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What is INET?

Conference Paper


The Internet is for Everyone

Jon Postel's Nigeria IT Center Programme

 
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Table of Contents

1. Nigerian Information Infrastructure: A Vision of Hope and Prosperity - By ISOC- NIGERIA CHAPTER.
2. Nigeria Information Infrastructure - Addendum
3. Internet As Instrument To Spring Nigeria into the Millennium - By Engr. G. Massari
Nigerian Information Infrastructure:
A Vision of Hope and Prosperity

PRESENTED BY: INTERNET SOCIETY NIGERIA CHAPTER

1.0 Introduction

The information Revolution of the 1990s is something no nation -developed, newly industrialised or developing- shall fail to join in. It is a revolution that, ironically, should have been started by the developing countries to enable them quickly catch up with their developed counterparts. It has truly been said, "out of the eater comes forth meat". So it is that the machinery to hasten development in the developing countries has again been invented by the developed world. The call now is for the former to imbibe the new technology of the 90s and obtain everything that is necessary or required to transform their communities.
Electronic networks now make it possible for people to interact, co-ordinate action/ and access and exchange information from mere desktop computers. The networks provide numerous services including the electronic mail, the World Wide Web, information retrieval, electronic commerce, news groups, Intranets, games and gossips. The most interesting thing is that people of all ages, colours, creeds, and countries freely share ideas, stories, data, opinions and products.

2.0 Social Problems

That anybody can access the electronic networks immediately poses certain social problems, some of which are:
Freedom of speech
Electronic vandalism
Intellectual property
Privacy.
The fortunate thing for Nigeria is that the above problems have been sufficiently looked at by other countries that are leading in the Information Revolution. It is therefore possible to borrow from the experiences of such countries. Government needs to set up working committees covering various economic sectors.
The Internet Society (ISOC) "Guiding Principles" may also be of value in considering the itemised social problems. The principles include:
Open, unencumbered, beneficial use of the Internet.
Self-regulated content providers; no prior censorship of on-line communications.
On-line free expression not restricted by other indirect means such as excessively restrictive governmental or private controls over computer hardware or software, telecommunications infrastructure, or other essential components of the Internet.
Open forum for the development of standards and Internet technology.
No discrimination in use of the internet on the basis of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Personal information generated on the Internet is not misused nor used by another without informed consent of the principal.
Internet users may encrypt their communication and information without restriction.
Encouragement of co-operation among networks: connectivity is its own reward, therefore network providers are rewarded by co-operation with each other.

3.0 The Importance of National Information Infrastructure in Developing Economies:

National Information Infrastructure (NII) is a new instrument created through revolutionary advances in information technology that societies use for the developmental challenges they face. Some of such challenges include fighting poverty, rural urban migration, education, efficient- accountable and transparent government, efficient economic reforms, environmental protection, promotion of small and medium- sized enterprises, participation in global trade, and leisure.

3.1 Fighting Poverty
World Bank studies have shown a close relationship between illiteracy levels and national income. Reducing illiteracy is therefore a key aspect of the fight against poverty; it is also one that is directly manageable through improved education delivery assisted by information technology. The provision of basic services such as primary health care, family planning and drinking water, for example, is largely dependent on information handling by both suppliers and recipients of the services.

3.2 Rural Urban Migration
Many of the rural areas where majority of the poor people live are grossly neglected or virtually isolated. This results in massive migration to the urban centres. Declining costs and new technologies are combining to bring rural telecommunications within reach of normal market mechanisms in other places. Thus improved information technology in the rural areas can help to reduce the isolation of such areas, make life more meaningful for the rural dwellers and consequently check the drift to the urban centres.

3.3 Education
Rewards to an individual for an educational investment include increased employment options, higher income, and better future prospects. To export high value- added exports, country needs a labour force with advanced and lifelong training of the labour force. Information systems have supporting roles in education.

3.4 Making Government More Sufficient, Accountable and Transparent
Information systems that increase the speed, volume, quality, transparency, and accountability of transactions make possible large productivity increases in government services. Government work is by its very nature highly information intensive in terms of data collection, archiving, dissemination, and processing. Well-designed information systems can become major instrument of public policy- powerful tools to implement, enforce and evaluate policy reforms.

3.5 Increasing the effectiveness of Economic Reforms
Economic reforms often fail during implementation due to weak compliance. When information systems are designed in conjunction with reforms, monitoring and facilitating compliance is easier and reforms are more likely to be effective. Through information systems it is possible to embed policy reforms into institutional processes and transactions, which can then be readily monitored and audited.

