Could you imagine Internet access eating up more than a month’s worth of your salary?
In some parts of the world such a scenario is a daily reality, according to Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), a coalition of more than 30 private and public sector organization which officially launched yesterday.
The alliance, which was initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation, aims to lead policy and regulatory reform to “drive down artificially high Internet prices in developing countries” and help realize the United Nations Broadband Commission’s target of making online access prices fall to below five per cent of the monthly income of a user. The A4AI made the announcement Monday at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization’s annual forum at Abuja, Nigeria.
“The reason for the alliance is simple – the majority of the world’s poor are still not online, usually because they can’t afford to be,” said Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web and founder of the world Wide Web Foundation. :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 alliance will begin in-country engagements with three to four states by the end of 2013 and extend talks to at least 12 more countries by 2015. Members will also set policy best practices for advocacy work and will produce an annual Affordability report beginning December this year.
Among the members of A4AI are: Google Inc., USAid, UKAid, and philanthropic investment firm, Omidya Network.
With the advent of affordable smart phones, new undersea cables and advances in wireless spectrum technology there is no reason for the “digital divide” to go on, said Berners-Lee.
“The real bottleneck now is anti-competitive policies that keep prices unaffordable,” he said.
Dr. Bitange Nidemo, honorary chairperson of A4AI, said Internet access has tremendous potential to improve the lives of millions in developing countries.
“In Kenya , we saw the number of Internet users more than double in a single year after we liberalized markets,” according to Nidemo who is also known as the Father of Broadband in Kenya. “Now we need to spark the same revolution on broadband cost and access not only in my country but around the world.”