A coalition designed to drive down the cost of connecting to the Internet in the developing world has been launched today.
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation, plans to advocate for regulatory reform to drive down what the group says are artificially high internet prices in developing countries until they reach 5 per cent of monthly income, a target set by the UN Broadband Commission.
The group, which includes industry heavyweights like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Cisco and Intel, estimates that reaching this target would help to connect the two-thirds of the world that is presently not connected to the Internet.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, said: “The reason for the Alliance is simple; the majority of the world’s people are still not online, usually because they can’t afford to be.
“In Mozambique, for example, a recent study showed that using just 1GB of data can cost well over two months’ wages for the average citizen. The result of high prices is a digital divide that slows progress in vital areas such as health, education and science.
“Yet with the advent of affordable smartphones, new undersea cables and innovations in wireless spectrum usage, there is simply no good reason for the digital divide to continue. The real bottleneck now is anti-competitive policies that keep prices unaffordable. The Alliance is about removing that barrier and helping as many as possible get online at reasonable cost.”
The group, launched at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation’s Annual Forum in Abuja, Nigeria, is backed also by governmental organisations including the UK Department for International Development, USAID, the US State Department and the Government of Sweden.
The Alliance will begin in-country engagements with three to four States by the end of 2013, expanding to at least twelve countries by the end of 2015 and members have committed to a set of policy best practices that will guide advocacy work at the international level.
The key policy levers they hope to use to drive prices down include allowing innovative allocation of spectrum, promoting infrastructure sharing, and increasing transparency and public participation in regulatory decisions.
Dr Bitange Ndemo, honorary chairperson of A4AI and former Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications, said: “In Kenya, we saw the number of internet users more than double in a single year after we liberalised markets.
“Now we need to spark the same revolution on broadband costs and access, not only in my country but around the world. To achieve this, we will use our combined voices, leadership and expertise to press for fair, competitive and socially responsible markets.”
Visit A4AI's website for more on the project.