The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has released the 2019 Internet Affordability Report, a research and analysis of how policies in lower- and middle-income countries affect the costs of internet connectivity for the population. The report makes a case for public access.
The report this year emphasises that healthy broadband markets together with public access solutions – free or low-cost internet connections available in places such as libraries and telecenters – can expand connectivity and promote digital inclusion.
The 2019 Internet Affordability report says progress has been made by lower-income countries in bringing down the costs of internet access through various policy changes, noting however, that overall progress is slow, and that that world is likely to be years or decades away from affordable and meaningful internet access for all.
The report recommends three key policy measures to bring down internet costs for end-users with two of these focusing on building a competitive and stable broadband market, while the third measure puts emphasis on public internet access as a crucial complement to these measures.
Making a case for public access, the report explains that availability of public internet access in places such as libraries and telecentres has several crucial advantages including: bringing more people online and fostering digital inclusion; has financial benefits as people can take advantage of public connectivity to make use of e-finance services and engage in e-commerce; and it also provides public access solutions while simultaneously promoting inclusive support for digital skills.
Libraries, the report says, work to realise the full potential of public access and this is demonstrated by the experience of many libraries which shows how these benefits of public access can be realised in practice.
Giving example of the benefit in this area, the report says libraries are well-positioned to run targeted outreach programmes to broaden access opportunities for underserved groups. Specifically, libraries can build partnerships to deliver ICT, digital skills and assistive technology use training for people with disabilities as it is being done in the Philippines, to computer literacy classes for women, being carried out by a Tunisian library, libraries have a long tradition of helping underserved populations get online.
The report finds that libraries also provide access to e-learning platforms and resources, and often develop their own digital learning materials, programs and courses. They can establish partnerships to broaden the range of e-learning opportunities available to their communities, and ensure their financial sustainability like the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) varsity programmes like that being implemented in the City of Johannesburg libraries.
It reiterated that public access remains an important part of the road towards achieving universal access as it can provide new opportunities and make a difference.
The full report can be downloaded from http://mediarightsagenda.net/web/docs/A4AI_Affordability_Report_for_2019.pdf.
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) is a global coalition of businesses, governments and civil society actors – works to help deliver affordable internet access for all through research, advocacy, and engaging with governments and partners in different countries around the world.