ABUJA, Nigeria — Over the past twenty years since the invention of the internet, the world has slowly moved online. Business, banking, education and so much more are almost entirely dependent on the use of the internet. Yet, an estimated 3.8 billion people worldwide still live without access to the internet. This leaves many unable to attain integral socioeconomic resources.
Wi-Fi’s Impact on Poverty
Wi-Fi has become an essential factor in getting countries on track to self-stabilize and grow. Further, providing a Wi-Fi connection brings the potential of a host of new opportunities. Individuals can engage in more comprehensive education programs as well as secondary education programs. People will have access to online libraries and books they may have lacked. In addition, Wi-Fi enables people to work more efficiently and freely in the global market.
The Google Station Initiative
In 2012, Google came out with its Google Station initiative. Its goal is to bring hotspot Wi-Fi connections to countries with low access penetration. The initiative began with four countries: India, Thailand, Mexico and Indonesia. The Google Station announced in 2018 that it was adding Nigeria as the fifth country in the program.
In 2019, Google and Nigerian network provider 21st Century began plans to install more than 200 hotspots in central city locations throughout the country. They planned to complete this initiative by the end of 2019. The five major Nigerian cities potentially receiving the hotspots were Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Enugu and Ibadan.
Google’s involvement in promoting Nigerian infrastructure works in creating a bond between the country and the company. Hopefully, this bond will be mutually beneficial. Google will be able to grow their business and the initiative to increase revenue, and Nigerian infrastructure will receive a long-overdue overhaul that will work to pull the country out of its crippling poverty crisis. Further, this initiative directly impacts goal nine of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals: “Investments in infrastructure – transport, irrigation, energy and information and communication technology.”
The Future Potential
As of October 2019, five of the 200 hotspots have been set up and activated in one of the five proposed cities, Abuja. The plan has been greatly celebrated by Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, “access to information means that the gap in equality and exclusion are bridged.” The country is in rapid growth and expected to reach a population of 402 million people by the end of 2050. This estimate has pushed the Nigerian government to start thinking about its future and the infrastructure that will be needed to sustain the growing population.
Currently, the country is already struggling to keep up with its population. An estimated 86.9 million people in Nigeria are living in extreme poverty. However, the Nigerian government hopes that by enabling its citizens with reliable Wi-Fi connection, it will create a generation that can work on advancing Nigerian infrastructure, education and collaborating systems that can work towards boosting the socioeconomic status of the country.
Wi-Fi connectivity is the first step in changing the way Nigeria interacts in the global market. In addition, it acts as a way to diversify its GDP, which is currently heavily dependent on its oil industry. In 2018, data shows that oil contributed to foreign exchange by 87.7 percent. By fostering a system that is working to uplift and further its people, there is potential to be a significant player in the tech market and a growing global powerhouse.
– Emma Hodge