A4AI  Releases 2018 Affordability Report

Sonia Jorge, Executive Director, A4AI
Sonia Jorge, Executive Director, A4AI

Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has launched its fifth annual edition of the Affordability Report, which draws insight to issues around internet access and affordability as well as a growing number of countries acknowledging the need to put digital strategies at the heart of their plans for development and economic growth.

The 2018 Affordability Report examines how the policies to accelerate access to affordable internet have progressed over the past five years across 61 low and middle-income countries, and where they stand today.

The research finds that while policies continue to improve on the whole, the pace of policy change remains far too sluggish and incremental to effect the change needed to enable affordable access for the billions still offline.

Highlights from the report show that despite increasing recognition of the critical relationship between online access and economic growth, the pace of policy change to drive the internet prices has down- marked its slowest improvement to date, with policy scores increasing by just 1% since the turn of last year.

For the first time ever, global average policy scores went down. While policies on the whole improved marginally, scores backslide across measures of (1) the regulatory environment and (2) policies around universal and public access.

The latter is particularly worrisome given that research shows public access policies to be strongly correlated with reduced broadband prices.

Infrastructure has also been found to be at a halt. Over the past few years, progress on the drivers of affordability has been pushed primarily by improvements in access policies. Policies to expand and further develop infrastructure have stagnated — a point that is reinforced by costs that remain stubbornly high for internet providers and consumers alike.

Island Archipelago nations (Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom) face particular challenges in providing affordable internet. New analysis on the industry costs incurred in the provision of internet service shows that the cost to provide one subscriber with mobile broadband data for a year in an Island Archipelago nation like the Philippines is nearly five times the cost to do the same in a coastal nation like Nigeria.

Despite this progress, the past five years have also seen a serious slowdown in the rate at which people are coming online. Based on trends using ITU internet use data, last year’s Affordability Report predicted that 50% global internet penetration by the end of 2017 would be achieved; a downturn in the growth of internet access and use means that milestone cannot be reached until mid-2019.

In addition, Inability to afford a basic internet connection remains one of the most significant – and solvable – barriers to access. Around the world, over two billion people live in a country where just 1GB of mobile data is unaffordable.

This issue is particularly acute in low- and middle-income countries, where 1GB of data costs over 5% of what people earn in a month — a price that is well over the affordable threshold of 1GB of data priced at 2% or less of average income.

 To download the full report, please go to 2018 Affordability Report.