Internet pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee is backing the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), a group of private and public companies pushing for regulatory reform to drive down internet access prices in developing countries.
“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,” said Berners-Lee.
He gives the example of Mozambique where a recent study showed that using just 1GB of data can cost over two months’ wages for the average citizen.
“The result of high prices is a widening digital divide that slows progress in vital areas such as health, education and science,” he added. “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.”
By advocating open, competitive and innovative broadband markets, A4AI aims to help access prices fall below 5 per cent of monthly income worldwide, a target set by the UN Broadband Commission.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, reaching this goal would help connect two-thirds of the world’s population currently not connected to the internet.
A4AI announced a range of plans at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation’s Annual Forum in Abuja, Nigeria, on 7 October.
They include in-country engagements with three to four states by the end of 2013, expanding to at least twelve countries by the end of 2015.
Key policy areas to drive prices down include “allowing innovative allocation of spectrum, promoting infrastructure sharing, and increasing transparency and public participation in regulatory decisions”.
A4AI says it will produce an annual ‘Affordability Report’, with the first edition being unveiled in December 2013.
The alliance was initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation (founded by Berners-Lee). It is sponsored by Google, Omidyar Network (a philanthropic investment firm), the UK Department for International Development, and the United States Agency for International Development.
The intenet.org initiative – whose founding members are Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung – was launched in August.
Its aim is to bring connectivity to the five billion people around the world currently without access to the internet by developing and adopting technologies that makes mobile connectivity more affordable.