While Asia and Africa remain the lowest in internet penetration with 48.1% and 35.1% respectively as at the 3rd quarter of last year, countries in the European Union recorded a whopping 85.7% internet penetration.
According to the Findings released recently by Internet World Stats, American continent has an internet penetration of 88.1% while Latin America follows closely with 66.1% internet infiltration.
However, since then, there has been a lot of progress in Nigeria and the rest of Africa as the ‘Digital in 2018’ report released by ‘We are Social and Hootsuite’ shows that , Africa has seen the fastest growth rates in internet penetration, with the number of internet users across the continent increasing by more than 20% compared to 2017.
Regardless of progress made so far, if Nigeria and Africa will catch up with the rest of the world in a digital age, stakeholders need to rise to the occasion and show commitment strong enough to bring all efforts at deepening internet penetration on the continent to fruition. And this is why the recent ‘Red Cheetah’ announcement made by the leading broadband service provider, SWIFT Networks, is a step in the right direction not just for Nigeria, but also Africa.
In March, SWIFT announced that it will distribute about 10,000 free hotspots across different centres in Lagos State. The Red Cheetah free Wi-Fi service innovation which was birthed in 2016 and unveiled two years after, follows in SWIFT’s tradition of demystifying and making technology to work for Nigerians so that they can hook up to the digital world to explore, work and entertain more effectively and efficiently.
On SWIFT’s rationale for this innovation, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the company, Charles Anudu, noted that the digital world has come to stay and the only way to ensure productivity is by providing the teeming masses with a means to remain digitally inclined. In his words: “In Nigeria, most people do not have internet and unfortunately the people who do not have this internet are those who need it the most. Therefore, bringing free broadband service to the masses will boost the economy and equip the youths in many ways.”
This cutting edge service model will start with an initial 10,000 hotspots distributed to institutions across Lagos State over the next six months and will extend rapidly to more cities in Nigeria and the continent. Already, within a month after announcement, the Red Cheetah hotspots are available in over 500 locations including Murtala Muhammed Airport 2, Hard Rock Café, Eko Hospital, VGC Club, over 200 BRT Buses, among others, with more locations being added on a daily basis in a bid to meet the target of 10,000 locations within Lagos State over a period of six months.
Conceiving the sustainability of the Red Cheetah project, coupled with the need to offer the service 100% free if it will truly drive internet penetration in the country, SWIFT struck partnerships with leading global brands committed to supporting the innovation with advertising revenue. Excellent as it sounds, it fascinates even further to know that everything about the Red Cheetah project is truly Nigerian, an indicator of the extent the country can go when we commit to solving the problems of our society taking our context into consideration.
As a testament to the dogged background efforts that went into this innovation especially in the area of security and cyber-attacks, the Chief Operating Officer of SWIFT, Chukwuma Okoye, enthused that “The security of every user’s access is enhanced by the Red Cheetah App which establishes a distinct and secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection to the internet for each device on the platform.” He strongly believes that this dogged work of over two years is the ideal model that will empower Nigerians to live their most productive lifestyles in a digital world.
Indeed, the digital world is here to stay and internet is the driver. The benefits of an innovation such as the Red Cheetah free Wi-Fi service cannot be overemphasised in an environment such as ours. Not only will it drive internet penetration that will ensure Nigeria and the African continent catch up with the rest of the world, it will also champion productive lifestyle in a constantly moving universe.
No doubt, SWIFT’s Red Cheetah model comes off as a right step in the right direction towards quickly attaining an all-inclusive digital society and key stakeholders need to join in and partner if the initiative is to become sustainable and scalable over time.