By Ismail Auwal
TheÂ Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has said that they are over 100 digitally underserved communities in Nigeria.
This was disclosed in a communique issued by the center after it hosted a network of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria towards strengthening community systems in the country.
This program which is part of a larger program on community networks coordinated globally by Association for Progressive Communications with support from the United Kingdomâ€™s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office through its Digital Access Programme had over 40 CSOs in attendance.
According to the CITAD, the program was meant explore possibility of a joint advocacy for the government to develop policy framework for community networks as the country does not at present have a framework for community networks. At the event, it was revealed that there are over 100 unserved or underserved communities who are digitally excluded in the country.
It was also revealed that there are over 298,823,195 connected lines out of which 297,536,702 were said to be active in the country with the country having only about 40% internet penetration.
It also noted that, there is no policy or regulation to recognize community networks as distinct operators with appropriate conditions for their operations.
While expressing gladness at the positivity of the Nigerian Communications Commission over Community networks, the CSOs worry that there are lots more to do to ensure the sustainability of community healthcare. At the event, it was recommended that the regulator should â€˜hasten the process of articulating a National Community Networks Policy for the countryâ€™, it was also recommended that community networks should be seen as startups and be eligible for national support system for Start-ups.
The participants also charged the government through USPF, NCC and NITDA to facilitate the setting up of community network centers at rural and hard to reach areas.
The CITAD and other CSOs also resolved to embark on massive sensitization program on importance of community networks while supporting stakeholders to address the multifarious dimensions of digital divide in Nigeria.
A CSO Coalition on community networks was also formed at the event.