Guatemala and Bangladesh have become the latest countries to join the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).
On June 29, Guatemala became the seventh country — and second in Latin America — to join the Alliance, when it signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with A4AI and the Web Foundation at the first A4AI-Guatemala Multi-Stakeholder Forum.
On July 24, Bangladesh followed suit, becoming the eighth country — and second Asian country — to join the Alliance. Both countries now begin a three-year collaboration with A4AI to reform the policies needed to reduce internet prices and enable affordable access for millions more.
At first glance, connectivity costs in both Guatemala and Bangladesh appear to be relatively low — in each country, 1GB of mobile data costs somewhere around 4% of average monthly income. (A4AI defines internet as “affordable” where 1GB of mobile data can be purchased for 2% or less of average monthly income.) However, high levels of poverty and income inequality mean that for the majority of citizens in both countries the actual cost to connect is much higher — the lowest 20% of income earners in Guatemala, for example, would have to spend around 20% of their monthly income to afford this same 1GB of data.
Participants at the multi-stakeholder forums came together to discuss barriers to affordable internet in each country and to determine policy areas where advocacy efforts should be focused. In Guatemala, these areas included:
- Bolstering the country’s digital agenda (‘Nacion Digital’) and ensuring that it provides concrete steps for ensuring digital inclusion for all Guatemalans;
- Developing a clear and strong broadband plan that lays out a process for spectrum management; and
- Strengthening the legal and policy framework for a Digital Society.
In Bangladesh, stakeholders identified the following areas as priorities to be tackled:
- Public access (with a special focus on rural areas)
- Spectrum policy (including innovative uses of spectrum)
- ICT sector taxation
- Infrastructure sharing
Stakeholders from across the private, public, and civil society sectors in each country will now join together to form a national coalition, dedicated to working to shape the policy needed to tackle these obstacles to affordability, and to enable millions more in their countries to afford to connect.