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Underserved and impoverished communities living in the Niger Delta region (southern Nigeria) will soon see internet access expanded in their area thanks to a US-funded study to be conducted there in the near future.

The feasibility study, which will include a pilot project to test fixed wireless broadband technology as a solution, will be funded by the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA).

USTDA, a US government-controlled institution, said last week the funding for the study has been approved to help Ekovolt Telco Limited, a Nigerian company, execute the internet expansion project.

Ekovolt has selected Georgia-based Vernonburg Group LLC to conduct the study.

The study will also include a test deployment of Motorola’s 4G LTE technology as a potential solution for expanding connectivity for up to 550 000 users.

“Quality internet infrastructure is critical to Nigeria’s economic growth. This is why USTDA is prioritising partnerships with companies like Ekovolt,” retired Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally, USTDA’s acting director, said in a statement.

"Through our Access Africa initiative, USTDA is connecting high-quality US solutions to support the deployment of critical broadband infrastructure in Nigeria and communities all across Africa.”

Emeka Ebo, Ekovolt MD, said: “We are excited to partner with USTDA to create a more inclusive digital economy in the Niger-Delta region."

Ebo pointed out that the partnership and collaboration with US technology companies, including Motorola, provided the platform to adopt, test and deploy innovative wireless technologies.

“This will help us promote local digital solutions that improve access to healthcare, literacy and commerce,” he noted.

The Niger Delta region, a large but underdeveloped and violence-hit area of southern Nigeria, is home to around 30 million people frustrated to suffer the worst impacts of the oil industry and gain little of the potential benefits, the Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) said.

Despite its natural resource wealth, many parts of the Niger Delta lack access to basic services, such as electricity, sanitation, and primary healthcare and education – and unemployment rates are high, SDN added.

US authorities say the internet access project in this region advances the Biden-Harris Administration’s Build Back Better World partnership.

It also supports Access Africa, USTDA’s initiative to advance the development of inclusive, secure, and sustainable ICT infrastructure across Africa, and the US government’s Prosper Africa initiative to substantially increase two-way trade and investment between the US and Africa.

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