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Published On: Wed, Feb 21st, 2018

Digital divide: How far have Nigerians gone?

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By Ismail Abdulaziz

The term media is a plural of a Latin word medium that stand for “an intervening agency, means or instrument”.
Media is defined as a communication channel through which news, entertainment, education, data or promotional messages are disseminated.
The means of communications include the newspapers, magazines, television, radio, billboard, direct mail, telephone, facsimile (fax) and internet.
Wikipedia describes new media as forms of media that are native to computers, computations and relying on computers for distribution.
It also gives examples to include websites, mobile apps, virtual world, interactive computer installations and multimedia.
The UN estimates put Nigeria’s population at 193, 450,020 as at January 7, 2018. In Africa, Nigeria is hugely populated country; the most populous black Nation in the World.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the seventh most populous country in the world.
However, the global trend of internet use makes this population a veritable tool to explore and exploit for the overall economic health of any nation.
In Nigeria, with the coming of satellite and terrestrial communication systems, a new horizon opened for specific application of new media as it relates to the deployment of public and private operators.
As at November 2017, Nigeria has a total of 390,794 subscribers connected to the internet services through the mobile GSM, mobile CDMA, fixed wire/wireless and VoIP.
Clearly, the government had make efforts to bridge the digital divide in the country by giving licences to mobile technology service providers.
Nigeria reached an agreement with the Chinese Great Wall Industry Corp for the launch a satellite to boost the peaceful use of the outer space.
It was launched on 13 May 2007, aboard a Chinese Long March 3Bcarrier rocket, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China.
The spacecraft was operated by NigComSat and the Nigerian Space Agency, NASRDA. It provides optimal and cost effective voice, data, video, Internet and application services solutions.
The launch was seen as a symbol of China’s broad network of economic relations with Africa. As its economy forges ahead, with growth of nearly 10 per cent a year, China has been particularly eager to establish commercial relations with oil-producing nations such as Nigeria.
“The satellite represents China’s wish to cooperate with developing countries in the peaceful use of outer space and to promote a closer relationship between China and African countries,” Wang Haibo, president of the Great Wall Industry Corp, said during the launch.
The NigComSat hosted a number of customers from the broadcasting industry, internet service providers, telecommunication operators and tele-presence solutions and provided customer support to its end users.
The satellite would meet the needs of telecommunications, broadcasting, and broadband, security and other communications solutions within the African market, Europe and Asia markets.
In 2017, Nigeria entered another agreement for two more satellite launch to the tune of $550 million by China.
The Nigerian Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu said that the Chinese had appreciated the potential market that existed in the satellite business in Nigeria and the African continent.
“This is a very big business opportunity and I am sure that the Chinese appreciate the potential market which is so vast.
“The president was excited and was not surprised because the Chinese are not just going to market our satellite to the entire African continent but also perhaps by legislation insists that all Nigerian entities must patronise the Nigerian satellite company rather than going to Israel, UK, US for satellite services.
“Currently most Nigerian companies and even Nigerian government establishments patronise foreign satellite companies.
“So, the first thing is that we want to make profit, we want to capture the local market and we also want to capture the African market”,he said.
Africa plays an important role in the global political landscape. Its population, size and market prospect are also impressive.
All of these factors have attracted media companies in Europe, the United States and other countries.
Since entering the African market in 2007, the Star Times of China has enjoyed great influence in the field of pay-TV operation in Africa.
China Central Television opened its Africa sub-platform in Africa in 2012, and its programme production and broadcasting capabilities in Africa have greatly improved.
In recent times, the Chinese government is becoming very visible in the training of Nigeria journalists in new media applications.
It has been in Nigeria for quite a while with the in house trainings given to some staff of the News Agency of Nigeria as well as the media partnership between the agency and Xinhua dating back to the 1990’s.
In 2017, training was organised for Omni media reporters from developing countries; the event brought 65 participants from 23 countries to share ideas and see the relevant technology China uses in reaching out to its audience across the world.
In the field of digital terrestrial television, the major operators in the Nigerian market are China’s Star Times Group and the South African Multi-choice group.
In July 2010, China’s Star Times started its digital terrestrial television business in Nigeria and has three million subscribers by April 2016, making it a strong rival to the Multi-choice.
The Star Times’ collaborates with Nigeria national television station as NTA-STAR TV Network Ltd to broadcast to the people.
The South African multi-choice group launched the digital terrestrial television service in 2011 and it offered the GOtv package through the terrestrial digital television platform in June 2012.
As of April 2016, the company has 2.5 million total digital terrestrial TV subscribers.
With the priority placed on education by Nigeria, the satellite by China would achieve the universal goal of giving digital access to a large section of the population in both Nigeria and the sub-Saharan Africa.
The added advantage is that with the use of digital communications by more educated people, most of the challenges in it use can be reduced.
According to China’s Internet Development’s statistics released by CNNIC (China’s Internet Information Centre), as of December 2016, the number of Internet users in China reaches 731 million, and the Internet penetration rate is 53.2 per cent
The number of mobile Internet users reached 695 million, and the market penetration rate had increased to 95.1 per cent.
In addition, China’s Internet advertising market reached 2,7694 billion RMB in 2016, with an increase of nearly 70 billion RMB from 2015 and a year-on-year growth rate of 32.1 per cent according to China iResearch Consulting.
It is particularly important to point out that, under the circumstance that traditional media advertising revenue continues to decline, internet advertising revenue exceeds the combined revenue of TV, radio, newspapers and magazines media advertising.
A new transmission technology such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) transform the form of traditional news products, and improve the user experience, promote the arrival of the era of “immersion media”.
The new media industry in China presents the following features: Firstly, the User Demand based on Mobile Internet and Big Data will bring greater commercial value; secondly, the intelligent Internet is rapidly iterating through the portal.
Thirdly, user time has become the focus of competition among Internet giants and finally, the commercial value of audio and video on the Internet far exceeds that of graphic.
The youth population in Nigeria constitute a large chunk and uses internet in their daily lives; most use it for social media like Facebook, twitter, WeChat, WhatsApp and host of others, it is actually giving them a voice.
Efficiency, transparency, employment are major catch phrases across the world and Nigerians have latched on to that to demand them in all service sector including the government.
The private and public institutions can collaborate to exploit the huge potential inherent in the use of the internet technology to make the youths more productive to themselves and the society.
The Chinese example is a worthy one to emulate because of our peculiar nature of population and size.
The role of the media cannot be over emphasized in achieving this benefit for the Nations and the Chinese government has been putting efforts to offer viable trainings towards this end.
By the end of October 2017, a total of 3,462 radio and television officials at ministerial level, executives and managers, producers, journalists, editors and technical personnel from 146 countries and regions of five continents had taken part in various international research and training projects organised by the Chinese Research and Training Institute.
More trainings, seminars and exchange programmes can be done to explore the huge market of media application in improving the economic fortunes of Nigeria by working with China.

Ismail Abdulaziz is of the News Agency of Nigeria, Abuja and Shang Qiufen, Research and Training Institute, Beijing.

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