All You Need to Know About Nigerian School of Community Networks
The second iteration of the Nigerian school of community networks convened by the Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) kicked off on 22 August 2022 at the Digital Bridge Institute in Kano state, Northern Nigeria, a predominantly Muslim state. This follows a successful first phase that happened between 21 – 27 November 2021.
The school had 23 participants, 10 women and 13 men, from 7 micro organizations spread out across the different states in Nigeria, enthusiastic to learn and become community champions. This second phase of the school had a different set of participants from the first phase, but coming from the same micro organizations, aiming to build more community champions and bring more voices to the advocacy space.
The National School of Community Networks project is a capacity-building initiative by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in collaboration with Rhizomatica, and with aid from the UK government, taking place in five countries: Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. The initiative aims to build capacity and strengthen efforts for the creation, development, and consolidation of community networks as a way to cultivate bottom-up, sustainable approaches to communication and meaningful connectivity.
Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD)
CITAD is a non-governmental and non-profit organization that was established in 1996, with offices in Abuja, Kano, and Bauchi. The organization is committed to the use of information and communication technologies for the development and promotion of good governance.
CITAD has been a member of the APC network since 2015, engaging in projects seeking to leverage technology for sustainable development and good governance. The organization focuses on youth and women, continually looking at innovative uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to improve access to information, build skills and help connect people with necessary resources.
Education, advocacy, and ICT business promotion are three pillars of their approach to their work. CITAD does not yet have a community network but believes the real work is in creating awareness amongst the communities on the benefits of ICT and getting the government to support emergence of community networks through a policy and regulatory framework.
CITAD’s work around the LocNet project is guided by three strategies:
- Building towards a conducive regulatory and policy environment in Nigeria for community networks to flourish. To be accomplished through capacity building for partners and stakeholders(regulatory bodies, traditional leaders, and community members)
- Create more community-owned micro-organizations running and managing successful community networks through capacity strengthening, resource mobilization training, and partnering with different stakeholders among others.
- Initiate a national community network forum that champions connectivity to the unserved and underserved communities as well as create safe spaces for women.
Represented micros included:
- Jama’are Traders Association in Bauchi state was established in 2001 as a platform for traders in Jama’are Local Government. The association is passionate about using ICT to promote their businesses, and access to networks in the community and generally promote education, health, and other social services.
- Itas Youth Association (IYA) in Bauchi state, was established in 2015 with the primary objectives of promoting unity among the youth in the community by facilitating engagement around education, entrepreneurship, and ICTs.
- Zittnet/Fanstauam Foundation in Kaduna state was founded in 1996 to empower community members, particularly women, to find means of livelihood to meet their immediate community needs and eliminate poverty through integrated development programs. Fantsuam Foundation is one of the earliest promoters of ICT for development at a time when official recognition of ICTs was still lacking in Northern Nigeria. More specifically, Fantsuam Foundation installed the first satellite internet service for rural northern Nigeria, in 1997, when the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) was the only available equipment for rural connectivity. Fantsuam Foundation was keen to ensure gender equity in access to ICT knowledge and skills, and its efforts earned it the first Hafkin Africa Prize in 2001.
- Pasepa Community in the Bwari area of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The Zoboda Women Traders Co-operative Society in the Pasepa community is an exclusive women-based association Established on 5th April 1998. Its key objective is to promote Community Development and Economic Empowerment with a focus on helping women farmers and has an interest in integrating ICT in its development strategies.
- Leleyin Gwari, also known as AYEBWAKA LELEYI GWARI) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, was established on May 15, 2012. The association focuses on farming and promoting awareness of youth and development.
- Dakwa Community in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, also known as Ayenaje Women Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society Limited, is an agrarian community-based organization that focuses on self-help community activities. The organization facilitates the youth to organize themselves to Forster development through communal efforts and encourages women entrepreneurship and access to facilities to support development through skills acquisition.
- Tungan Ashere Community development Association also known as Allah Ya Baku Group Farmers’ Cooperative Society in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, was established in 1996. Although theoretically women farmers are members, in practice the association is open to all farmers in the community.
The school is taking place in three phases:
- The physical session taking place from 21 August to 3 September 2022.
- The online phase takes place from 5 September to 16 September 2022.
- The mentorship phase will be hybrid, taking place from 5 September to 25 October.
The training focused on:
- Technical aspects of community networks. The objective of this session was for participants to Understand the technological components of community networks. Topics covered were: TV White Spaces (TVWS), Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT), Spectrum allocation, location update, internet service providers, cyber security, and mobile technologies.
