Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA)

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WAIGF Digital Access and Inclusion Webinar

The 2021 Virtual West Africa Internet Governance Forum (WAIGF) held from 28th to 30th  July 2021. WAIGf 2021 aimed to promote Internet Governance Issues in West Africa through a multi-stakeholder process. Stakeholders were invited to register for the event either in English Language or French Language. The theme of the event was ‘Digital Inclusion and Access for a resilient West Africa’. It was noted that COVID-19, while accelerating technology adoption, has also exposed the extent of the digital divide across the world, especially in West Africa. As the pandemic facilitated the movement of the global economy online, Sub-Saharan Africa risked being left out as digital access and inclusion is low on the African continent when compared to the rest of the world.

Across the three days WAIGF event, there were several streams, anchored by various stakeholders with various speakers. There was the ‘Bridging the Digital Divide for an Inclusive Digital Economy’, ‘Internet Universality Indicators Assessment’, ‘Technical Overview of Universal Acceptance and Email Address Internationalization’, ‘Promoting the Domain Name System in Nigeria to enhance Digital Inclusion and Accessibility’, ‘Connecting the Unconnected Using Community Network’, etc. At the ‘Promoting the Domain Name System in Nigeria to enhance Digital Inclusion and Accessibility’, anchored by the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), the speakers were Mr. Muhammed Rudman, President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Mr. Adebunmi Akinbo, Secretary-General for the Internet Society (Nigeria Chapter) and Dr Eugene Ohu, a senior lecturer of Lagos Business School and Treasurer on the Executive Board of Directors at the Nigeria Internet Registration Association.

In his presentation titled ‘Using .ng ccTLD to Drive Innovation and Digital Inclusion in Nigeria’, Mr. Akinbo submitted that “COVID-19 has exposed the value of oxygen and connectivity,” and internet service providers have also created packages to subsidize internet users’ online capacity exercise in a bid to advance digital inclusion. According to the seasoned speaker, NiRA is firmly committed to promoting internet access in Nigeria and has built a strong foundation for this by making the .ng domain name easily accessible for registration from anywhere in the world. According to him, NiRA has also built a security architecture based on the “first come, first serve” mantra to protect the domain integrity of subscribers and the organization understands patent rights and trademarks and is ready to mediate when issues regarding these arise.

Mr. Akinbo explained that NiRA has a broad network of local and international accredited registrars who understand how best to handle requests for .ng domains based on international best practices and guidelines from NiRA. NiRA also runs a charter to ensure price safety net, network backbones and communications at all times. He concluded his presentation by encouraging the audience to develop their capacity to take advantage of opportunities online. He highlighted that NiRA operates a Capacity Building Foundation covering Nigeria and partners with Accredited Registrars to build internet-related skills for the end-user community. These initiatives are geared towards enabling a more digital-savvy and productive Nigerian population.

The President of NiRA, Mr. Muhammed Rudman, commenced his presentation titled “The Role of local Hosting in Digital Inclusion and Accessibility” by stating that a digital inclusive community is important to economic and workforce development, civic participation, education, healthcare, and public safety. Mr. Rudman identified connectivity, affordability, accessibility, digital skills and the low trust online environment as barriers to digital inclusion and accessibility in Nigeria. According to him, the internet is more expensive in Nigeria than most developed countries owing to the cost of setting up the infrastructures and systems that connect the continent to the internet. He proposed local data hosting as a way to address the challenges of internet connectivity, affordability and accessibility in Africa. The benefits of local content hosting are reduction in capital flight, provision of additional revenue opportunities to local ISPs and data centres which in turn create more job opportunities and technical competences, which ultimately creates a positive impact on the economic outcome of the country. Local content hosted domestically has lower latency, sometimes with over 500% improvement which makes data access (browsing) much faster with better quality of service, the internet becomes affordable, hence, end users pay less.

As at July 2021, about 140 million Nigerians connected to the internet, according to Dr. Eugene Ohu, whose presentation was on "Building Capacity in a Digital Economy to promote Digital Inclusion and Accessibility". His presentation interrogated capacity building in a digital economy to promote digital inclusion and accessibility. Dr. Ohu underscored the efforts of NiRA via the NiRA Academy and Resource Centre (NARC) in developing the capacity of businesses, government agencies, and individuals to meet the demands of today’s digital economy. NARC was set up to develop the DNS industry locally and internationally through skill acquisition and capacity building and has organized and executed a broad range of training for internet entrepreneurs to expand their digital and business capacities. Dr. Ohu announced that NiRA Academy was entering a new phase and would extend take-off grants to entrepreneurs, rejig its academy to be a first-rate building academy and resource centre, adopt a hybrid mode of training delivery, and maintain a not-for-profit but self-sustaining business model. He concluded his presentation by highlighting the opportunities in the digital economy, which included projecting more businesses online, digital skills and connections will make talents available globally, and local businesses online will be easily accessible and more profitable.

The webinar was moderated by Mr. Ikechukwu Ezeji, Programme Officer, the Nigeria Internet Registration Association.

At the end of the event, NiRA submitted a report on the key recommendations for its session/stream for the communique to be developed by WAIGF.