The internet has gradually become the hope of many people around the globe to become active citizens. Many years ago in Nigeria, the internet was for the rich, in fact at the initial stage of internet penetration in Nigeria, even the rich couldn’t afford to have internet access from the comfort of their homes. In the late nineties, only few business centers with huge funds could afford internet services via a cable connection. And to make use of this service, only the rich could afford spending over 30 minutes browsing the net for information and sending emails. The poor would submit the email to be sent and pay a fixed price.
But gradually, the internet access has evolved. Now, from the comfort of a smart phone, anyone can access the internet. In fact, anyone can now become an activist with just a smart phone. A smart phone has image and motion features as well as internet connectivity. And with just an image or a video and a good caption posted on social media, there could be a revolution as we have seen in the Arab spring. This is why different governments are trying hard to make sure the internet is not open to everyone. After the last military rule in Nigeria and full embrace of democracy, internet penetration and awareness has been on the increase, according to Internet World Stats, from 2000 to 2015, the internet penetration in Nigeria grew from 0.1% to 51.1%. This means that more than half of Nigeria’s population now has access to the internet. This also means that half of Nigeria’s population can use the internet to take actions that will contribute to improving the country’s democracy and governance.
There are now many internet tools that anyone can use to become active citizens. Tools like YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, Twitter, Instagram, Blogs, etc are now being used to create new technologies and opportunities for citizens to become active. Indra de Lanerolle, said in his article titled ‘Technology can boost active citizenship – if it’s chosen well’, "Civic technology initiatives are on the rise. They are using new information and communication technologies to improve transparency, accountability and governance – faster and more cheaply than before". He went further to highlight some examples of how citizens are using the internet to track political contributions, create channels for public participation, and gather public votes among others. In Nigeria for example, there are organizations that now use the internet to make public government’s budgets and expenditure, government’s procurement processes, as well as other government’s activities that were hitherto not open to everyone.
There are growing opportunities for an average citizen to get real information and take action based on the information. The newly launched web platform, iTakeActions, is a perfect example of an opportunity to take actions for the advancement of public education in Nigeria. On the platform, citizens are presented with various calls for actions. Each action is to enable Nigerian citizens express opinions on any issues they are comfortable with.
There are now numerous and growing opportunities on the internet that when properly utilized, will shape modern democracy across the globe. As concerned citizens, we must continue to explore these opportunities if we want to see our desired democratic positive changes become reality.
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