By Emmanuel Udom
Media Rights Agenda (MRA) today called on governments at all levels in Nigeria to adopt appropriate policies and make the necessary investments to get all Nigerians connected to the Internet while ensuring their safety online regardless of age, gender, social or economic status.
In a statement to commemorate this year’s Safer Internet Day, MRA contended that connecting all Nigerians to the Internet while ensuring their safety online would put the government on track to fulfilling its principal role, in accordance with Section 14(2)(b) of the Constitution which states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.
MRA’s Communications Officer, Idowu Adewale, noted in the statement that “given the profound transformative impact of the Internet on the lives of individuals and societies around the world over the last few decades, it is clear that in today’s digitized world, lack of access to the Internet has far reaching negative implications and consequences for those who are deprived of access, not just in terms of the quality of lives that they have, but also in terms of their livelihoods and political participation, among others ways”.
Launched in February 2004, Safer Internet Day seeks to create a safer and a better internet, where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.
Adewale argued that an important first step by the government in seeking to connect everyone to the internet would be to take measures, including by adopting laws and policies through multi-stakeholder processes, which will ensure that Nigerians feel sufficiently safe online and are able to enjoy all the benefits that the internet provides.
He said such confidence building measures, which would cost the government very little or nothing, could then be followed by media literacy and digital literacy programmes to raise awareness about the dangers in the online environment and provide members of the public with the knowledge and tools to keep themselves safe online with their increased ability to identify the dangers that exist online and take necessary measures to safeguard themselves.
He urged the government to develop a broad-based strategy to address other barriers standing in the way of citizens getting online, including economic, social, political and cultural challenges, adding that “the measures and policies to be adopted should pay special attention to the needs and interests of marginalized communities in Nigeria who are most impacted by the reality of digital exclusion.”
He said: “MRA calls on the Federal Government to create a digital environment where all Nigerians can get online, not only to enable them to exercise and enjoy their rights, but also to boost social and economic development in the country while enhancing the possibility of political participation by all Nigerians.”