⇓ More from ICTworks

Status of Government Policy Progress on Internet Connectivity Prices

By Wayan Vota on January 27, 2021

internet affordability report

COVID-19 digital response has laid bare the scale and consequences of the digital divide and underlined the urgent need to find solutions to digital inequality.

Governments are being forced to reassess priorities and step up with innovative solutions to address a range of challenges across health, employment, education, and economic resiliency. As the internet and digital technology will play an increasingly important role in our world, governments must develop policies to deliver affordable and meaningful Internet connectivity to all.

The A4AI 2020 Affordability Report looks at the state of policy progress to bring down the cost of internet access and points to the importance of effective national broadband plans in providing the conditions for internet prices to decline.

Progress on Government Internet Policy

Data on policy is trending in the right direction. In the past five years, mobile broadband Internet access has become more affordable, and Affordability Drivers Index (ADI) scores have risen in most countries across Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, and the Asia-Pacific region, signalling improvement in broadband policies. Low income countries showed strong signs of improvement with 11.3% increases in overall ADI scores.

  • Broadband policies continue to improve. The average ADI score across the countries we study has risen by 13.6 points, from 42 to 55.6 since 2014, with improvements most notable in low-income countries.
  • Africa sees the biggest policy advances. While Africa remains the region with the lowest average ADI score, this year it saw the fastest improvement (6.7% since 2019), with countries improving planning, better spectrum management and supporting programmes to narrow the digital gender gap.

Three countries topping this year’s Index – Malaysia, Colombia, and Costa Rica – all stand out with the highest three scores for national broadband planning. All three meet the UN Broadband Commission’s ‘1 for 2’ affordability threshold — 1GB data for no more than 2% of average monthly income.

Progress on Reducing Internet Data Prices

Mobile broadband prices have fallen consistently among countries within the Affordability Drivers Index, with the average cost of 1GB data declining by more than half since 2015, from 7.0% to 3.1% of average monthly income.

While declining prices can be explained in part by general improvements in technology and other Internet access efficiencies, strong government policy is key to reducing costs and making sure that internet access is affordable to all. Furthermore, national differences persist and pose serious challenges to universal access.

  • Asia-Pacific is the regional leader for broadband strategy. At a regional level Asia-Pacific countries have the highest average ADI policy scores for broadband strategy and public access. And consumers pay the lowest prices, at less than 1.5% of the average monthly income for 1GB of mobile broadband.
  • Rwanda has effective national broadband planning. It has seen 1GB data fall to less than a fifth of its 2015 price, from 20.2% to 3.39% of average monthly income, and made faster progress than its East African neighbours which have less robust broadband planning.

While the overall trend is encouraging, progress on reducing prices remains too slow, particularly as Covid-19 has shown beyond doubt that internet access is not a luxury but a lifeline. 1GB is the minimum that allows someone to use the internet effectively; yet, the high cost to connect means billions of people are missing out on even this basic allowance.

Over a billion people live in the 57 countries in our survey that are yet to meet the UN Broadband Commission’s ‘1 for 2’ affordability threshold. Almost half of the world’s population remains with no internet access, and many others lack the meaningful connectivity that would allow them to engage in activities like online learning, remote working, and telehealth services.

Governments Still Need to Reduce Access Costs

A4AI analysis has found that US$428 billion additional funding is needed over the next 10 years to connect everyone to quality broadband by 2030. Governments need robust national broadband plans paired with urgent funding investments in the digital skills, content, and enabling policy frameworks that are critical to support access to meaningful connectivity. National broadband plans make the internet more affordable in three ways:

  • Make public investments more effective: Countries with strong national broadband plans tend to also have a higher score in the ADI for clearly defined and targeted public investment strategies, which supports inclusive digital growth and lowers costs.
  • Encourage private sector investments: National broadband plans give confidence for the private sector to plan on a longer-term basis and invest in better coverage and affordability. Open policy-making processes provide stability for dynamic and competitive markets to grow.
  • Create new partnerships: Inclusive practices for drafting national broadband plans have a positive influence on the effectiveness of these plans. This process brings stakeholders across sectors together to align interests and expectations and build trust.

The track record of broadband policy and prices over the past few years has made the value of broadband plans clear. Countries that do not have a plan or that set an unambitious plan risk deferring opportunities for digital growth – in both economic and social terms. As countries look to reset their long- term goals for recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, broadband planning must be a central part of that process. The experiences of the 72 countries studied in this report provide evidence of what governments can – and must – do.

Filed Under: Connectivity, Government
More About: , , , , , , ,

Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
Stay Current with ICTworksGet Regular Updates via Email

3 Comments to “Status of Government Policy Progress on Internet Connectivity Prices”

  1. Brian Wannamaker says:

    Perhaps it a problem of definitions here but the indicated goal
    “1GB data for no more than 2% of average monthly income.”
    seems short-sighted. I was able to get 1GB and more of DATA for <$Canadian 10.00 for years though a modem but only at 32 kbps. The usability of my internet now is not defined by the amount of data that I can get but by the SPEED at which I can get it or send it.

    • Wayan Vota says:

      You may want to see A4AI’s idea around “Meaningful Connectivity” as a new standard for Internet access. It goes beyond access or speed, into usage.

      • Brian Wannamaker says:

        Yes I would , but at the same time, if you are going to widely distribute your articles, I would suggest that you owe some responsibility to explain your terminology beyond a phrase that implied that one component was the only one of significance or perhaps the only one that is going in the right direction.
        “Mobile broadband prices have fallen consistently among countries within the Affordability Drivers Index, with the average cost of 1GB data declining….”