The GSM Association (GSMA) has joined the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), pledging to work to identify and address policy and regulatory barriers to internet access and affordability worldwide.
The GSMA said its own research had shown the need for affordable smartphones and mobile internet access across developing countries is “urgent”, with the A4AI hoping to tackle the “artificially high” mobile broadband prices in many developing countries.
“We welcome the opportunity to become a member of the Alliance for Affordable Internet and to help tackle one of the most pressing technological challenges in less-developed countries,” said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA.
“There is an urgent need for affordable smartphones, the rapid, economically viable deployment of wireless broadband infrastructure in rural areas and the promotion of digital literacy to help connect the unconnected in underserved communities around the world,” she said, adding that mobile subscription rates can reach as low as 20 per cent in Ethiopia, and 28 per cent in India.
A4AI in particular points to the onerous cost of internet for those living on less than US$2 per day, saying new cost structures and delivery methods must be developed in order to drive costs down and enable universal access to internet.
“Despite recent falls in prices, mobile broadband remains prohibitively expensive in most developing countries,” said Sonia Jorge, executive director for A4AI.
“A4AI’s recent affordability report highlighted that for those living on less than US $2 a day, mobile broadband costs in excess of 20 per cent of monthly incomes in many countries, and skyrockets to as much as 48 per cent of income in Colombia, and 35 per cent in Zambia.
“A4AI is tackling the regulatory and policy barriers that keep prices artificially high. Working with the GSMA and its members to lower cost structures and develop innovative delivery approaches will be a significant boost to our efforts. We must drive broadband prices down rapidly to enable billions more – particularly women and underserved rural communities – to access the life-changing potential of the Internet.”
Over 50 global companies and organisations are members of the A4AI, committed to achieving the United Nations Broadband Commission goal of universal entry level broadband services priced at under five per cent of average monthly income.
Launched in October 2013, A4AI’s in-country work is set to begin in Ghana and Nigeria in the first quarter of 2014.