The Affordability Report is an annual report produced by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), a 100+ member global coalition hosted by the Web Foundation. 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. This year’s report examines the state of government policy to bring down broadband costs across 72 low- and middle-income countries.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that internet access is more important than ever — not a luxury, but a lifeline. But 3.5 billion people, nearly half of the global population, do not have access to the internet when they need it most, and many more have inadequate access. With over a billion people living in countries yet to meet the UN Broadband Commission’s ‘1 for 2’ affordability threshold, the high cost of data remains one of the largest barriers to connect.
This year’s report finds that things are moving in the right direction with declining prices and improving government broadband policy.
- Mobile broadband prices have fallen consistently, with the average cost of 1GB declining by more than half since 2015, from 7.0%% to 3.1%% of average monthly income.
- Some of the greatest strides are occurring in low-income countries where access rates are lowest. African consumers have seen the greatest fall – 10.9% to 4.3% – although 1GB still remains above the ‘1 for 2’ affordability target.
But progress remains too slow. As the world considers how to build back from this crisis, the report calls for governments to prioritise meaningful connectivity and develop effective national broadband plans that drive investment and enhance internet affordability.
Countries that do national broadband planning well are leaders in affordability. For better broadband planning to bring down the cost to connect, governments should:
- Consult widely: Broadband plans must include inputs from a diverse and representative set of players across the private sector, public sector, and civil society. Inclusive drafting practices lead to better plans by helping to align interests and expectations and build trust.
- Set clear targets: Plans must have clear targets that address a country’s most critical gaps and have clear, time-bound measurements. These should include at least one target for network coverage and for data affordability.
- Commit funding for implementation: Plans must come with funding commitments and a transparent assessment and review process. Without financial support for implementation, national broadband plans fail to make a long-term impact on a country’s digital development.
The 2020 edition of the Affordability Report, along with all supporting data and an interactive data explorer is available at a4ai.org/affordability-report.