Pricey broadband holds back Zambia’s poor from internet-access

Bharti Airtel
Bharti Airtel

Zambians who live on less than $2 a day have to fork out 35% of their monthly incomes if they want mobile broadband, says the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).

A4AI, which is a global coalition to drive down internet access costs in developing countries, has revealed this figure in its announcement that global mobile phone body, the GSMA, is its latest member.

“A4AI’s recent affordability report highlighted that for those living on less than $2 a day, mobile broadband costs in excess of 20% of monthly incomes in many countries, and skyrockets to as much as 48% of income in Colombia, and 35% in Zambia,” said Sonia Jorge, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, in a statement.

“Working with the GSMA and its members to lower cost structures and develop innovative delivery approaches will be a significant boost to our efforts. We must drive broadband prices down rapidly to enable billions more – particularly women and underserved rural communities – to access the life-changing potential of the internet,” Jorge added in the statement.

Meanwhile, the GSMA has expressed its goal to help make a dent in low mobile broadband uptakes in developing nations.

“We welcome the opportunity to become a member of the Alliance for Affordable Internet and to help tackle one of the most pressing technological challenges in less-developed countries,” said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA, in a statement.

“According to GSMA Intelligence, penetration rates of mobile subscribers are as low as 20% in Ethiopia, 28% in India and 30% in Pakistan, though high levels of multiple SIM ownership mean the numbers of mobile connections are higher.

“There is an urgent need for affordable smartphones, the rapid, economically viable deployment of wireless broadband infrastructure in rural areas and the promotion of digital literacy to help connect the unconnected in underserved communities around the world,” Bouverot added.

Other A4AI members include Alcatel-Lucent, the Association for Progressive Communications, Cisco, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, Ericsson, Facebook, Google, Intel, the Internet Society, Microsoft, the Omidyar Network, Research ICT Africa, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), USAID and Yahoo!

Meanwhile, A4AI says in-country work in Ghana and Nigeria is planned to start in the first quarter of 2014.

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