3.6 Monitoring and Protection of the Environment
Environmental monitoring, inherently data intensive is made more effective by using information technology, particularly geographic information systems. These systems are increasingly inexpensive and the data captured are of lasting value beyond their initial use. International co-operation in monitoring of pollution and natural resources is fostered by environmental networks. Information technology also provides effective tools for regional planning based on dynamic modeling.

3.7 Promotion of Small and Medium- sized Enterprises
Small and medium sized enterprises ( SME) are vital engines of job creation. They are quick in bringing new products to market getting into and out of fast- changing niche markets, and setting up spin-off companies. In the information industry itself, SMEs play a key role in the production and diffusion of information technology.

3.8 Participation in Global Trade
If our goods and services are not globally competitive, their national and international markets will evaporate under attack from better supplies in other parts of the world trade facilitation systems and production and distribution systems based on electronic data interchange have emerged as powerful mechanisms to reduce processing time and increase performance of the entire value chain in international trade.

3.9 Leisure
Internet games can easily absorb all ones waking hours. Many Internet Services Providers (ISPs) have facilities for "chatting" that enables one to have on-line conversations with a bunch of people at the same time.

4.0 Developing a National Information Infrastructure Strategy (NII)
Revolutionary advances in information and communications technologies open up extra ordinary opportunities to accelerate social and economic development. They also create a pressing need for policy reform and investment to capitalise on the new opportunities and to avoid deterioration of international competitiveness.
Policy reforms and investments are needed to move countries into the information economy- in which information is the key factor of production, trade and investment are global, and firms compete globally on the basis of knowledge, networking and agility. This agenda also leads countries into a new type of society- the information society that is quite different from an industrial society. An information society is better informed/ more able to address individual needs; it can also be less centralised, more democratic and friendlier to the environment.
Both the extraordinary development opportunities and the need for policy reform and investment are of direct concern to governments and to the private sector, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs). While the private sector is the primary engine of the information economy government has a fundamental role as a catalyst for change as policy maker, and as guarantor of a level playing field.

4.1 Components of the National Information Infrastructure Strategy
There are no standards outlined for an NII strategy applicable to every nation, but five components are identified;
Strategic Goals and Target Dates: This is to enable society to focus available energies and resources for the realisation of the goals at the appropriate time.
A Target Portfolio of Investment Projects: This portfolio consists of projects to expand the telecommunications networks and projects to deploy the strategic information systems that the country needs for its developmental priorities.
A Set of Policy and legal Reform: This is to create an information friendly atmosphere and to remove constraints on the implementation of the NII projects.
A Strategy for Developing the Human Resources: This requires appropriate education and training policies and functional institutions.
Responsibilities for Implementation: An agreement on the responsibilities for implementation financing, oversight and participation needs to be put in place.

4.2 Roles and Responsibilities
Formulation of a national strategy should ideally be demand- driven and achieved through a broad based participatory process because the NII cannot be deployed effectively without the active co-operation of all stake holders. The following groups need to be represented in formulating the strategy, for the reasons given;
Government needs to mobilise other stakeholders to participate, to organise and to lead the preparatory work, and to play a control role in formulation of the strategy, as a policy maker and regulator.
The demand side of the NII, including the productive and service sectors as well as sectoral government ministries, is the primary user of the NII and the major stakeholder in the formulation of a related strategy.
The private sector, both national and international, has a role as supplier of investment, finance, and technical services for the NII. The telecommunications industry has a vital interest in the sectoral policy reform, investment, and service objectives likely to be part of the NII strategy.
Nongovernmental organisations have increasingly important roles as providers of services in society, particularly to the poor, and contribute an important perspective on how the NII can help solve social problems.
Scientists and educators provide input on the technological, scientific, and human -resource implications and requirements of the NII.
International experts from the private sector and from international financial organisations can contribute a global perspective and an objective, non-political view.

