With the emergence of new technologies and especially the 5G network, it is expected that internet penetration would grow, although experts have identified factors that could militate against the expected growth, ABOLAJI ADEBAYO writes
As of April 2022, there were five billion internet users worldwide, which is 63 per cent of the global population. Of this total, 4.65 billion or over 93 per cent were social media users. By now, it is not possible to imagine the world without internet. Connecting billions of people worldwide, the internet is a core pillar of the modern information society. The global internet penetration rate is 62.5 per cent, with Northern Europe ranking first with a 98 per cent internet penetration rate among the population. The countries with the highest internet penetration rate worldwide are the UAE, Denmark, and Ireland. At the opposite end of the spectrum is North Korea with virtually no online usage penetration among the general population, ranking last worldwide. As of 2021, Asia was the region with the largest number of online users – over 2.8 billion at the latest count. Europe was ranked second with almost 744 million internet users. China, India and the United States rank ahead all other countries in terms of internet users. As of February 2022, China had more than a billion internet users, and India had approximately 658 million online users. Both countries still have large parts of the population that are offline.
Roughly 57 per cent of internet traffic was generated with mobile phones in 2021. With smartphones having long become ubiquitous and affordable for many as well as cheap data plans being available almost everywhere around the globe, this comes as no surprise. What is a little more surprising is the share of traffic generated with mobile versus desktop devices per region. Based on data collected by Statcounter, Europe, North America and Oceania cannot seem to let go of their laptops and desktop PCs yet. 53, 51 and 57 per cent of web traffic, respectively, was generated by desktop devices in the past year.
According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Africa is the least connected of six-world regions with 13 per cent year-on-year growth in Internet penetration, while 40 per cent of the population in Africa is online. The African population, on the other hand, is well adjusted to the mobile payment market, with many people using apps with no bank ac-incount requirement to pay for dayto- day expenses. This mobile-first approached is also evident in the traffic share of mobile devices like smartphones, which reached almost 70 per cent on the continent in 2021. Even with a variety of models, make and data plans to choose from when it comes to smartphones, the world is a little more conservative when it comes to browser preference. In 2021, 63 per cent of traffic was generated by Google’s Chrome browser, while Apple’s Safari made up 25 per cent of traffic share. On the other hand, Samsung, while being one of the best selling Android brands around the world, can’t seem to convince smartphone owners to use their dedicated browser; only roughly six per cent of the world’s mobile traffic was generated with Samsung Internet.
Nigerian Internet penetration
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) puts Internet users in Nigeria at 151.4 million. Between 2019 and July 2022, the GSM operators added some 26 million new Internet users to the network. This is even as broadband phone traction surged, hitting 44.5 per cent with some 84.9 million Nigerians enjoying the service.
Internet freedom in Nigeria is among the most established in Africa. According to an examination of three broad categories, namely obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights, Nigeria is in fifth position in sub- Saharan Africa, a slight decrease compared to the previous ranking. With one of the youngest and largest populations in the world, Nigeria has a considerable internet audience. Despite an internet penetration rate of around 51 per cent, the number of internet users is around 109 million. A particular aspect of internet usage in Nigeria is the remarkably high penetration of mobile internet. Over 84 per cent of internet traffic in Nigeria is generated by mobile devices. However, this might also indicate a lack of adequate equipment to fully use the internet.
The largest internet service pro-vider in Nigeria is Spectranet. Spectranet is an Indian company, which counts almost 261 thousand active users in Nigeria. When it comes to mobile internet, Nigeria’s main operator is MTN, a South-African company. MTN has over 65 million internet subscribers in Nigeria. In terms of prices, Nigeria is part of the first 60 nations out of 228 countries worldwide, placed from the cheapest to the most expensive for mobile data. When compared regionally, Nigeria ranks among the nations with lower costs for mobile data in Africa. One gigabyte for mobile internet in Nigeria cost on average $88 as of February 2021.
It is expected that the emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Edge Computing, Quantum Computing, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and the recently launched 5G technology in Nigeria would drive more internet penetration. Emerging technologies are technologies whose development, practical applications, or both are still largely unrealised, such that they are figuratively emerging into prominence from a background of nonexistence or obscurity. These technologies are generally new but also include older technologies. Artificial Intelligence has already received a lot of buzz in the past decade, but it continues to be one of the new technology trends because of its notable effects on how people live, work and play. AI is already known for its superiority in image and speech recognition, navigation apps, smartphone personal assistants, ride-sharing apps and so much more. Other than that, AI will be used further to analyse interactions to determine underlying connections and insights, to help predict demand for services like hospitals enabling authorities to make better decisions about resource utilisation, and to detect the changing patterns of customer behaviour by analysing data in near real-time, driving revenues and enhancing Internet penetration. It has been projected that the AI market will grow to a $190 billion in dustry by 2025 with global spending on cognitive and AI systems reaching over $57 billion in 2022. “With AI spreading its wings across sectors, new jobs will be created in development, programming, testing, support and maintenance, to name a few. On the other hand, AI also offers some of the highest salaries today ranging from over $1,25,000 per year (machine learning engineer) to $145,000 per year (AI architect) – making it the top new technology trend you must watch out for,” a technology expert, Olatunde Erinle, explained. Meanwhile, he said Nigeria was yet to key into the technology that could boost its Internet penetration. As a country trying to grow its economy through emerging technologies, Erinle said Nigeria needed to embrace some of the emerging technologies. “For an IT professional looking to the future and trying to understand latest technology trends, RPA offers plenty of career opportunities,” he noted. Equally explaining the new technologies, the Chief Executive & Technology Officer, Datamello, Wale Adedeji, noted that cloud computing had become mainstream, with major players such AWS (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform dominating the market. He said the adoption of cloud computing was still growing, as more and more businesses migrate to a cloud solution. He also noted that the newly launched 5G network in Nigeria could drive internet penetration across the country if properly deployed due to its speed. According to him, “5G network is no longer the emerging technology trend. It reduces internet latency and has 10 times speed over the 4G network. “If the data of the 5G is cheaper and the devices are Alps cheaper, in the next one year, Internet penetration in Nigeria would increase astronomically and get to the rural and underserved areas across the community. However, with the manner the country is playing around the technology, there is no evidence of achieving that feat.”
Though the technology has been introduced in Nigeria, Adedeji noted that the level of acceptability of 5G network and other emerging technologies in the country has not been encouraging. He said the technology and other ones have not been properly deployed in the country due to lack of infrastructure which has been largely hindering its deployment. He noted for example that the 5G network has only been announced to have been deployed in Lagos State alon, not many people have been able to feel the new technology. He noted further that the network could only be used by few people who could afford the devices for its usage, saying MTN has not even rolling out the 5G SIM; only announced the sale of routers as the only device that could currently be used for the network. He said despite the fact that Internet penetration is drives through smartphones, mobile subscribers have not been able to use the network.
With proper deployment of 5G and other emerging technologies, Internet penetration in Nigeria is expected to grow.