A global coalition working to make broadband affordable for all

Policy & Research

Examining the State of Affordable Internet in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh boasts relatively affordable Internet, with the price of 500MB of broadband below the Broadband Commission’s 5% target. Yet, less than 10% of the country’s population uses the Internet. What accounts for this disparity? Our newest country case study explores the current state of affordable Internet access in Bangladesh, examining the history and growth of the country’s telecom sector, the policies currently governing the sector, and the policies and questions to be addressed in order for the country to overcome remaining barriers to access.   Bangladesh has one of the longest telecom governing histories in the region. Regulation started in 1971 with the creation of the Telegraphs and Telecommunications Department, and in 1989 the government allowed a private operator to begin offering telecom services in the country — over five years before the start of commercial mobile services in India or Pakistan. Despite this early start, development in Bangladesh has sputtered, while regional neighbors have surpassed it, despite their later start. Our 2015-16 Affordability Drivers Index — which scores countries based on the infrastructure and access drivers they have in place to contribute to more affordable Internet — ranked Bangladesh 33rd out of 51; only Nepal ranked lower among Asian countries.   A number of significant barriers to expanded access remain, including low incomes and high levels of poverty, high data and device costs, and high consumer taxes. Despite the appearance of low data costs (equivalent to 3.49% of GNI per capita), mobile data prices in Bangladesh are still about 3x more than those found in neighbouring India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. This pricing issue is compounded by the low national incomes and the fact that over 77% of Bangladeshis live in poverty.   Bangladesh also has some of the highest tax rates for mobile services in the world. Mobile network operators are taxed at 60% of revenue generated — a rate that seems particularly high when compared with the estimated global average of about 40%. The bulk of these costs are passed on to consumers.   What can Bangladesh do to reduce broadband prices for its citizens, expand access, and enable universal access? Read the full case study to learn more, and feel free to leave your ideas, questions and comments below.

Ghana

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Ghana, one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most influential nations, has prioritized ICT investment in recent years. This case study – which is intended to be a snapshot, not an exhaustive exploration of issues – briefly analyses the status quo, summarizes the policy environment, and presents some challenges and opportunities facing Ghana in the country’s quest to make broadband truly affordable.

Peru

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Despite boasting the sixth-highest GDP in Latin America, Peru’s Internet penetration rate is among the lowest in the region. The adoption of progressive policies and development of new infrastructure has contributed to decreased broadband prices in urban areas of the country, however significant cost and infrastructure barriers prevent the rural population from coming online. This case study – our first to focus on a Latin American country – examines Peru’s ambitious National Broadband Plan and briefly identifies some of the key steps the country is taking to drive down the cost of Internet access for ordinary Peruvians.

Key Resources on Ghana Broadband Policy

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The following is a list of key policy and research resources on Ghana’s broadband landscape.

Affordability Report 2013

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The first edition of A4AI’s annual Affordability Report was published on 8 December 2013. The report takes an in-depth look at broadband affordability around the globe, and makes policy recommendations designed to drive prices down. Click here to download the full report, or click here to see a presentation outlining the results as delivered by Dr Bitange Ndemo on 8 December.   A4AI is committed to undertaking our research in a transparent fashion – we hope that others will use our data sets to build upon and interrogate. To this end, links to two data files in .xlsx format are provided below. These are:   1. The Affordability Index Data set, which includes the normalized data, i.e. all the raw data were transformed onto one scale so that we could combine them meaningfully in one index – we use ‘z-scores’ and the ‘min-max’ to normalize.   2. A raw data set, which includes all data as taken from the data source, including World Bank, ITU, WEF, Web Index survey, etc. – except where we needed to divide by variables like per capita income, population, GDP, etc, to get a figure per 100 people or as a percentage of average income, for example.

Policy and Regulatory Good Practices

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A4AI has produced an outline of policy and regulatory good practices which will drive down the cost of Internet access. We believe that key policy levers to drive down prices include allowing innovative allocation of spectrum, promoting infrastructure sharing, and increasing transparency and public participation in regulatory decisions. This set of practices has been endorsed by all members and will guide our work.   The full set of good practices can be downloaded in both English and Spanish.

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