4.3 Strategy Formulation Process
A growing number of countries are developing explicit NII strategies, it is necessary to examine the priority needs and major opportunities in the economy and fashion out a national strategy to satisfy the needs and capitalise on the opportunities.
Wide participation particularly from the private sector is clearly best practice in the strategy formulation. A high level steering committee or advisory group is needed to ensure speed and objectivity in the strategy formulation process.
A series of analytical studies are required to gain understanding of current resources, problems, opportunities, and needs and to formulate tentative policy reform and investment proposal.
Finally, one or several high profit workshops are commonly held to raise awareness among NII stakeholders, reach consensus on the strategy, and gain commitment for its information.
The strategy formulation process encompasses three broad phase.
i Awareness- raising
ii.   Analysis
iii. Decision-making
Steps in each phase vary in nature, order, and scope in different countries; some of the most important ones are described below and summarized in figure 1
A Identification of the strategic opportunities and Needs for Information and communication in the Economy.
Using existing macroeconomic development planes and electoral assessments, it is necessary to identify the opportunities and needs for telecommunications infrastructure and information related to the key national development priorities. Examples of such opportunities and needs are;
trade performance levels achievable with electronic trade facilitation and the possible economic gains from removing critical bottlenecks such as slow part operations
Social economic gains achievable from large increases in telephone services penetration, particularly in small turns and rural areas.
Impetus to municipal development from modern planning and management systems.
Gains in educational or literacy levels achievable through distance education and computer aided education. And
Social and economic gains from performance improvements in the SME sector through modernisation of administrative and production systems.
B Current strategic information systems projects
It is necessary to assess the current strategic information systems projects in the country, their scope and importance, their target and status, and the common constraints and difficulties they encounter.
C Formulation of strategic Goals and Target Dates
It is desirable to formulate strategic goals and target dates for the NII. These are goals around which to rally the energies and resources of society.
D Strategic investments
It is necessary to define the strategic investments needed to achieve the stated goals. For telecommunications infrastructure, this definition includes target service levels, type of services (basic telephony, broadcasting, value-added services), services standards, broad instructional set-up (who owns? Who operates? Who regulates), order-of-magnitude investment cost, and financing strategy. For strategic information systems, order-of-magnitude investment cost, and financing strategy.
E Policy, Legal, Regulatory or Institutional Reforms
It is necessary to agree on policy, legal, regulatory or institutional reformations on roidespread access to telecommunications and information services in society and to complete and sustain strategic investments.
The prime examples of such reforms are ones that restructure the telecommunications sector to allow increasing reforms of market discipline in service provision. Other examples include intellectual property legislation, liberalisation of technology markets, public information and contracting policies, regulatory reforms to guarantee fair completion in telecommunication services, subsidy or exclusivity policies to foster private investment in rural telecommunications, incentives for the adoption of technology and for the supply of technical consulting services, and establishment of professional accreditation, metrology, and standards board.
F Availability of knowledge and skills
It is desirable to assess the knowledge and skills required in the workforce to implement the NII strategy and formulate related education policies and institutional reforms. The NII requires researchers and technicians across the spectrum of information technologies, a workforce skilled in the use of these technologies and general population capable of operating electronic appliances and computers and able to consume information products intelligently. Appropriate education and training policies and institutions need to be proposed to develop these human resources.
G Responsibilities for implementations
It is necessary to determine responsibilities for the implementation and oversight of the NII strategy. One of the most important benefits of wide participation in strategy implementation is to gain visibility and accountability for the subsequent strategy implementation effort. Towards this and, responsibilities, sources of funding, participation in projects and oversight should be negotiated. This analyses not only to strategic investment projects but also to the policy and legal reform tasks included in the strategy.

5.0 Conclusion

The NII plays an increasingly important role in economic development. As technology advances, this infrastructure underlies more of the economic activities on which sustainable socio-economic growth lingers. In particular, it affects the capacity of countries to maintain their long-term international trade performance.
Faced with these changes, Nigeria needs to implement an accelerated agenda to revitalise information markets, modernise information-related policies and laws, create incentive systems, and support institutions appropriate for an information economy. Additionally, Nigeria needs to lunch a major investment programme to deploy the telecommunications networks and strategic information systems that make up the NII.
The very same technological advances that create this pressing reform and investment agenda provide tools for its successful implementation, particularly through the improvement of the private sector and the straightening of market mechanisms. Reading decreasing costs and the proliferation of new transmission and switching technologies, for example, make it possible to open the telecommunications sector to competition and private ownership.
Facing up to the challenges of the information revolution requires decisive and well-cordinated action.
Nigeria therefore needs to formulate explicit NII strategies for this purpose through unprecedented joint action between government and the private sector. Guided by such strategies, Nigeria can reduce the income gays that separates sector her from developed countries and purpose her own, unique development path.

