By Ismail Auwal

The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has stressed the importance of developing a National Strategy for Community Networks to address the many dimensions of the country’s digital divide.

CITAD noted that one of the unique ways utilized to solve connectivity gaps is the feasibility of community networks.

This is disclosed in a statement signed by  CITAD’s  Executive Director, Yunusa Zakaria Ya’u. 

Ya’u said that the CITAD, on February 2, 2022, had convened a meeting of stakeholders in the telecommunication sector on the need for a National Strategy for community networks to address the various dimensions of the digital divide in the country.

According to the statement,  the meeting had in attendance the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Pantami, represented by the Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission, Engr Abdulaziz Aliyu delivering the keynote as well as over 40 people including people from government agencies, representatives of private sector, development partners, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), professionals, civil society organizations, community based organizations piloting community networks and academics.

CITAD outlined its previous efforts to advocate for a national policy on community networks. Among these attempts are:

1. Meeting with the team of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to explore ways on how a community networks policy could be articulated for the country.

2. Submission of a position paper to the NCC on its request, making the case for a policy regime and providing policy experiences from other countries.

3. Follow-up communications to find out if the NCC had commenced the process of getting a policy for Nigeria.

4. Meeting with the Hon Ministry for Communication and Digital Economy, robbing minds on the how the community networks sub-sector could be catalysed through policy making.

5. Submission of a policy briefing notes to the Minister at his request, providing pathways for the development of the national community networks.

6. Making further submission during the consultation processes for the policy on the 5G licensing.

7. Meetings with a number of IT related agencies such as National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), Galaxy Backbone, etc as part of an advocacy drive on the need for such a policy.

8. Addressing a series of press conferences to drive the point that Nigeria needs a policy for community networks to address the digital divide.

CITAD  noted that it believes that harnessing the potential of community networks to overcome connectivity gaps necessitates a robust community network policy, and has made the following recommendations.

The Center disclosed that It would like to do the following:

1.     Call on the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy to set up a mechanism for the development of a National Policy for Community Networks

2.     Call on the NCC to develop guidelines and regulations for the operation of community networks in the country and to allow communities to access and use TV White Space (TVWS) for the purposes of setting up community networks

3.     Enjoins the Galaxy Backbone PLC to provide communities with access to its backbone for them to use as their community networks getaways.

4.     The USPF to support the upgrading of the many community digital centres they set up in the country to serve as nucleus of community networks for communities that desirous and passionate to set up such in their communities

5.     NITDA to work with communities at grassroots level to drive digital literacy which is critical for the effective utilization of digital technology and which is the foundation upon which the digital transformation agenda of the country will rest.

6.     Call on the private sector operators in the sector to as, their corporate social responsibility support communities building community networks.

7.     Call on all other stakeholders, including political office holders to support communities to go digital as critical contribution to community development.

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