By Temitope Ponle
ECOWAS says it will expand access to affordable internet connection to promote growth and development in the sub-region.
In a statement issued by the commission in Abuja on Wednesday, the sub-regional bloc said it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the World Wide Web Foundation to work toward expanding access to fixed-line and mobile internet.
The MoU was also aimed at supporting a research agenda that will provide robust evidence for developing the policies needed to expand access in West Africa.
The signing of the agreement makes ECOWAS a member of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), an international coalition of organisations working to reduce the cost of internet connection and increase broadband access globally.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Telecommunications and Information Technology, Mr Isaias Barreto da Rosa, reiterated the bloc’s commitment to sustainable development in the sub-region.
Barreto da Rosa explained that the opportunities for entrepreneurship and and growth through accessible internet connection were limitless.
“Achieving our vision for a stronger West Africa will require us putting internet access at the heart of our work.
“Working with the A4AI to develop the smart policies needed to promote competition and growth in the telecommunications sector and enable connection prices to fall is a critical step toward expanding access and allowing our citizens to tap into the vast development potential on the web.
“We are proud to be the newest member of A4AI, and look forward to working closely with all of the Alliance members to making affordable internet access a reality for all.”
A4AI is the world’s broadest technology sector coalition, with more than 80 members from across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, including Google, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
Launched in 2013 by the World Wide Web Foundation, A4AI is currently working in six countries to drive down the cost of broadband internet through locally driven policy and regulatory change.
The countries are: Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Mozambique, Myanmar, and the Dominican Republic.
According to the statement, nearly 75 per cent of Africa’s population currently remains unconnected.
Affordability remains a significant barrier to increased access across the continent, as broadband prices throughout many of the ECOWAS countries remain expensive.
Through collaborative work on research, capacity building, and policy making, ECOWAS and A4AI will work to develop and implement the policy and regulatory frameworks needed to reduce the cost of connection for service providers and consumers.