By Ifeanyi Nwoko
Experts in the communications and internet industry say that Nigeria, and indeed many African countries are yet to tap into the potential of the internet for the overall development of their countries.
They say that the United States generates 600 million dollars annually from its domain name industry, which is part of the potential of the internet.
According to Google’s annual income statement, it generated 23.6 billion dollars in 2009, which translated to 1.9 billion dollars a month.
Similarly, the .com, .uk, .us, and many other domain names in the western world have made huge profits from their domain names; while some domain names have been sold as high as 13 million dollars.
Mrs Omobola Johnson, Nigeria’s Minister of Communication Technology, said African countries must harness the potential of the internet in order to fast-track development on the continent.
The minister who spoke recently in Abuja at a conference said that “Internet can contribute up to 300 billion dollars to Africa’s GDP by 2025; and this is from an estimated 18 billion dollars in 2013.’’
She stressed that the internet is more important for Africa than the rest of the world, as the continent “lags behind in almost every economic indicator.
“The internet, and the connectivity network present opportunities for improving the social welfare of Africa and Africans,” she said.
Aware of the potential of the internet, the Federal Government, in collaboration with UNESCO introduced the first internet link in Nigeria at the Obafemi Awolowo University in 1995, using Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT).
In 1996, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) licensed 38 internet service providers to sell internet services in Nigeria; and Linkserve Limited immediately began commercial operations in the country.
Though advancement was recorded in internet connectivity with the use of mobile networks, fiber optics and even satellites, yet “Nigeria is yet to tap into the potential of cyberspace,” experts say.
In 2010, Nelson Mattos, Vice President (Technology) of Google said at a briefing in Lagos, that Nigeria had an IT infrastructure problem in terms of availability and accessibility.
He said that the entire African continent could never become market potential for internet-broadband access due to poor internet infrastructure and penetration.
Mrs Mary Uduma, the President of the Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NIRA), said the nation still loses billions to the internet economy.
“Over $600million was made by the U.S. through the domain name industry, internet businesses have been growing so much and other countries have been taking advantage of it.
“Our internet economy and e-commerce have not started, our Domain Name System (DNS) industry is till at the lowest ebb.
“Internet access is a challenge, so for that reason we are losing a lot of money which we would have retained,” she said.
In spite of achievements recorded in the payroll system on the internet, e-government platforms as well as creating the.ng domain name, Uduma insists that a lot still need to be done.
She said that Nigerians, especially the private sector operators need to connect to the .ng domain to stem capital flight to other countries whose domain names we patronise and pay huge sums.
Uduma defined domain name as a “unique name that identifies an internet resource, such as a website, it is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control on the internet.
“Let me give you a statistics; if there are 1,000 registered domain names in Nigeria, only 10 will be on .ng, 990 will be on .com and if they all pay N1,000 that is one million naira.
“So while 990,000 naira will go abroad, only 10,000 naira will be in Nigeria, so we are losing money because people are not taking the .ng as their domain name.
“What we are doing is that we are sensitising Nigerians that just as naira is our currency, .ng is our currency on the cyberspace; we should take .ng as our string on the cyberspace instead of using .com or .uk.
“We are working with National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to make sure there is intervention for people to be online as soon as they take the .ng domain name,” she said.
Uduma said that there were 17,000,000 Small and Medium Enterprises in Nigeria that could take advantage of the mutual benefit of the .ng domain to do their businesses online with ease and speed.
Uduma, at a conference organised by NIRA ( a regulating body and mangers of the .ng national resource) to popularise .ng domain name, said that the domain is even safer than other domains, adding “with .ng, fraud is made more difficult as it is traceable.
“Even to scam with .ng is very difficult because we would be able to know the person that registered the domain name.
“Others do proxy, but we don’t do proxy in Nigeria. We know who is registering what; the registry is here with us.
“We are hoping that by 2020 we would have hit one million users of the .ng domain name,” she said.
Stakeholders want Nigerians to connect to the .ng domain name in order to avoid capital flight as well as promote the nation’s economic development.
They also want the relevant authorities to sustain enlightenment campaigns on the .ng domain.