“Internet access even on the smartphone is now a lottery. I was just coming out of the gate in search of a strong signal, and found it right on the street in front of Fantsuam Foundation (FF). Am now sitting on a piece of rock at the roadside to get this access. Never a dull moment here”

These were the words of John Dada, from Kaduna state in rural Nigeria.

 The connectivity challenge in FF still remains a major issue for John and his team and is a priority as as they forge ahead with the building and equipping (150 computers) for the new Computer Based Testing Centre (CBC). This would be a daunting issue for any organisation in a major city, let alone for a small organisation in rural Nigeria. The CBC is a necessity as it will be the only real alternative to enable further education for locals. The only other alternative for these impoverished students would be to fund an expensive overnight trip to a large town where they could then take these national tests online, the cost being prohibitive for most, hence John’s determination to provide a local centre for his community.

 John informed us: “We have written a reminder to the Government internet service regulator regarding our situation and we are keenly following up with them. There are some internal administrative changes within the Nigerian Communications Commission. We are waiting for the new arrangements and redeployments to settle down so that we can see who we are to follow up with regarding our connectivity.

Basically, FF is unable to pay for internet access via satellite. It is extremely expensive to get a last mile connectivity via the optic fibre whose presence is less than 2km from Fantsuam so we have to rely on the Government’s support because they can bulk purchase bandwidth and distribute it to their Community Communication Centres.

I know that we are one of the few surviving Community Communication Centres in Nigeria. Most of the CCC's have shut down or barely surviving. I think this is partly because ours is part of a Systems Building approach rather than a Silo approach.

However ZittNet Academy is not the typical CCC because it was not originally established by Government, it grew ‘out of the group’ in response to the local needs.

Maybe this is why the Government-sponsored CCCs have problem growing and staying alive: they were the Top-Down largesses brought by government without the prerequisite of community ownership.

Government and its agencies have established several CCCs across Nigeria, and over 80% of them have failed. The FF CCC is still standing and growing.

If you can get an ICT4D student with interest in last mile connectivity I think this will be fruitful area of research.

Access to Skype is easier than to Facebook; the graphics in Facebook makes it more difficult for low bandwidths.

Communications is usually by mobile phone or face to face

And the communications are almost always about health and farm work

An easily available and affordable internet access would open up opportunities for students in particular, and the farmers will be next biggest group of beneficiaries.

Mobile phones are still the easiest and most relevant means of communication because of its voice facility which does not require high level of literacy."

 As if to illustrate once again the fragility of the internet connection at towards the end of our hourly, typed meeting John informed us:

“The skype access in front of our office stopped. I have now moved to the next street in front of the Catholic church”