This blog was written by A4AI’s Research Manager for Access and Affordability Teddy Woodhouse. Follow him on Twitter @TeddyWoodhouse.
Diya, a student, completes her classes online through Zoom. Umar, a barber, communicates with his clients through WhatsApp. Fatima, an activist, organises her community through her blog and social media. Sofía, living abroad, communicates and sends money back to their family through the internet.
These are all examples of how human life has moved online over the past two years. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the pace of this transition to digital has accelerated. In turn the cost of exclusion and the importance of affordable and meaningful connectivity has grown.
So, too, our measures of internet affordability must change.
A4AI is revising its affordability targets from ‘1 for 2’ to the ‘Journey from 1 to 5’ and encourages governments across the world to set targets for the cost of 5GB of broadband, both mobile and fixed, to be no more than 2% of average monthly incomes by 2026. This enables our targets to remain relevant to an internet that increasingly includes video content and continues to match with the volumes that are most frequently on offer in the mobile market – 1, 2, and 5 gigabytes.
“The Journey from 1 to 5 raises the ambition to increase the affordability of data at scale from first experiences online for billions of people across the globe to a sustainable minimum for people to come online and stay online for work, school, and community,” said A4AI executive director, Sonia Jorge.
A4AI will continue its price benchmarking work in collaboration with the International Telecommunications Union to collect the affordability of 1GB, 2GB, and 5GB mobile broadband and 5GB fixed broadband in over 200 countries, territories, and economies across the globe. These three price points – 1GB, 2GB, and 5GB – will form the bedrock of A4AI’s strategy for measuring affordability and setting targets for the future.
The affordability of 1GB of mobile broadband and the original ‘1 for 2’ target will continue to be an important part of A4AI’s strategy and now used as a reference point for the affordability of mobile broadband across income groups. This is an important dynamic to keep in mind for countries like South Africa, which has reached the ‘1 for 2’ nationally, with data at 1.4% of the average national income – but still remains out of reach for millions as the same cost represents nearly 12% of the average monthly income for the poorest 20% of South Africans.
“This transition to sub-national income groups as a point of comparative analysis will enable A4AI to better advocate for inclusive universal affordability, that means truly no one is left behind because of the cost of connectivity” said Eleanor Sarpong, A4AI deputy director and policy lead.
Learn more about that strategy and why we’re making the transition to 5GB here.