Internet Access in Nigeria: Mobile Phones, Issues, and Millennials.

Author:Kolawole, Mercy


This paper interrogates mobile phones in the context of online patronage and ease of Internet access in Nigeria and adopts an exploratory and sociological research design wherein data was collected qualitatively through interviews and focus group discussion and analysed descriptively using the interpretive method based on findings that show that mobile phones are popularly portrayed as potent allies in the quest for democracy and development. Thus, the paper concludes that with the advancement in the technology, one would wonder why Internet access cannot be free or as cheap as it is in other parts of the developing world.


Towards the globalization process, mobile phones and Internet access have become veritable tools almost nobody can do without. In many countries where mobile phones are available, the device has almost become a second personality. Mobile phones have become part of our everyday lives that go everywhere, hence, it has become part of us to the extent that when we have an important appointment, and we forget your cell phone, it becomes imperative to return to pick it up, and be late for the appointment, and in other cases, one may become paranoid, imagining a ringing phone or the sound of his/ her mobile app beeping as a way of notification for announcing new messages.

Hence, this paper seeks to address the way young people have converted Internet usage for an alleviation of their poverty by: exhibiting creativity, taking risks with Ponzi schemes, engaging entrepreneurship, the upgrading of phones as a sense of "big-boynism and big-girlism" as per techno-centrist discourse associated with the Internet which diverts attention from the actual situation that is largely characterized by poor equipment, poverty, social inequality and economic dependency. In other words, I argue here that mobile phones and Internet access can only heighten social, ideological or cultural dimensions of daily life, and thus, "they are not decisive in shaping or governing our relationships or our behaviours.

However, mobile phones are not 'just tools', because they are associated with meanings; they are also 'enchanted and enchanting devices' to which all kinds of expectations are attached."(Obadare, 2010).

Obadare elaborates more, stating that:

"There is something essentially liberating about owning a mobile phone. For the owner, the mobile phone performs a myriad of 'miracles', central among which are the ability to be multi-locational or trans-locational. As the networks connecting people in the global village become denser, so also does the need for communication increase"(Obadare, 2010: 99).

Digital Marginalization

In the case where there is a mobile phone, but Internet access is denied, one is included in what Laguerre (2010) called the "digital marginalization", a process that can be caused by many factors, including poor network, lack of access to digital devices, or e-literacy. And in reference to when Internet access is denied, it not only deflates the productivity and creativity of African millennials (those born in the early 1980s and the mid-1990s to early 2000s), but also points to a functionalist view of Internet inequality constituted through the "divides" of accessibility, censored participation, and acceptability in the Internet economy, and thus, "Understanding the staggering nature of this problem would require telling the stories of young Internet entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa, who continue to be marginalized while investing and contributing to the Internet economy" (Counted and Arawole, 2016).

Returning to Laguerre, he asks "... if Internet access is the answer, then what is the question?", and position that aligns with Alzouma (2011:2) in "that the possibilities attached to these technologies (mobile phones, laptops and Internet) are largely exaggerated and that the introduction of the Internet cannot in itself amount to structural, social and economic transformation". Hence, his classification of the digital marginalization process is as useful part of the digital divide concept, and thus involves issues concerning: exclusion embedded design, appropriation, access, usage, policy and reproduction with a special look at design because it is about the profit-driven design made for the common user wherein sales are made for a specific use, then publicity for sales will favour a particular group more than the others, and thus, the tool/service is made available and less expensive in one market/sites compared to other markets/sites.

The question of digital marginalization is complex and an ongoing concern at every turn, especially when the major language of the Internet is the English language, and then the question is what happens to those that do not read or write in English, are they marginalized forever?

This work doesn't engage this topic, however it is a controversial matter and in any case the relative representation of languages in the network is a fast changing data, although it is considered that amongst the more than 6000 existing languages less than 500 have a digital existence. And specifically, data about languages can be specified either as related only to mother tongue (also referred to as first language and noted L1) or as related to first language plus second language spoken (L1+L2) with data on second languages far from being consensual and the differences are one of the main cause of discrepancy between data on languages used on the Internet. Yet, in terms of users, there is a consensus to state that the top three languages are respectively English, Chinese and Spanish; beyond the consensus is lost; and in terms of contents, there is no consensus on the order of languages beyond the fact that English is still the first language in terms of contents...

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