NIGERIAN INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE
The greatest factors limiting the spread of Internet and e-mail in Nigeria are:
Lack of technical know-how and awareness;
The faulty telecommunication infrastructures;
The high cost of the computer equipment and the high cost of Internet subscription (presently the average cost of the Internet annual subscription is N.82, 000 (about
US $ 1, 000) and this becomes prohibitive for an average Nigerian. The same subscription fee in Europe and USA has an average cost of US $ 150. Moreover if we consider the salary difference between USA/Europe and Nigeria the final comparison will result that the Nigeria fee is 35 times higher that the same in US and Europe.
Any way out from this frame?
These are the suggested solution to Enhance Internet Connectivity in Nigeria.
1. Administration
One basic thing that has killed many laudable Government projects in this country is administration. There is already a struggle as to who should be in charge of the Internet project. A completely new government body is recommended to be saddled with the demands of the new technology. The other bodies are already loaded with archaic bottlenecks.
2. Awareness
Over 95% of Nigerians are not aware of Internet. Government is being called by majority to head in the computerization and information technology industry development serviced. Many developmental services are at present not computerized. Many employees, both high and low, are not computer literate. They, therefore, cannot appreciate arguments for or against the issue. It is almost a necessity, therefore, to raise the awareness of the civil servants in particular and the public in general.
3. Computer Acquisition
Following the lack of awareness items, the fact that the number of computers per population in this country is very low, many institutions, including government offices do not have computers. It is desirable to increase the number of computers in the country.
4. Y2K Compliance
Many of the already installed computers are not compliant. Government needs to ensure that all computers imported into the country are compliant. All non-compliant units need to be made compliant.
5. Communication
Most of the telephones are analog. The lines are very noisy and are frequently tossed. Maintenance and repair works on the system are not appropriately handled resulting in long downtime. It is necessary to increase digital networks. Nigeria needs to join others in the use of wireless communication
6. Local Backbone
Nigeria should have a local backbone rather than depending on others. Dependence on others increases the cost of connectivity. If there is a local backbone, service providers would require less to look onto the backbone and service shall be cheaper to the individual customers. As a leading country in Africa, Nigeria does not need to wait for the smaller African countries that may wish to depend on Africa central backbone. This country is capable of owning a backbone and letting the rest of Africa, if people so wish, to pass through Nigeria. In the final analysis, it may be cheaper for such other countries.
7. Local Areas Networking
At the time of implementation, effort needs to be geared towards the use of latest technology in area networking. Systems are continually being improved on reliability and speed of operation. Nigeria needs to monitor the latest technology in order to be relevant in the new age.
8. Cost of Connection
The current trend in the world is to make accessibility as cheap as possible. The Internet is for all and not only for the privileged class. The greater the number of people connected, the greater the benefits of Internet.
9. Location of Service Providers
The location of Internet service providers should not be of political considerations. The attempt should rather be to make it available to all.
10. National Workshop
Electronic networks have generated substantial disagreements rooted in value judgements. As interconnection involves virtually everyone, so are the views and judgements divergent. It is desirable to have a national workshop to gather various shades of opinion in order to arrive at a decision that should be beneficial to the greater number of the populace.
11. Quick action
The world is not waiting for Nigeria. We do not have all the time to plan. Whoever gets saddled with taking decision of implementing Internet connectivity needs to be quick with results. The Information Age is faster than the former Jet Age. Unnecessary delay would keep this country too far behind.
12. Internet Public Centers
Government and private bodies must join financial efforts to create Public Internet Centers all over the country (possibly in existing educational Institution like Universities and Schools) to diffuse and promote the use of Internet, and make possible the access and use to the largest number of Nigerians.
13. Telecommunication de-regulation and Competition.
To reduce cost of connectivity, it is advisable that the Government boosts the entire private sectors initiatives in telecommunication to open a very competitive market. Only a none monopolized telecommunication market can give reduced communication fares with the reflected effects on the Internet subscription.
14. Request of assistance from International Bodies
Nigeria can make request of financial assistance to promote Internet projects in Nigeria, specifically to sustain a project for the backbone execution, both to International organizations, Communities (World Bank, UNDP, EU, etc..) and Private Enterprises interested in investing money into the Country.
Only by following these steps, Nigeria can embrace the technological future, improve his manpower skill and reduce the gap between her and the Industrialized Countries.


____________________                                                                    _______________________
Secretary                                                                                                          General President


INTERNET AS INSTRUMENT TO SPRING NIGERIA INTO THE NEW MILLENNIUM
Engr. Giandomenico Massari

INTRODUCTION

Information exchange between national and regional key players should facilitate the search for solutions to crucial problems in such areas as education, health, environment, and so on. The Internet offers the opportunities to make resources available to a larger group of users through health, technical, educational, nutrition and many other topic programs. For example, 20 million people in the world are infected with the AIDS virus and 14 million of them are Africans. This is mainly due to a lack of adequate health awareness programs in most African countries. Educational programs for all sectors of the population and in particular in rural areas can be made available in the local languages. The promotion of Internet connectivity at the level of research and education communities will help them leapfrog national information infrastructures and strengthen local core capacities.
However, the main barriers to Internet’s expansion in developing countries as well in Nigeria remain the lack of reliable telecommunications infrastructure, competitive regulatory policies, affordable communications, adequate equipment and awareness of potential benefits.

