Survey after survey shows that the high cost of accessing and using the internet remains one of the major factors keeping billions offline. As we work to develop and implement the policies needed to reduce prices and enable those offline to afford to connect, current data on the level of broadband affordability across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is critical to tracking progress and impact.
Based on our understanding of affordability where a 1GB mobile prepaid broadband plan is priced at 2% or less of average monthly income — a definition adopted earlier this year by theUN Broadband Commission — we assessed the price of 1GB of mobile prepaid data in 60 LMICs. What does this newest data show?
- Broadband prices are coming down. Our newest data shows that at the end of 2017, 24 of the countries surveyed had affordable mobile broadband plans (i.e., 1GB plans available for less than 2% of average monthly income). This represents an improvement on the previous year, when just 19 countries surveyed met the “1 for 2” target.
- But, the average cost to connect is still too high. Across the countries assessed, the average price of a 1GB mobile prepaid broadband plan represents around 5.5% of average monthly income — a cost that remains out of reach for many of those in these LMICs, and particularly for those earning less than the average income.
- And progress is slow. While affordability is improving across the board, improvement is slow. While last year’s data showed that affordability in Africa had improved by nearly 3 percentage points, this year’s update shows that the improvement in price relative to income in Africa was only 0.52%. Indeed, many of the cheapest mobile broadband plans we observed in that region were actually the same offer (in terms of data quantity and price) between the two years. The slow pace of improving affordability — particularly in countries that do not yet meet the “1 for 2” target — must be met with greater efforts to improve policies and regulations that have been shown to reduce costs.
- Affordability varies by region, with prices lowest across Asia, and highest across Africa. The new data shows that Asia has the most affordable 1GB plans, with prices averaging around 1.54% of income. This compares with 3.58% in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 8.76% in Africa. Because of continuous improvements, a large number of Asian countries (13 out of 17) now meet the “1 for 2” target, while only 4 African countries (Tunisia, Nigeria, Mauritius, and Egypt) do so.
We encourage you to review and download the new data here, and to get in touch with any questions or comments.