Internet access set to triple in Nigeria

Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:11pm GMT

By Chijioke Ohuocha

LAGOS (Reuters) - The number of people with internet access in Nigeria could triple over the next two years, mirroring the explosion in mobile phone usage in Africa's most populous nation, an industry executive said on Wednesday.

Funke Opeke, chief executive of the Main One Cable Company which has laid a 7,000 km fibre optic cable linking West Africa to Europe, forecast at least one in three people in Nigeria could have direct internet access by 2013.

"We would say a number in the 35-40 percent for internet access penetration over the next 18-24 months would be a worthwhile objective," Opeke said in an interview.

"We have a large young population. If you think of all our students in tertiary education, if you think about government migrating to e-government ... if you think of businesses which are not yet fully automated," she said.

Current internet penetration in Nigeria, a country of more than 150 million people, is estimated at around 11 percent.

Main One's cable, launched with U.S firm Tyco last year, runs from Portugal to Nigeria and Ghana, and also branches out to Morocco, the Canary Islands, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

Opeke said Main One had contracts with major telecoms providers in Nigeria including South African group MTN, Indian company Bharti Airtel and Abu Dhabi operator Etisalat as well as Tigo in Ghana, and was starting services in Togo.

Poor internet infrastructure is a major challenge for businesses operating in Nigeria, with firms that can afford it long forced to rely on expensive satellite links.   Continued...

<p>Craig Barrett (C), chairman of Intel and the world's biggest computer chip maker, looks on as a student of Gwarinpa secondary school uses a laptop computer in Abuja, October 31, 2007. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde</p>
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