The origins of the Internet can be traced to the 1960s when the Department of Defense of the United States decided to fund the development of a data network that would allow networked computers to communicate efficiently. Thirty years later, the Internet is still most widely used in the United States. Although the 1990s have been marked by Internet’s explosive globalization, the large majority of hosts still reside in the industrialized nations.
Advances in data networks and telematics in the last decade have revolutionized the Net. Unfortunately for a number of reasons the diffusion of Internet in Africa as well in Nigeria is dramatically low compared to the one on the industrialized countries.

INTERNET IMPACT IN NIGERIA


Rapid expansion of the Internet holds substantial promise for developing nations, which can benefit greatly from the Internet’s communication and information delivery capabilities to help meet these needs. The accelerating transition of information to electronic media is making information resources of the world available to an increasingly global audience through the Internet. Nigeria has much to gain from that revolution in communication and information access. In contrast to the situation in the developed world, where transport and communications infrastructures for delivery of both physical goods and information services are well established, the alternatives available in Nigeria are generally slow, expensive, or nonexistent.
The communications and information delivery capability of the Internet serves all sectors of society. The areas of education, health, social policy, commerce and trade, government, agriculture, communications, and science and technology all benefit from Internet access to information and to individuals through electronic mail. These two resources are interlinked and synergistic: individuals can visit and exploit relevant information sources, which often point to additional sources of information and to knowledgeable individuals.
The correlation between information, communication, and economic growth is well known, making the usefulness of networks nearly self-evident. Electronic networking is a powerful, rapid, and inexpensive way to communicate and to exchange information. When networks are available, previously unanticipated collaboration seems to come into being almost spontaneously. The underlying cause seems to involve a latent demand that remains latent as long as joint work requires either the disruption of waiting for the mail, the continual retyping of texts transmitted by mail or fax, or the need to secure large budgets and approvals for extensive international travel.
Nigeria networking is now crucial to scientific research and development efforts, many of which yield tangible economic benefits. The Country commercial/economic growth is enhanced by access to information and improved contact with support and purchasing personnel as well as customers. Access to information and improved contact with support and purchasing personnel as well as customers. Access to electronic networks also improves the effectiveness of the development of communities, comprising representatives of international agencies, staff of non-governmental organization, and others working locally and abroad. In addition, Nigerian universities are focusing on curricula that might contribute more directly to economic growth, and network connections for administrators, professors and students will be increasingly important.
In Nigeria, information poverty is one of the more significant and insidious obstacles to effective exploitation of information processing and other types of technology. Lack of adequate information regarding development in other countries and other environments is often not noticed, and in the absence of new information, old techniques and procedures are continously used without conscious knowledge of alternatives.
Other contextual constraints may be present. In Nigeria, information poverty, financial poverty, and misperceptions about the costs and benefits of network connectivity have sometimes resulted in decisions to delay investment in networking activities, which may be considered too expensive relative to other needs.
For Educational and technical performance in Nigeria, Internet is a must because it will give all the information you can possibly desire.
Nigerian researchers often hardly know what their colleagues at other Universities are doing and they lack the capability to disseminate their own research results throughout the world. At the same time the extreme shortage of Academic publications in practically all Nigerian Universities could be remedied with a robust Internet link, a powerful printer and a plentiful supply of paper. Internet is even a way to interchange, share technical, scientific opinions and materials from other Universities and technical centers all over the world.
African countries help each other on Internet implementation and diffusion.
For some time it has been a goal of developing countries to band together and helps each other in their mutual efforts to develop. Development experiences in one country can be of use in other countries; the trick is for recipient countries to discover similar projects and relevant information that could be of use to them.
Woolston, Kate Wild, and Faye Daneliuk at IDRC starting in the mid-1970s initiated a significant development in that direction. Woolston had just come from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) in Vienna, Austria, where he was instrumental in setting up the first international information retrieval system for information about atomic energy.
The IDRC team conceptualized a system named DEVSIS (Development Information System), which worked in the following way. Every developing country would capture relevant development information abstracted in standard bibliographic form on computer tape. Periodically, all information would be merged at a central location and redistributed to all contributors. The aggregate database, arranged in a form for easy retrieval via key words, would be available in all developing countries for interrogation, and information of interest would be pursued bilaterally.
Two enduring products emerged from that effort; MINISIS, a version of UNESCO’s ISIS system that ran on a Hewlett-Packard 3000 system, for implementing DEVSIS nodes, and PADIS (The Pan-African Dissemination of Information System), which still operates at the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, today and was the first regional DEVSIS node.
The UN system later endorsed this approach in the early 1980s, with its funding of TCDC (Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries) Project. However, in order for such a system to work well, efficiently, and effectively, one needs both a distributed, disciplined group of information gatekeepers and a central operation responsible for information interchange. In this context, it should be noted that the Internet requires less of the information providers and finesses almost completely the need for central coordination, thereby providing a cost-effective solution for rapidly and effectively accessing an increasing share of the world’s knowledge.
The Special Position of Africa and Nigeria.
Of all developing regions, Africa stands out as the least networked of all. Progress has been slow for a number of reasons. A history of colonialism until recent times, poor physical and human infrastructures, patterns of communication tied to colonial powers rather than being intra-Africa, large distances, and absence of a tradition of stable government all have conspired to retard both development in the region and absence of the Internet there.
Focus on Nigeria is appropriate for two reasons: networking there is still underdeveloped compared with much of the rest of the developing world, and the potential benefits of improved networking are great. The inferior state of African networking compared with the rest of the world has been acknowledged within Africa, and growing interest in rectifying the situation is an indication that the time for expansion of networking across Africa has come. Grassroots efforts to organize public networks are spreading across the continent, and restricted-access networks are also growing. Creation of the African Internet Forum testifies that the interest of the international donor community in helping to ameliorate existing networking conditions in Africa, and bilateral initiatives such as USAID’s Leland initiative provide concrete evidence that some international assistance will be forthcoming.
In particular the spread of networking in Nigeria has the potential to improve the quality of life of significant numbers of average Nigerians. By connecting individuals and institutions that provide services for example, health care workers, agriculture extension officials, and educators – they can provide services on the basis of better information both from abroad and from their own countries and regions. Given the growing commercialization of the Internet, the potential for the creation of local businesses is non-negligible: business associated with computer-based communication, as well as other sorts, can benefit from the improved communications potential that networking offers. The timeliness and functionality of network-based communications are strong incentives for Public and Private Nigerian organizations needing international communications to join the network.
Data networking, via the Internet, has a huge potential for eliminating many of those geographical inequalities and is in fact doing so already, as the following brief list shows.
‘Transfer charges for text over the Internet as store and forward e-mail between continents amount to about two-hundredths of the transfer costs of the same words spoken on the telephone, and about one-twentieth of the fax charges. Of course, it is much faster than snail mail; in Nigeria, it’s also much more dependable. Hence, data networking facilitates basic communication’.
Medical expertise becomes accessible from anywhere. Why should the doctor reading an X-ray or electrocardiogram have to be in the same location as the patient? Telemedicine can and will eradicate much geographic inequality in the availability of medical services.
In a wider sense, data communications can eliminate the shortage or absence of magazines, encyclopedias, books, and databases in places where they should abound such as libraries, schools, and universities. A lot of work can be moved by data communications, and so can the results. Examples: Nigeria has many good engineers, though the markets are mainly in the West. Data communications can put them in touch with each other and a Nigerian professional can render his services to elsewhere in the world. The same goes for a great deal of the administrative work from the West that is being done in low-wage country translation work, too.

