Cyberspace Abuse and the Proliferation of Poverty in Nigeria: Investigating the Paradox of Social-Economic Development.

Author:Badmus, Bidemi G.


Considering the significant importance of cyberspace to social, political and economic interaction among the people and countries around the world, the access to cyberspace/internet has remained on the front burner in driving the notion of the exchange and dissemination of ideas, resolving international conflicts emanating from communication gaps, and in the promotion of good governance and in the fostering the advancement of global trade.

As observed by Alvin Toffler (1980), the surge of the Internet has greatly propelled societies into an 'infosphere' in which technology driven information and communication have increasingly altered the social, political, economic and work environment in the contemporary world. And in this context, it is imperative to note that, since the beginning of this millennium, Africa has witnessed significant growth of Internet connectivity, which is mainly due to the availability of undersea cables and the surge of mobile telephony, wherein today, more than 341 million people have access to the Internet (International Telecommunication Union, 2016). In summary, there were 147 million Facebook users in Africa as of June 2016 (, other Internet users represents 334,000,000 while Mobile subscribers were approximately 557,000,000 (ITU Facts and Figures 2016).

Despite the growing access to cyberspace and proliferation in the use of social media, the opportunities abound for socio-economic development have not been widely harnessed by the youths who are predominant users of cyberspace to advance learning, economics and other productive activities. The foregoing and other factors accounts for widespread of poverty and poor economic growth in Nigeria. This situation thus suggests a critical evaluation of the difference between general access to cyberspace and its actual utilisation. This is true because, access to cyberspace without proper utilisation and regulations can result in cyberspace abuse which could result in cyber-fraud, gambling, cyber-prostitution, cyber terrorism and other nonproductive activities. The consequential effect of the foregoing would hinder opportunities for self development, economic growths and further encourage widespread of poverty in Nigeria.

Undoubtedly, legitimate and productive utilisation of cyberspace particularly by youths would automatically foster socio-economic development and placing some reasonable form of controls on information flows and freedom of expression in the online platforms could helps to deter crimes such as cyber-fraud, child pornography, drug trafficking, terrorism and other non productive activities (Cyber Crimes Act (2015, No. 14).

As documented in the Nigeria Human Development Report 2008/09 (HDR) published by UNDP in December 2009, 54.4% of the population lives below the national poverty line (UNDP, 2009). This report also revealed the ravaging effects of poverty in Nigeria due to several factors, including cyberspace abuse. Arguably, the rise of communication technology and cyberspace/internet access has resulted in unprecedented increase in the incidence of criminal activities online and offline; and the increase in the incidence of online crimes and other non productive cyberspace activities pose great challenges to both individual and national economic growth in Nigeria. The foregoing has continued to impact negatively on the government effort to alleviate poverty and purse any meaningful developmental agenda. Thus, this paper is set to address some of the fundamental issues raised by exploring a conceptual framework, the state of cyberspace in Nigeria, the nexus between cyberspace and poverty proliferation, concluding remarks and a list of recommendations were suggested to tackle the challenges posed by cyberspace abuse to socio-economic development in Nigeria.

Conceptual Framework on Poverty

To categorise a particular individual or group of people as poor, simply implies that such individual or group do not enjoy the choices and opportunities which are most basic to human development and which make it possible to live a long, healthy, well-nourished and self accomplished life: which involves the privileges to be educated and to have a reasonable standard of living, be able to live in freedom, self-respect, dignity and to participate in community (Human Development Report (UNDP, 1997).

Similarly, as observed by Royal Town Planning Institute (2016) poverty connotes the absence of requirements that add values and quality to people's personal being and enhances their earning capacity which includes; job opportunities, quality education, public services, safe streets, green spaces, leisure and entertainment. The aforementioned qualities of life are mostly accessible in particular locations and by particular class of people - which implies that poverty is highly determines by people geographical location and their social class. Put differently, people's health status, access to quality education, employment opportunities and the possibility to build wealth and improve well-being are substantially shaped by both people's socio-economic status and where they live (OECD, 2014).

According to the United Nations (2010), poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. Poverty also connotes lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. In another perspective, poverty can implies not having enough to feed and clothe oneself and family, not having access to quality education and health care, lack of access to land on which to grow one's needed food, unemployment, lack of access to credit facilities. Poverty could also connote vulnerability to insecurity and outbreak of communicable diseases, voiceless and exclusion from civil and political participation, susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.

In the same vein, the World Bank define poverty as a conspicuous deprivation in wellbeing which includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one's life. The World Bank's "Voices of the Poor," based on research with over 20,000 poor people in 23 countries, identifies a range of factors which poor people identify as part of poverty. These include: Precarious livelihoods, excluded locations, physical limitations, gender relationships, problems in social relationships, lack of security, abuse by those in power, disempowered institutions, limited capabilities and weak community organizations (Tettey, 2008).


The proliferation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) provides better opportunity to enhance democracy and citizen participation in governance in Africa and other parts of the world. Thus, the digital technology has expanded the breadth of possibilities for people to enjoy freedoms of expression and association that serves as an enabler for enjoying the right of access to information CIPESA (2016).

The term cyber has evolved from the work of Norbert Wiener, who defined the term cybernetics in his book as "control and communication in the animal and the machine" (Wiener 1948). His idea emanated from the assumption that humans can interface with machines and that the resulting system can provide an alternative environment for interaction. The foregoing provides a foundation for the concept of cyberspace.

According to the US Department of Defence, cyberspace is "a global domain within the information environment consisting of the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, including the Internet, telecommunications...

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