*200 public areas expected to have free access to Internet to boost economic opportunities
By Adekunle Aliyu
The Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN has said that the launch of free Wi-Fi facility in Abuja on Thursday was in line with the Buhari administration’s commitment to leverage on the gains that a data-driven digital economy offers, providing more Internet access and opportunities for Nigerians to improve their businesses.
Speaking on Thursday when he launched the Google Free public Wi-Fi service in Wuse market, Abuja, Prof. Osinbajo stated that the event was a fulfillment of a promise made by the administration to democratise access to all Nigerians, despite social class or status.
According to the Vice President, “this is a very exciting event for me. A couple of months ago, we were at the Google Headquarters at the Silicon Valley. And we were told about the Google Station Free Wi-Fi in Railway stations in India. The CEO of Google was talking about this and I said if you can put this in railway stations in India, then you must put them in markets in Nigeria. I’m sure at the time he wasn’t quite certain what markets in Nigeria would look like. But we agreed on principle and a team has been working on it since then.
“It’s incredible that today we have here at the Wuse market free Wi-Fi facilities in fulfillment of that promise that was made some months ago. One of the key reasons why it is important for us to do this is because of our own policy as a government to ensure that we democratize access in various ways so that the man in the street, the common man, can have access to the things that other people have. That informs our putting solar power in markets.
“We were in Sabon Gari market the other day, where we have shops that are now powered by solar power and also by bio-fuels. We decided that we’ll power the markets, Sabon Gari is one, Ariaria Market is another. As a matter of fact, Ariaria has solar and a formal plant right there. We also have one in Lagos, (gas-fired) at the Sura Market and several other markets.
“The reason of course is that economic sites, where many of our people do their business must be powered. We must give them the same sort of access that bigger industries have; that bottom of the pyramid, the people in the streets, not just the people who buy and sell. You find such guys, who, after retiring from pushing their barrows and trying to get their business done, have access to Wi-Fi.”
Prof. Osinbajo said the administration was looking at expanding the scope so that more Nigerians can benefit from access to the Internet.
He said, “We are told that our own interaction with the Wi-Fi is almost a hundred times more than the likes of India, Thailand and Malaysia. It just shows you the massive potential out there of Nigerians who are waiting to be connected to the Internet to benefit in one way or the other. So, I think it is a very exciting moment for us and we are looking for the expansion of this service and all of our efforts to as many markets as possible.”
“The more Nigerians can have access to the Internet connectivity, the better for us, the more prosperous our country can be, the more educated, the more informed our people become. So, we are really proud of what is happening today. I must thank Google; I must thank BCN – the local partners – as well. We are looking forward to more collaboration and co-operation with them.”
The launch of the free Wi-Fi facility in Wuse market, Abuja comes a few months after free Wi-Fi facilities was first rolled out in some parts of Lagos State. By next year, the plan is to have free internet access in 200 public places across the country.
It would be recalled that the free Wi-Fi facilities was a direct outcome of the Vice President’s visit to Silicon Valley, US, where he visited the Headquarters of some leading global technology companies, and met with Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, and other top executives in July 2018.
The free Wi-Fi initiative is expected to create more economic opportunities for Nigerians through bridging societal gaps by providing free Internet access to some of the poorest in society, which means access to information, tools of education, improved business and job opportunities and expansion for many Nigerians.
Meanwhile, on Thursday also, the Vice President went round Wuse and Karu markets in Abuja, interacting with TraderMoni beneficiaries in these areas. He was warmly received by Nigerians who commended the Buhari administration for the TraderMoni scheme that provides interest and collateral free loans from N10,000 to petty traders nationwide.
The loans are repayable over a period of six months at which point the traders on repayment will receive a fresh N15,000 loan, which rises to N20,000 when repaid.
The microcredit scheme, which has since been formally launched nationwide and the FCT, is expected to reach 2 million petty traders by the end of the year. More than 1.2m petty traders have received the loans across the 36 States of the federation and Abuja.