VIRTUALIZATION OF NIGERIAN ACADEMIC ACTIVITIES
Virtualization is a process and a product at the same time of computer-mediated processing and communication of data, information, and knowledge. More specifically, virtualization involves the electronic or digital representation of objects and processes existing in the real world. In the context of higher education, the virtualization may comprise the representation of processes and objects associated with teaching and learning, research, and management activities. These representations allow the user to interact with them to perform several operations through the Internet, such as enrolling in courses, learning from electronic courses, retrieving information from an electronic library, communicating with teachers and students, and other activities.
Nigerian universities and other higher education institutions are facing the challenge of serving a larger population of users, more diversified culturally and socially, in a new social environment, more dynamic and turbulent. The virtualization (partial or total) of these organizations can be a transforming factor in their activities, and a way for them to build a new identity in the "knowledge society". To what extent virtualization can become a factor of academic quality will depend on the approach used to implement it and the role played by the users of the various services offered by the universities.
Virtualization and academic quality
Virtualization of universities makes no sense if it does not help to improve the quality of academic work, its processes, activities, products, and its contribution to the improvement of the quality of life in general. The improvement of quality is much more complex in higher education than in educational institutions at other levels. Until now, reference has been made only to teaching as the sole function of universities. But the university model that has prevailed in the world, at least nominally speaking, is that of a multifunctional university that transmits knowledge and facilitates the means of acquiring it, creates new knowledge, and disseminates this newly created knowledge to society for its application to the solution of developmental problems. These three functions have been linked to three processes: teaching learning, research, and extension. Based on this university model, university virtualization would have to be measured according to each function, and we would have to determine how this virtualization contributes to improving the total quality of higher education. The institutions included in this work have indicated virtualization to a greater or lesser extent based on teaching and learning. We need to also have information on what they have done in terms of virtualization of research and extension.
The Internet evolved as a network to support research through communications between scientists and academics.
Given the precarious conditions under which universities operate in Nigeria, it would be realistic to demand this multifunctional integration, when universities have not even been able to solve their teaching and learning-related problems. The teaching function is, no doubt, the one that carries the most weight of all of the functions. Higher educational institutions are still under heavy social pressure by a continuously growing population that is avid for learning. We have already seen how the student population growth rate in Nigeria doubles that of developed countries. We must also add the population integrated into the labor market, who need to perfect their knowledge, and those who were unable to attain higher education and now seek a second opportunity for career advancement that will allow them to act effectively within the new and emerging knowledge society. Where most workers will be called knowledge or "symbolic" workers. In this context, universities will face an ever-increasing demand. Nigeria will not escape the transition towards the knowledge society. Development is not linear, and Nigeria should not necessarily take the same path as developed countries to reach the knowledge society. Because of the strong trend towards globalization in every activity of society worldwide, developing countries will also have to follow the same trend; otherwise, they will be unable to function within it. 

