Africa paid more than three times the global median price for mobile broadband services and over five times the global median for fixed broadband last year.
A new study by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows internet connectivity became less affordable to many around the world in 2021 and Africa was one of the worst affected regions.
The ITU and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) released the details of the cost of broadband in the ITU-A4AI policy brief on the affordability of ICT services 2021. They said the share of income spent on fixed broadband and mobile internet services increased globally last year, in parallel with upticks in demand and usage compared to 2020.
The report said fixed broadband services saw the highest jump, with prices increasing by eight per cent last year (as measured in US dollars, adjusting for inflation).
This, the report said, meant fixed broadband became less affordable for many users, with relative prices climbing from 2.9 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita in 2020, to 3.5 per cent in 2021.
The price of mobile broadband services also increased slightly, from 1.9 per cent to 2 per cent of GNI per capita worldwide.
Consumers in low and middle-income economies, the report stated, typically paid five to six times more, relative to their income, to use ICT services than consumers in high-income economies did in 2021.
Only 96 economies met the UN Broadband Commission target for the prices of data-only mobile broadband prices in 2021, seven fewer than in 2020.
At the same time, only 64 economies met the commission’s target for fixed-broadband prices, down by two from 2020.
“These findings are a warning sign and significant improvement is needed as the Broadband Commission’s 2025 target date for achieving global broadband affordability edges ever closer,” Doreen Bogdan-Martin, the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, said.
“The past few years have proven that connectivity is vital. As we move to post-pandemic recovery, we need to make connectivity affordable for everyone to ensure we leave no one behind in this digital era,” he added.
Sonia Jorge, Executive Director of A4AI, said, “The affordability gap for internet access between those living in low and middle-income countries and those living in high-income countries are inexcusably high.
“Moreover, people in rural areas, and women everywhere, are disproportionately affected. A continued failure to address this worsens the situation for those who need help the most. The public and private sectors must work together to connect humanity with affordable and meaningful access.”
“Broadband services have ceased to be a mere luxury. They are a necessity for communication, teleworking, online education and other essential services. Still, we must urgently address the issue of affordability if we hope to achieve our goal of universal and meaningful connectivity,” said ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao.
According to the ITU, price data collected annually by ITU and A4AI represent the most authoritative and comprehensive source for ICT affordability.