2020 was a year like no other. In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, the lack of affordable access and meaningful connectivity prevented billions from keeping children enrolled in school through virtual classes, maintaining business activity, and staying informed on the latest health information and advice. The current public health emergency has revealed the reality of digital inequality – one we at A4AI have been aware of – highlighting that, now, more than ever, urgent action is needed.
Despite many challenges, A4AI had a busy and productive year, and we are proud of the strides we made in 2020 to achieve internet access for all. Here we share highlights of our accomplishments during the year:
- Produced the Covid-19 Policy Brief on Internet Access and Affordability and accompanying blog, which recommended governments, companies, and civil society take urgent actions to bring as many people online as possible during the global emergency. The pieces received global traction in publications such as CNET, Fox News, BBC World News, Yahoo News, Deutsche Welle, and The New Times (Rwanda).
- Successfully launched the 2020 Affordability Report, which focused on why developing effective national broadband plans make internet access more affordable and enable more people to connect. The report received dozens of press coverage globally and was widely shared on social media, including Colombia’s ICT minister Karen Abudinen and Colombia’s Presidential Advisor of Economics Affairs and Digital Transformation Victor Munoz.
- Introduced the Meaningful Connectivity target to set new, more ambitious targets for connectivity focused on regular access, an appropriate device, enough data, and a fast connection. Many A4AI partners, such as the ITU and the World Bank, Smart Africa, UNESCAP, and UNHCR, are strategically looking at this target with their member states and stakeholders. The target was also used in the Web Foundation’s Women’s Rights Online report that surveyed 10,000 women and men from Colombia, Ghana, Indonesia, and Uganda to determine whether and how they use the internet, and their experiences using it. Read the full report here, Closing the digital gender gap for a more equal world.
- Led active national multi-stakeholder coalitions working to advance affordable access through policy change across eight countries in three regions.
- In Latin America:
- A4AI’s advocacy on digital infrastructure was fruitful. The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean incorporated our inputs into the approved eLAC2022 Digital Agenda, which sets the regional digital cooperation goals for the next two years.
- Our advocacy on meaningful connectivity resonated with our members. The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, with the Inter-American Development Bank and Microsoft, used it as a framework in a study that found at least 77 million rural inhabitants in the region cannot access internet services that satisfy minimal quality standards.
- At the country-level, A4AI re-engaged with the Dominican Republic, invited by the new government to support the development and design of their new National Broadband Plan.
- In Africa:
- The new Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, which included recommendations made by the A4AI Nigeria Coalition, was formally approved and published by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. The A4AI Nigeria Coalition was a regular feature in a business news radio show to discuss affordable access as well as campaign against the proposed Communications Service Tax (see updated CST Infographic).
- A4AI and its Mozambique Coalition supported the development of the new Strategic Plan for the Universal Service and Access Fund of Mozambique, to be approved and implemented in the next three years.
- In Asia:
- We renewed our partnership with a2i in Bangladesh and appointed a new Bangladesh National Coordinator, who has been instrumental in helping us secure and organise two high-level online events. We also published the Bangladesh National ICT Household Survey and the Bangladesh Gender scorecard.
- At the regional level, we were busy furthering our engagements with Asia Pacific regional players. We now have a new partnership with UNESCAP and closer relationship with ITU-Asia Regional and ISOC Asia regional chapters.
- In Latin America:
- Expanded our research outputs on affordability with a new study on mobile device affordability. It received wide coverage in dozens of countries and outlets, including in CNET, Business Insider, Sina, Deutsche Welle, ITWeb Africa, La Stampa, Il Sole 24 Ore, cnBeta, Biztechafrica, and the front page of the Financial Times.
- Provided thought leadership and actively voiced A4AI’s good practices on affordable access and connectivity policies for national-level consultations in Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana and global consultations with the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation Roadmap and UNICEF.
- Grew the Alliance to over 100 members, local, and institutional partners! The newly joined organizations and companies enrich and diversify our coalition — such as the UN Tech Bank, Smart Africa, Dataminr, FES Media Africa, and Center for Multilateral Affairs.
- Served as the lead author and partner for the International Telecommunications Union’s report, Connecting Humanity – Assessing investment needs of connecting humanity to the Internet by 2030. The research revealed that nearly $428 billion would be required to achieve universal connectivity to quality broadband internet in the next ten years.
- Delivered the Universal Access Policy and Strategy to the Government of Benin. A4AI developed the Strategic Plan for the Beninese Agency for the Universal Service of Electronic Communications and Post (ABSU-CEP), integrating meaningful connectivity targets and focusing on gender. We are currently finalizing the action plan to support and guide the implementation of the strategy.
Just like everyone else, A4AI had to adjust to the new realities of working, yet we overcame the challenges. We are proud of all that we accomplished together with our members and partners in 2020, and we look forward to trailblazing forward in 2021.