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Republished with permission from APC member organisation CITAD.

The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) convened a one-day consultative meeting of civil society organisations (CSOs) on community networks as part of its participation in the project Supporting Community-led Approaches to Addressing the Digital Divide. The project is being implemented by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in partnership with Rhizomatica, with support from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) through its Digital Access Programme (DAP).

A community network is a telecommunications infrastructure deployed and operated by a local group to meet their own communication needs. It is also an infrastructure designed and erected to be managed for use by local communities. The communication needs of a community can be voice, data or others, and addressing their common communication problems can be a point of convergence of these community networks.

The meeting was attended by over 40 CSOs from different parts of the country. It was held on 27 July via Zoom and aimed to highlight the importance of community networks as a tool for addressing the digital divide.

Additionally, it was meant to explore the possibility of joint advocacy for the government to develop a policy framework for community networks, noting that at the present, the country does not have a policy for community networks and this situation has hampered their evolution and growth.

The meeting featured four presentations as follows:

  • Concept and benefits of community networks

  • Community networks in practice: The experience of Fantsuam Foundation

  • Community networks in Africa

  • The policy vacuum with respect to community networks in Nigeria


Participants observed that:

  1. There is no policy or regulation to recognise community networks as distinct operators with appropriate conditions for their operations.

  2. At the moment, there are over 100 unserved or underserved communities who are digitally excluded in the country.

  3. Although there are over 298,823,195 connected lines out of which 297,536,702 were said to be active in the country, only about 40% of these are connected to the internet, meaning that internet penetration in the country covers only about 40% of the population.

  4. Most of the blind areas are in either hard-to-reach rural communities or poor communities where affordability is a problem, hence the market mechanism is not able to provide connectivity to them since it would be unprofitable.

  5. Although the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) is favourably disposed to midwifing the policy framework for community networks, there are still many challenges that have to be addressed for community networks to flourish and be sustainable in the country.

  6. Community networks will bring opportunities for direct access to education and health care for rural residents.


Participants, believing that community networks have immense benefits in addition to providing a veritable tool for bridging the digital divide in the country, recommend that:

  1. The national regulator should hasten the processes of articulating a National Community Networks Policy for the country.

  2. The NCC should issue formal regulations allowing the use of TV white space (TVWS) technologies to address access challenges.

  3. Community networks should be categorised as a different layer of operators and be given licence exemption.

  4. Community networks should be considered as start-ups and be eligible for national support systems for such business models.

  5. Efforts should be made in expanding high speed network and network infrastructure to underserved rural communities.

  6. The government, through the USPF, NCC and NITDA, should facilitate the setting up of community network centres in rural and hard-to-reach areas.

  7. The government should support an initiative that offers free or subsidised spectrum to local communities.


The participants unanimously resolved to form a CSO Coalition on Community Networks with the following objectives:

  1. Popularise community networks as catalyst tool for addressing the digital divide and promoting digital inclusion in the country.

  2. Sensitise their community members about the importance and benefits of community networks.

  3. Conduct sustained advocacy for the national telecommunications regulator to come up with a national policy framework for community networks in the country.

  4. Support efforts by all stakeholders to address the multifarious dimensions of the digital divide in Nigeria.