BrandArena: A Wake-up Call To Policymakers, Business Leaders And Civil Society

Monday 22 February 2016

A Wake-up Call To Policymakers, Business Leaders And Civil Society

Without immediate and urgent action, the world will miss the newly agreed global goal of universal Internet access by 2020. This is the key finding of the Alliance for Affordable Internet’s (A4AI’s) 2015-16 Affordability Report, released today, 22rd February.

Analysis shows that, on current trends, the world’s least developed countries will only achieve universal access in 2042 — more than 20 years past the target date set by the global community. As a result, at least one more generation in many countries will grow up excluded from the opportunities associated with Internet access.

In order to accelerate progress, the UN must set a more ambitious target for getting broadband prices down, the report argues. Even in those countries that have met the current target threshold of 5% of average income, income inequality means that nearly half a billion people — primarily women and the poor — remain priced out of the digital revolution.

The Alliance’s Affordability Drivers Index ranks Colombia, Costa Rica and Malaysia as
nations best placed to drive prices down fast.

According to the report, income inequality, gender discrimination, and poverty mean access remains unaffordable for over 70% of people in the world’s least developed countries.

The high cost to connect continues to exclude billions from the digital revolution. The global goal to provide affordable, universal Internet access focuses specifically on connecting people across the world’s least developed countries, yet 70% of people in these countries cannot afford a basic, 500MB per month broadband plan.

Bold steps are needed to accelerate connectivity among women, the poor, and other marginalised populations. Overcoming the challenges to access posed by income and gender inequalities will require policies designed with these populations in mind. Market forces cannot connect everyone — free or subsidised public access in tandem with digital education will be critical to enabling connectivity for populations left behind.

Commenting on the report’s findings, A4AI Executive Director Sonia Jorge said:
“This report must serve as a wake-up call to policymakers, business leaders and civil society everywhere. If we are serious about achieving universal access by 2020, we need to condense almost 30 years worth of work into the next five years. Immediate, collaborative action is required — let’s work together to build open and competitive markets that can drive prices down to 2% of less of monthly incomes, while creating innovative public access programmes to reach those that market forces can’t.”

Omobola Johnson, Honorary Chair of A4AI, and immediate former communications minister of Nigeria, noted: “While it is heartening to see the progress made by some countries on the Affordability Drivers Index, overall, the results make for disappointing reading. The low scores across the board show just how far we have left to go toward developing and putting into place the policies necessary to reduce broadband prices and expand access. Yet progress is possible — countries like Colombia and Rwanda are testament to this. If we work together, think big, and learn the lessons from the journey so far, we can connect billions more to the lifechanging potential of the Internet, fast.”

The Affordability Report is an annual report produced by the Alliance for Affordable Internet. It represents an ongoing effort to understand why some countries have succeeded in making Internet access more affordable, accessible, and universal, and what others can do to catch up quickly. The report provides analysis of relevant issues to understand key barriers to affordability, and develops actionable recommendations focused on how best to reduce prices and progress toward universal access. 

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