More than 4 billion people remain offline, and low- and middle-income countries are on track to meet the 2020 goal of universal internet access 20 years behind schedule, according to the Alliance for Affordable Internet. Cost is one big problem, the group argues.
In Africa, one gigabyte of prepaid mobile data costs the average resident nearly 18 percent of their monthly income, according to a Alliance for Affordable Internet.
For years, internet access has been considered to be “affordable” if 500 megabytes (MB) of data can be bought for less than five percent of average monthly incomes, the group notes. Of course, over time, all usage rules must be revised upwards.
So A4AA now recommends a standard of 1GB as a minimum monthly allocation. Also, prices should be at a level of two percent or less of average monthly income.
A4AA research has shown that when prices drop to this point, more income groups, often including the bottom 20 percent, can afford to connect.
So the group’s new target is 1 for 2, 1GB of data for no more than two percent of income. Unfortunately, of the 58 countries covered in this year’s Affordability Report, just 19 have met this “1 for 2” target.
The group recommends countries take several actions:
- Public access, such as for schools and local centres, public WiFi, and community networks
- Foster competition
- Release more spectrum
- Promote infrastructure and resource sharing
- Fund and deploy universal service and access funds
- Plan and implement those plans