The country’s fledging Internet sub-sector, particularly the last mile point of delivering service to end users via cybercafe, may have improved considerably in the last two years, but there is still no cause for cheer, according to a new status report on the Internet industry by ICT Watch Nigeria, a non governmental organisation based in Lagos.

There are about 852 active cybercafes in the country with Lagos leading with 341 cafes followed by Oyo (Ibadan) with 78 cafes and Port Harcourt (Rivers) with 32 cafes. Of this figure, only 127 cafes are connected to the Net via Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs). The implication is that of all the active cafes, which are less than 1000 in all, only a 127, or less than 25 pee cent can actually guarantee uninterrupted access to the Internet backbone.

To address this problem and push up access to the Net particularly in rural areas, suburban centres and other largely under-served communities, ICT Watch had last year launched the Nigeria Internet Project (NIP).

" We want to increase the number of cafes in the country and improve on the number of people that have access to the information superhighway at a cost-effective manner. We want to demonstrate that you do not have to spend a fortune to set up and operate a self-serving Internet cafe.

"We also want to re-direct the focus of organisations and individuals with the wherewithal to invest in opening knowledge windows to less privilege Nigerians and at the same time create job opportunities," said Lai Omotola, national co-ordinator of NIP.

Parts of the objectives of the NIP include to provide Internet access in all the 36 states including Abuja, to help inculcate a positively enhancing Net culture for the dissemination, sharing of knowledge and to ultimately foster a sustainable platform for e-commerce.

"Our method is simple. We encourage wealthy individuals, organisations and donor agencies to establish funds to set up Internet cafes at any locations in the country," said Omotola.

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