In 2016, The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) called on countries to adopt a new, more ambitious target for what counts as ‘affordable’ internet access — a 1GB bundle costing no more than 2% of monthly incomes, or “1 for 2”.
Nigeria recently became the first nation to formally endorse this target.
A4AI is a broad coalition of member organisations from across the civil society, public, and private sectors. Through a combination of advocacy, research and knowledge sharing, A4AI works together to enable affordable Internet access for everyone, everywhere.
The Body also congratulated Nigeria for her vision in taking this step, and “we stand ready to help make it a reality for all of her citizens,” A4AI said.
To decide on the target, A4AI ‘2015-16 Affordability Report’ showed that at this level, broadband is likely to be affordable to most, or all, population groups.
By contrast, its research showed that the current UN-agreed target of 500MBs for 5% or less of income is likely to restrict access to the relatively well-off, while also severely restricting the amount of time people can spend online.
Recognising this, a speech by Barrister Adebayo Shittu, Nigeria’s minister of Communications, delivered by Arch. Sunday Echono, permanent secretary in the Ministry, at the A4AI-Nigeria Coalition meeting on January, 2017 noted, “Consequently, A4AI and the Ministry share the common goal to make the Internet universally affordable for all who want to use it. This goal is quantified in a measure of having 1 Gigabyte of bandwidth not costing more than 2% of a person’s monthly income.”
The Body described the commitment as a significant step forward. “A4AI’s 80+ local coalition members — drawn from the public sector, private sector and civil society — are committed to helping the Ministry translate this target into benefits for all Nigerians. What is more, ECOWAS has also formally endorsed the target and recommended it for adoption by its 16 member states, and so we hope to see similar commitments from other West African nations soon”.
Earlier, A4AI report indicated that a new affordability target is needed to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 9c
The UN Broadband Commission currently defines broadband as affordable if an entry-level (500MB) data plan is available at less than 5% of average monthly income (i.e., GNI per capita). However, this definition of affordability does not account for poverty and income inequality — two major challenges facing the world today.
As the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) 2015-16 Affordability Report shows, assessing affordability using the current measure can be misleading.
In South Africa, for example, average income (as measured by GNI per capita in 2014) was US$6790, but 60% of the population actually earn less than half of that amount.
In practice, this means that a seemingly affordable mobile Internet connection (priced at 1.48% of “average” monthly income) actually costs the majority of South Africans anywhere between 6-19% of their income.
The idea of a national “average” income is further skewed by gender inequality in earnings; across the globe, women earn 30-50% less than their male counterparts.
This means that a country can meet the UN’s top-level affordability target, but still see a significant proportion of its population unable to afford to connect to the Internet.
The “1 for 2” target ensures that income is not a barrier to access
“The current 5% affordability target is insufficient in a world where income inequality is increasing. Even in countries that have achieved the 5% target, entry-level broadband (500MB) is still too expensive for at least the bottom 20% of income earners in the country — and much too often remains out of reach for all those except the top 20% of income earners.
Using a national average income does not account for income inequality and the unequal distribution of income found across many countries.
“Unfortunately, the reality is that country data on income distribution is limited; as a result, using a national average (i.e., GNI per capita) remains the most effective measure for tracking progress. The national average measure, however, must move below the current 5% threshold for the reasons mentioned above.
“In determining what a more accurate target should be, A4AI analysis shows that when prices drop to 2% or less of GNI per capita, all levels of income earners, including the bottom 20%, can afford a basic broadband connection. At the 4% and 3% levels, mobile broadband remains unaffordable for the bottom 20% of income earners in several countries. A more ambitious 2% threshold will allow a broadband connection to become truly affordable for all income groups, enabling billions more to come online,” the Body posted on its website.