INTERNET - PRESENT AND FUTURE TREND IN NIGERIA AND AFRICA AT LARGE
The spread of the Internet in Nigeria higher education cannot be considered in isolation from the development of the Internet on the Nation as a whole. This inevitably raises the subject of its telecomm infrastructure, because Internet traffic almost always travels down ordinary telephone lines, usually those of the public telephone network. This partly explains why the Internet has mushroomed in regions of the world with high telephone density: the network was already in place. It also goes some extent in explaining why less than one percent of the world’s Internet traffic currently reaches Africa: the telephone network hardly exists. Compare Sweden (with 68 telephone connections per 100 inhabitants), the USA (with 57), and the Netherlands (49) on the one hand to Zimbabwe (with 1.22), Ghana (0.3), Nigeria (0.08) and Chad (0.07) on the other. Not all Internet traffic travels via the public telephone network. Lines serve Very busy routes with very large throughput capacity, which are dedicated to Internet traffic and usually leased from the public network. But these "backbones" of the Internet are found nowhere in Africa. To obtain a fast Internet connection in Nigeria, you need a leased line to Europe or USA. Unfortunately, leased lines are so expensive that most African Internet traffic travel the cheap "store-and-forward" way. This is the method used by the AAU, which sends and receives all its Internet communications via a computer in South Africa where they are temporarily stored. Every eight hours, the central computer at the AAU headquarters in Accra automatically dials the computer in South Africa, picks up its incoming e-mail messages, and fires off outgoing ones all over the world.
In Nigeria, Internet and E-mail are not a luxury but a necessity – much more so than in Europe. The main reason is that other modes of telecommunication are too costly for Nigerian budgets. It takes ten minutes to read 2,000 words aloud, and a ten-minute voice phone call from Nigeria to Europe costs 30 USD. And although the fax machine is faster and cheaper (2,000 words in a compact font will take two minutes to send), the same operation will still cost 6 USD. By contrast, an e-mail message of 2,000 words (around 12 kilobytes or 96 kilobits in digital terms), sent via a modem with a throughput speed of 14 kilobits per second, will take seven seconds to reach Europe from Nigeria, and cost 0.30 USD. Moreover, if the telephone line is good, a 28 kb/s modem working at full speed will further halve the transmission charge – making it 175 times cheaper than a voice phone call across the same distance. E-mail is so important to the developing world – and become more essential in a country like Nigeria. It is the only mode of international telecommunication that Nigeria and Africa can afford on any reasonable scale. More and more development cooperation organizations and ministries are opening their eyes to two new gaps that divide the world, more or less parallel with the old gap between rich and poor: the telecommunications gap and the information gap. Maybe it is just one new gap, now that telecommunications and electronic information are converging. Whatever the truth may be, this new global problem was growing for many years before it was recognized. In the development cooperation climate of the 1980s and before, a motorbike was considered of more use to an eight-year-old boy than a good telecomm infrastructure to Africa. That would come later – it was thought – after the water wells and telecommunications in developing countries. In the 1982, at a Nairobi session of the ITU General Assembly, general support was given to "the fundamental importance of communications infrastructures as an essential element in the economic and social development of all countries" – including the poorest. The World Bank published a report entitled Increasing Internet Connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa, which made the Internet point sharply and succinctly". The information revolution offers Africa a dramatic opportunity to leapfrog into the future, breaking out of decade of stagnation and decline. Africa must seize this opportunity quickly. If African Countries cannot take advantage of the Information revolution and surf this great wave of technological change, they may be crushed by it. In that case they are likely to be even more marginalized and economically stagnant in the future that they are today". 

