We have meaningful connectivity when we can use the internet every day using an appropriate device with enough data and a fast connection.
Over half of the world is now online, but many people lack the quality of access they need to use the internet’s most powerful features, such as online learning, video streaming and telehealth. It’s time to raise the bar for internet access and aim for meaningful connectivity for everyone.
Regular internet access
We benefit most from the internet when we can use it regularly. As our societies grow more digital and the internet is integrated into our daily lives, connecting occasionally is not enough.
Daily access to the internet is the minimum we need to see real benefits for work, education and communication.
An appropriate device
To experience the full power of the internet, we need the right device for the task at hand.
A smartphone gives us the functionality to create and consume content in a way that basic phones don’t — and the portability to use the internet anywhere. Ideally we will have access to a range of device types.
While some people have unlimited data packages, others experience severe data scarcity, preventing them from doing certain online tasks or forcing them to wait until they can connect to public Wi-Fi.
An unlimited broadband connection at home, or place of work or study gives us reliable internet access in our daily lives to use the full breadth of the internet’s potential.
A fast connection
Our internet speeds make or break our online experience. We all know the frustration of a buffering movie or an unstable video call. And without fast speeds, services like telehealth are a non-starter.
A 4G mobile connection is the minimum threshold that can give us the speeds we need for the experience we want.
We need a new way to measure internet access
Online or offline. This is how we measure internet access today. There’s no distinction made between someone who checks an email account once a week and a super-user running their business online.
This has to change.
By bundling everyone together, we mask the true nature of the digital divide — which lies not only between the connected and the unconnected, but in the starkly varied online experience people have.
It is no longer sufficient to simply consider how many people are online. To improve internet access and tackle the digital divide, our policy goals must adapt to consider the quality of connectivity available to all.
Meaningful Connectivity is a framework to track the components of connectivity that matter most to users and help decision makers adopt the policies needed to connect people to an internet that is useful and empowering.
What happens next
We’re focused on building broad consensus among international bodies, national governments, civil society and the private sector to adopt this target and use it as the basis for raising the bar for internet access.
Countries are at various stages of their digital development. Meaningful connectivity does not prescribe expectations about where each country should be on their journey but is instead designed to help governments set effective broadband policy targets and track progress over time.
We’ll soon publish a policy guide with direction on how to measure progress across the four target areas and recommendations for policy actions to drive progress. Meanwhile, we’re working with governments and partners to develop context specific strategies to make progress towards meaningful connectivity at the national level.
This target is the culmination of a number of months’ work; however, we hope it is only the beginning of years of effective broadband policy-making towards affordable and meaningful connectivity.
You can also read the brief in Arabic.
Watch the recording of our RightsCon session to learn more about the policy action needed to provide affordable & meaningful access.
Help us spread the word about meaningful connectivity on social media using our toolkit.
Learn about gender gaps in meaningful connectivity in the Web Foundation’s report: Women’s Rights Online: Closing the Digital Gender Gap for a more equal world.