- Management, marketing, and sustainability of community networks. The session focused on the basics of a community network and its management, methods of marketing, entrepreneurship, and sustainability strategies. This session further focused on the benefits of community networks, challenges in deploying community networks, marketing skills, partnership building, identifying subscription charges, sustainability framework for community networks, proposal development, and the role of the different regulatory bodies in Nigeria.
- Community engagement and resource mobilization. This session focused on helping participants understand the pivotal role that community engagement plays in the success of community networks and having the community itself define the context of their network. The participants were trained on how to get the community engaged in mobilizing resources not just externally but from within, to set up their network as a way of building community ownership.
The participants got a chance to visit the Waire community in Bichi, a small village within Northern Nigeria with a population of fewer than 3,000 inhabitants. The community is surrounded by terrain, farms, and trees. There is no network coverage in the area deployed by either commercial operators or the government.
In 2021 Infratel Africa, a telecommunication infrastructure service provider in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa collaborated with MTN in its rural transformation project to deploy an entirely solar-powered rural telephony solution to the Waire community. The setup consists of a monopole with an Omni-Directional antennae covering a radius of up to 2 to 3 Km.
- Nigeria does not yet have a policy and regulatory framework for community networks which is stifling the emergence of community networks. Currently, the Nigeria Communications Commission established by the Nigeria Communications Act has the mandate to regulate the communication sector in Nigeria. There are only two major classes of licenses under the NCA: An individual license and a class license. An individual license is one whose terms, conditions, obligations, scope, and limitations are limited to the service being provided. A class license is a broader category of license in which the terms, conditions, and obligations are common to all license holders. class licenses are issued for: sales and installations, repairs and maintenance of telecoms facilities, cabling services, telecenter/cyber cafes, and public payphone services.
- Most mobile Network Operators have their infrastructure concentrated in economically viable urban areas leaving rural areas with very limited connectivity. According to Statista, as of 2022, Nigeria had nearly 84 million internet users, amounting to 38 percent of the population, and is set to reach 48 percent in 2007. This projected growth is due to the recent increased deployment of fiber optic cable within the Nigerian telecommunications industry. However, According to statistics from Infratel, the network penetration coverage of over 70 percent of Nigeria has been limited to the urban and suburban areas, leaving many rural communities “cut off”, without access to telecommunications services.
- The price for mobile data is very high which is not affordable to most people in rural areas. The major Telcos in Nigeria include MTN, Airtel, Globacom, and 9mobile (formerly Etisalat). The average price for 1GB of mobile data for 24 hours is 0.7 USD compared to 0.1 USD in Kenya with the same validity period. ISPs are offering unlimited plans for home connections at a very high fee and a caveat of Fair Usage Policy (FUP): NTEL, FiberOne, Smile communications, Spectranet, and Cool link. Home fiber connections are mainly available in urban areas of Abuja, Lagos port Harcourt and Ibadan leaving the northern parts with limited connectivity options.
- Frequent power outages mean schools and organizations cannot be online consistently. In Kano state, most areas do not have power for up to 8 hours a day.
- The north is very conservative and most families do not allow their girls to get western education leading to the girls getting married very early. The girls are rarely allowed to attend digital literacy training since they have to tend to home chores and the married ones are more focused on their families. During school, the girls were intimidated by technology sessions, calling for more involvement of girls in technology spaces to build their confidence.
- The communities in the rural regions of Northern Nigeria do not yet understand the benefits of ICT and its role in development, leaving little interest in ICT-related training and activities. CITAD has been at the forefront in advocating for use of ICT in schools and the benefits of ICT in the development of the economic status of communities.
The community networks movement is growing across Africa and CITAD is invested in building capacity amongst all its stakeholders to strengthen advocacy in the use of ICT for development. Together with its partners, CITAD is at the forefront of advocating for a favorable policy and regulatory environment for community networks to emerge and bridge the huge digital gap in rural Nigeria.
The Africa Regional and Policy Coordinators for the LocNet initiative at KICTANet continue to support this initiative and foster platforms to promote these dialogues.
This is a series of our publications on Community Networks.
Ms. Catherine Kyalo is the KICTANet Africa Regional Coordinator for Community Networks under the APC-LOCNET initiative. She is passionate about community welfare and enjoys yoga to rejuvenate. LinkedIn | Twitter