Britain to join tech giants to drive down Internet prices in developing countries


Alliance for Affordable Internet to help progress the 90% of the global population who are unconnected to the internet

8 October 2013 – London, UK – The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) has announced that Britain will join with the US Government, Google, Facebook and developing country technology firms to bring down internet costs in developing countries.  The announcement was made by Justine Greening, DFID Minister, UK government. The Alliance for Affordable Internet, founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation, will work with governments across Africa and Asia to take on unnecessary regulation and anti-competitive policies.

131008-pmwj16-alliance-IMAGEIn many countries taxes on IT, powerful state telecoms monopolies and other regressive policies are helping to push up prices. In less developed countries a basic fixed line broadband connection costs around a third of monthly income, compared to around 2% in the developed world. The UN has set a target of entry-level broadband services priced at less than 5% of average monthly income.  (photo: Software developers Mariam and Uche, online at a ‘tech hub’ in Lagos, Nigeria. Picture: Russell Watkins/DFID)

Approximately two-thirds of the world’s people remain unconnected to the Internet, entrenching a digital divide that severely hampers economic progress. Internet access is becoming increasingly important in the world’s poorest countries as a tool to set up businesses and drive improvements in healthcare and education.

Justine Greening said: “Over the last twenty years the Web has changed our own society so much that everyday life seems unimaginable without it. Internet access has been a driver of economic growth. It puts power in the hands of people and opens up societies. Yet for millions of people across the world, high prices still put it out of reach. This new alliance will challenge the anti-competitive regulations and policies that push up prices across the developing world, helping to bring universal Internet access to the world’s poorest people.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, stated:  “The reason for the Alliance is simple – the majority of the world’s people are still not online, usually because they can’t afford to be. In Mozambique, for example, a recent study showed that using just 1GB of data can cost well over two months wages for the average citizen. The result of high prices is a widening digital divide that slows progress in vital areas such as health, education and science. Yet with the advent of affordable smartphones, new undersea cables and innovations in wireless spectrum usage, there is simply no good reason for the digital divide to continue. The real bottleneck now is anti-competitive policies that keep prices unaffordable. The Alliance is about removing that barrier and helping as many as possible get online at reasonable cost.”

According to Jennifer Haroon, Access Principal at Google: “Nearly two out of every three people don’t have access to the Internet – this is a massive challenge that can’t easily be solved by a single solution or player. The world needs technical innovation and vision to bring more people online, but we also need a strong policy foundation that allows new ideas to flourish. By working alongside Alliance partners, we can help lay the groundwork needed to drive innovation and bring the power of the Internet to more people.”

Dr Bitange Ndemo, honorary chairperson of A4AI, said: “In Kenya, we saw the number of internet users more than double in a single year after we liberalised markets. Now we need to spark the same revolution on broadband costs and access, not only in my country but around the world. To achieve this, we will use our combined voices, leadership and expertise to press for fair, competitive and socially responsible markets.”

The Alliance for Affordable Internet was launched on 7 October 2013 in Abuja, Nigeria. Its honorary chairperson is Dr Bitange Ndemo, the former Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications, who is widely regarded as the father of broadband in Kenya. For more information visit www.a4ai.org or https://www.gov.uk/government/news/britain-to-join-tech-giants-to-drive-down-internet-prices-in-developing-countries

Created in 1997, the Department for International Development (DFID) is a department of the British government, led by a cabinet minister.  DFID promotes global development as a national priority in the UK and overseas. Two acts of parliament have helped to put development higher on Britain’s national agenda.  The International Development Act 2002 clarified the purpose of aid spending as poverty reduction; while International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006 defined DFID’s annual reporting to Parliament.  More at http://www.dfid.gov.uk/

Source: Department for International Development, UK