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Urgent reform needed to meet UN goal for universal Internet access

Twitter: @MinnaAila

We are redistributing this important blog post from the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), of which Nokia is a member. The A4AI has just published a report indicating that, based on current trends, the world’s least developed countries will only achieve universal Internet access in 2042 — more than 20 years past the target date set by the global community.

At Nokia, we believe that connectivity and having Internet access should be a human right because of its tremendous potential for economic and social empowerment for any individual, whether in the developed world or the developing world.  

This is why Nokia is a member of the UN Broadband Commission and has been taking a variety of steps of its own to address the important issue of closing the connectivity deficit in various parts of the world. As part of this ongoing effort, we announced last month a three-year partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras, one of the country’s foremost educational institutions, aimed at widening and improving broadband connectivity access in rural India and complementing the Indian government’s National Optical Fibre Network initiative.

Please have a look at the A4AI’s blog below for more on the findings of the new report and what is being done to reverse current trends.

Reprinted with permission:

Why we’re on track to miss the new UN goal for universal Internet access and what we can do to turn things around

Nokia_ Alliance for Affordable Internet _2

Last year, the 193 member states of the UN agreed: The Internet is critical for global development and everyone, everywhere should have access. World leaders declared that we should strive for universal access, particularly in the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs), by 2020.

So, are we going to hit that target? The 2015-16 Affordability Report from the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), shows that on current trends, we won’t just miss the target, we’ll miss it by a mile. Without urgent reform, in 2020 we will see just 16% of people in the world’s poorest countries, and 53% of the world as a whole, connected. A4AI projections show that the LDCs will only achieve universal access in 2042 — more than 20 years past the target date set by the global community. That means at least one more generation in many countries will grow up locked out of the digital revolution — unable to use the Web for education, work, health, political activism...or just to connect with their friends and family.

What’s keeping people offline? A4AI’s report argues that the primary barrier today is high prices. The UN Broadband Commission defines broadband as affordable if an entry-level (500MB) package is available at 5% or less of average monthly income (i.e., GNI per capita). Yet, in 2014, the average cost of a 500MB prepaid bundle was 15.2% of GNI per capita in LDCs and 6.5% across developing countries. Around 70% of people in LDCs cannot afford a basic, 500MB per month broadband plan.

A4AI’s analysis also shows how poverty and income inequality are masking the true state of Internet affordability. While 25 of the 51 countries surveyed by A4AI for the report have met the 5% target, not a single country analysed met the target for those living in poverty ($3.10 or less a day). Just nine countries met the target for the bottom 20% of income earners. This means that millions continue to be priced out of the digital revolution — even in countries which offer “affordable” Internet. Women are particularly hard hit by high prices, and the study notes that poor urban women are 50% less likely than male counterparts to be online.

What can we do to reverse these trends? The Affordability Report offers some answers.

The first thing to note is that we need to act fast. If we are serious about achieving universal access by 2020, we need to condense almost 30 years worth of work into the next five years. Governments, companies, and civil society all need to work together to build open, competitive markets that drive prices down. The technical solutions we need are largely ready — it’s up to countries to provide the policy and regulatory environments needed to let them do their work, and to companies to implement them. Donors must come to the party with financial and practical assistance.

Second, we need to be more ambitious. A4AI’s analysis found that when a basic broadband package is priced at 2% or less of average monthly income, access becomes affordable for all levels of income earners. So, the report proposes a new affordability target: 1GB of mobile broadband priced at 2% or less of average monthly income (“1 for 2”). Driving prices down to the 2% average level will enable large swathes of the population currently priced out of access to get online, while increasing the data allowance to 1GB will allow users to make more meaningful use of the Internet.

Last, we can’t lose sight of the fact that driving prices down won’t connect everyone fast enough. To ensure marginalised groups get online rapidly, we need to look to free or subsidised public access in tandem with digital education.

The Affordability Report is essential reading for anyone who cares about technology and development. You can read it here, and you can follow A4AI on Twitter or Facebook to stay up to date with latest news and join the global conversation on this issue.

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #affordableinternet #CSR #GlobalGoals #Nokia #sustainability.

Minna Aila

About Minna Aila

Minna is Vice President, Corporate Affairs, and responsible for Nokia's Corporate Responsibility, Government Relations, Internal and External Communications and Social Media. She admits to a soft spot for everything new and exciting, but it's kept in check by her Master of Law degree and commitment to doing the right things in the right way.

Tweet me @MinnaAila

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