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John Igoli: Our Outernet

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by John Igoli

While other citizens of the world are enjoying the internet, Nigerians are stuck on the outernet. As every other thing that gets corrupted in Nigeria, the internet got corrupted and transformed in to our outernet. Our outernet is exactly the opposite of the internet in operation and applications. It is very slow to use or browse or surf. It is easier to drown in our brand of internet than to swim or wade in it.

 In Nigeria emails are seen but not read. Downloading a file or document is as good as transferring the ocean from one location to another and uploading or attaching a document is like tying a shot put to the back of a mouse. Our broadness of the internet is so narrow that www has been transformed to mmm (me me me). We only see things that we upload or make online transactions that benefit us directly. Try referring a Nigerian to an article, photo, video or document not uploaded by him and he will naturally come up with the answer “I can’t find it”.

Our Google earth has been converted to Google myself or my family or my establishment.  Only the directors of ICT in our institutions and establishments can access information from their websites. They insist the websites are up and running but they never go there unless the head of the establishment requests an update. Those who must use our web pages or websites must pay for it. In fact we have ended up driving people out of the internet to our outernet.

The statement that scares parents and guardians the most now is online registration. Once this is mentioned money must be given to the child or ward. The deadlines are quite deadly as it is always tomorrow or the day after! Ask why have you not registered until now, the answer again is quite natural; their website only started opening yesterday! No apologies or extension of deadlines are given or granted. Any public outcry falls on deaf ears and after the deadline is past, those unable to login or register are advised to send theirs by surface mail.

It is outrageous that while the internet has made living and doing business easier in other climes it is bringing untold hardship on Nigerians. Many months ago and even before, online job applications were in vogue. You buy scratch cards and spend your life time disqualifying yourself from the job by trying to login to the websites and uploading your CV. An application fee of N5000 attracts a scratch card of between N500-N1000 and internet time of over N500. When you add transportation to the cyber cafe and other miscellaneous expenses such as daring to download and print a document, you need to have another N500 or more. It is only in Nigeria that we pay to pay our fees.

Government agencies in the pretext of making things easier are taking money straight out of our pockets. Presently the NYSC is requesting prospective youth corp members to register online with N4000. This they say will save the cost of transportation to the campuses to collect their call up letters. If the NYSC had a website that has been up and running all these years, (the Director of ICT at the NYSC is a very big oga with assets in excess of what you can ever imagine for his position and status), what additional costs has the uploading of call up letters added to running of the site? Prospective corp members living in the rural areas will still have to travel to the cities to use the internet. So the cost is still the same, moreover is there a guarantee that a graduate will get his call up letter from the school if he chooses that option? Why should Universities stress themselves with the chaotic activity of issuing call up letters when an online option is available? This effectively is a compulsory levy on every Nigerian graduate. Just when our parents have finished paying school fees they have NYSC fee to pay!

The use of mobile telephones for internet access has rubbished the seriousness of internet usage in Nigeria. Emails are sent without proper openings or endings. They are more or less extended text messages. Attached documents are never read before replies are sent and the response is so hollow the receiver is certain the attachment was never consulted. Though Nigerians claim to receive alerts when they get emails, you still have to call to inform them you have sent a mail to their inbox. The mail is never seen until you insist you have sent it.

If to us the internet has become a burden, it is time we reconsider going back to the future of “no internet” which may be cheaper and more adaptable to our present situation. Let us strengthen the tangibles if we cannot handle the intangibles. I can’t see our political office holders or aspirants collecting their nomination forms, paying their party dues/levies, donations, party registration, decamping, consultations, making appointments or sharing their monies online.

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This opinion was written by John Igoli (igolij@yahoo.com)

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