Below is a list of frequently asked questions about A4AI. If you don’t find the answer to your question below, you are welcome to contact us.
Why launch A4AI? Over half the world’s population — equivalent to more than 4 billion people — remain unconnected to the Internet, entrenching a digital divide that severely hampers development and socio-economic progress. Most of those offline are women, and the majority live in the developing world. Affordability remains a key barrier to access: for the most part, those not connected to the Internet are not online because they cannot afford to be. For Norwegians, constant access to fast, uncapped broadband costs little more than the latte many buy every day on the way to the office; for Nigerians, just 500MB of mobile prepaid data can cost more than they spend on their children’s education.
By uniting diverse voices around a common goal and promoting sound, evidence-based policymaking, we believe A4AI’s coordinated approach offers the best chance for effecting the policy and regulatory changes needed to drive down costs and expand access.
What is A4AI? A4AI is a broad coalition working to drive down the cost of broadband access via policy and regulatory change, underpinned by research and knowledge sharing. The Alliance has a diverse, globally representative membership drawn from the public sector, private sector and civil society.
Why the focus on policy? Innovative technological solutions to affordability challenges are progressing apace. However, the best technologies in the world can’t drive change if monopolies or regressive policies prevent them from being implemented. Changes to policy can deliver impressive results, fast.
Who is involved? A4AI’s members include governments and government agencies, foundations, technology companies and service providers, academia and civil society organisations from both developed and less developed countries, with a strong presence from the Global South. Many of the world’s biggest ICT companies are members. The Alliance was initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation in October 2013, and the Foundation serves as the secretariat of the Alliance.
For a list of current members see: http://a4ai.org/members/
What’s the goal? To drive down the cost of broadband and make affordable, universal access a reality. Specifically, A4AI is working to achieve a “1 for 2” target: 1GB of mobile broadband priced at 2% or less of average monthly income. At this level, many of the poor and other marginalised populations that continue to be priced out of the digital revolution should be able to afford a basic broadband connection. By doing so, we hope to enable billions of users to come online (with a particular focus on low-income countries) to work toward achieving the global goal (Sustainable Development Goal 9c) of universal, affordable access by 2020. We also advocate for policies designed to accelerate universal access, including public access programmes and community-owned networks.
Learn more about why the international community and countries around the world should be striving for this “1 for 2” target and pursuing public access solutions by reading our 2015-2016 Affordability Report.
How will you do this? Our work is centred around the belief that policy and regulatory reform are the best tools to unlock technological advances and reduce the cost to connect. A4AI and its broad membership work with national governments and with multi-stakeholder coalitions in our countries of engagement to determine the local policy solutions needed to drive down prices and enable more people to come online. With a clear focus on regulatory and policy matters, A4AI helps to identify and address barriers, build case studies around success stories, bring together key stakeholders, and promote regional cooperation.
A4AI’s advocacy efforts and on-the-ground work are guided by our research and a set of policy and regulatory good practices that have been agreed to by all Alliance members. These practices operate on the understanding that open, competitive and innovative broadband markets are key to reducing connectivity costs for operators and for consumers. They also recognise that some populations will remain beyond the reach of the market, and so emphasise the need for public access initiatives (e.g., community WiFi, free or subsidised access in public schools and community centers) to bring access to women, the poor, and other marginalised populations that might still be unable to afford a broadband connection.
Does A4AI determine the policies and regulations that are implemented in countries of engagement? No. In our countries of engagement, A4AI plays an advisory and convening role. We work with the wide range of stakeholders that participate in the national coalitions to determine what the most successful policy solutions might be to drive down costs, and provide support as requested for local advocacy efforts.
Who funds A4AI? We are funded by our members, who also provide practical support.
What is the relationship between A4AI, Facebook Free Basics, Google Loon, and other programmes designed to increase Internet access in developing countries? While A4AI and these other initiatives share a common goal of enabling Internet access for more people around the world, our approaches to doing so differ. Many of these other programmes look to employ technical innovations and new business models to drive down the cost of data; A4AI has a clear focus on working to ensure the policy and regulatory frameworks in place contribute to lower costs and enable open access for all.
Who runs A4AI? The Alliance is an initiative of the World Wide Web Foundation (established by Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee). The Foundation serves as the Secretariat for the Alliance. Major decisions are made in conjunction with our Advisory Council. This is an elected 12-member, non-fiduciary board that provides oversight, strategic direction and high-level decision making for the Alliance.
Where is A4AI based? Our head office is in Washington DC, USA. We also have hubs in Cape Town, South Africa and London, UK, and regional coordinators based in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
How can I help? If you’re an organisation, you can consider joining us. Click here to read about becoming a member of A4AI. If you’re an individual, we need your help to spread to the word. Please follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook and tell as many people as possible about us! Please also keep an eye on our jobs page and consider joining the team.