CONCLUSION
The greatest factors limiting the spread of Internet and e-mail in Nigeria are:
Lack of technical know-how and awareness;
The faulty telecommunication infrastructures;
The high cost of the computer equipment and the high cost of Internet subscription (presently the average cost of the Internet annual subscription is N.82, 000 (about US $ 1, 000) and this becomes prohibitive for an average Nigerian. The same subscription fee in Europe and USA has an average cost of US $ 150. Moreover if we consider the salary difference between USA/Europe and Nigeria the final comparison will result that the Nigeria fee is 35 times higher those of US and Europe.
Any way out from this frame?
These are the suggested solutions to Enhance Internet Connectivity in Nigeria.

1. Administration
One basic thing that has killed many laudable Government projects in this country is administration. There is already a struggle as to who should be in charge of the Internet project. A completely new government body is recommended to be saddled with the demands of the new technology. The other bodies are already loaded with archaic bottlenecks.

2. Awareness
Over 95% of Nigerians are not aware of the Internet. Government is being called by majority to head in the computerization and information technology industry development serviced. Many developmental services are at present not computerized. Many employees, both high and low, are not computer literate. These, therefore, cannot appreciate arguments for or against the issue. It is almost a necessity, therefore, to raise the awareness of the civil servants in particular and the public in general.

3. Computer Acquisition
Following lack of awareness items, the fact that the number of computers per population in this country is very low, many institutions, including government offices do not have computers. It is desirable to increase the number of computers in the country.

4. Y2K Compliance
Many of the already installed computers are not compliant. Government needs to ensure that all computers imported into the country are compliant. All non-compliant units need to be made compliant.

5. Communication
Most of the telephones are analog. The times are very noisy and are frequently tossed. Maintenance and repair works on the system are not appropriately handled resulting in long downtime. It is necessary to increase digital networks. Nigeria needs to join others in the use of wireless communication

6. Local Backbone
Nigeria should have a local backbone rather than depending on others. Dependence on others increases the cost of connectivity. If there is a local backbone, service providers shall require less to look onto the backbone and service shall be cheaper to the individual customers. As a leading country in Africa, Nigeria does not need to wait for the smaller African countries that may wish to depend on Africa central backbone. This country is capable of owning a backbone and letting the rest of Africa, if people so wish, to pass through Nigeria. In the final analysis, it may be cheaper for such other countries.

7. New Communication Technologies.
At the time of implementation, effort needs to be geared towards the use of latest technology in area networking. Systems are continually being improved on reliability and speed of operation. Nigeria needs to monitor the latest technology in order to be relevant in the new age.

8. Cost of Connection
The current trend in the world is to make accessibility as cheap as possible. The Internet is for all and not only for the privileged class. The greater the number of people connected, the greater the benefits of Internet. To avoid discriminations, a policy of equal fare must be implemented for all the telephone numbers connected to ISP. This is because anybody that want be connected to Internet from a location outside of the area where the provider is located not pay higher telephone fare than a person resident in the same ISP area.

9. Location of Service Providers
The location of Internet Service Providers(ISP) should be make it available to all, establishing them in different parts of the country.

10. National Workshop
Electronic networks have generated substantive disagreements rooted in value judgements. As interconnection involves virtually everyone, so are the views and judgements divergent. It is desirable to have a national workshop to gather various shades of opinion in order to arrive at a decision that should be beneficial to the greater number of the populace.

11. Quick action
The World is not waiting for Nigeria. We do not have all the time to plan. Whoever gets saddled with taking decision of implementing Internet connectivity needs to be quick with results. The Information Age is faster than the former Jet Age. Unnecessary delay would keep this country too far behind.

12. Internet Public Centers
Government and private bodies must join financial efforts to create Public Internet Centers all over the country (possibly in existing educational Institution like Universities and Schools) to diffuse and promote the use of Internet and to make possible the access and use to the largest number of Nigerians. Internet public centers must be planned and established with similar systems like the Nitel public telephone centers.


Only by following these steps, Nigeria can embrace the technological future, improve her manpower skill and reduce the gap between the Industrialized Countries.
Engr. Giandomenico Massari
Danelec Ltd.
VP ISOC Nigeria Chapter

   
Internet Society Nigeria Chapter
Email: info@isocnig.org.ng
Danelec, Plot 278 Trans Amadi Industrial Layout,
P.O.Box 4818, Port Harcourt, Nigeria