N1.7 billion in 2011. Jumia offers more than 100,000 products online and gets more than 70,000 visitors daily. In 2013, Jumia was the first African winner of the World Retail Award for “Best Retail Launch of the Year”.
Mobile money operators such as Paga are offering support services by establishing centers where customers can collect orders and pay in cash or by e-wallet. According to Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the number of payments in the country made by mobile phone more than doubled, to 2.4 million, in the first half of 2012, while Internet payments rose 9.3 per cent.
Among urban residents, it is estimated that 99 per cent have access to mobile phones and 50 per cent go online. Social networking is the most popular online activity, followed by reading news and watching videos. In general, urban Nigerians are more than twice as likely as the average African Internet user to conduct transactions online.
Although, the number of internet users in Nigeria are more in absolute terms but internet penetration in percentage terms is much lower than other African countries. Internet can act as a transformative catalyst to deliver better education opportunities, enhanced medical access and better-quality economic life for the masses of Nigeria. But, considering the government initiatives, private investment and new generation of entrepreneurs, Nigeria will emerge as a strong digital economy in Africa within the next decade.