How would you like a monthly data allowance?

We are still on the Internet Freedom Forum 2017 event which occurred in the last week of April. After our first review on the issues affecting the possibility of net neutrality and an open internet, we will now touch upon another suspect of the lessons from the discussions.

The internet, as we have it today, has become nearly inevitable for communications and running effective modern daily businesses. It goes without saying that the more persons who are able to be connected, the easier it would be to achieve the diverse aims of digitization of transactions. The cashless policy cannot properly work without dependable and widespread internet access.

In her presentation on the critical policy considerations for an open internet in Nigeria, Nnenna Nwakanma made the opinion for the consideration of “a basic free data allowance for citizens”. In other words, every Nigerian should have some means to ensure they are able to purchase at least some basic amount of data.

Fancy idea? How would it work?

The structure of data costs by Nigerians Internet Service Providers is a bit dodgy. The average Nigerian who affords to make subscriptions on a regular basis will complain of his or her inability to understand how the data cost is calculated, burning out even before one would have done half of what the expectation for purchase was.

Data is not quite cheap in Nigeria, as the Affordability Report shows. Against the global standard that 1GB of data should not cost more than 2% of average monthly income, the percentage in Nigeria is 8%. And how much can one even do with 1GB in a month?

As Nnenna would point out, something of this nature has been worked out successfully in Sri Lanka, a third-world country just like Nigeria. Sri Lanka, though, has a markedly different political system, with twice the value of Nigeria’s GDP per capita, and a population not as large as one-thirtieth of the Mushin area in Lagos State.

But can it be worked, somehow? For instance, it would be a good idea to include something of this nature in the “New Vision” amnesty programme for the Niger Delta. While it is in the interest of the Government to give money to the youth as means of empowering them with resources to be engaged, making a part of those funds specified for a particular use – such as data subscription for internet – ensures the fund is being properly channeled towards skill development. The success of the Amnesty funds should be judged by the businesses and ventures the youths create; why should the next tech-boom not come from them?

And beyond the Niger Delta, a basic data allowance should be a possibility. If you consider that the Newspaper allowance for every Senator is two times the minimum wage… How many read ALL of those newspapers?

The Senate has shown that they are interested in incorporating ICT in their dealings. But what is the value of streaming your plenary sessions online if we cannot afford to watch it?In the spirit of reducing the cost of Governance and channeling more into developmental projects, this should not be too much of a “sacrifice” for them, now, should it?

DISCLAIMER: This review is only a reflection of the opinions of the Editor on some aspects of the proceedings at the IFF 2017 event. It does not in any way claim to be the definitive explanation or summary of the activities carried out and does not define the position of any of the panelists, participants, sponsors and organizers of the event, including Paradigm Initiative. Comments and opinions on the subject are welcome, to continue the conversation. Mail to

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