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Home Tech Google, Omidyar & USAID Launch an Alliance to Introduce Affordable Internet In Developing Countries

Google, Omidyar & USAID Launch an Alliance to Introduce Affordable Internet In Developing Countries

by Sam Wakoba
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a4aiforapoGoogle, Omidyar Network, UK DFID and USAID and other government and private sector players launched the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), an association to lead policy and regulatory reforms towards having affordable internet prices in developing countries.

A4AI will advocate for open, competitive and innovative broadband markets in a move to help access prices fall to below 5% of monthly income worldwide, a target set by the UN Broadband Commission. This will help connect the two-thirds of the world that is presently offline.

According to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation said,“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.

Berners-Lee added that  the high prices widen the 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.

He said anti-competitive policies and regulations that keep prices unaffordable are the real bottlenecks that the Alliance is set to remove.

Agreeing to the need for affordable internet, Ory Okolloh, director of investments, Omidyar Network said, “The lack of affordable internet access in emerging markets is a key barrier to large-scale innovation, which in turn stifles social and economic advancement. Omidyar Network is delighted to help lead the formation of the Alliance for Affordable Internet to address this problem. The Alliance has the potential to help millions of people in the developing world come online, unlocking opportunities for them to access information and services that can meaningfully improve their lives.”

Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) executive director, Sonia Jorge

Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) executive director, Sonia Jorge

The Alliance was initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation, and its honorary chairperson is Dr. BitangeNdemo, the immediate former Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Information and Communications, who is widely regarded as the father of Broadband in Kenya.

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.”

A4AI announced today at the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation’s Annual Forum in Abuja, Nigeria, that it will begin in-country engagements with three to four States by the end of 2013, expand to at least twelve countries by the end of 2015 and set up policy best practices to guide advocacy work at the international level.

Key policy levers to drive prices down include allowing innovative allocation of spectrum, promoting infrastructure sharing, and increasing transparency and public participation in regulatory decisions. It will also produce an annual ‘Affordability Report’, with the first edition being unveiled in December 2013.

Jennifer Haroon, Access Principal at Google, said,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.”

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