By Nana Appiah Acquaye, Accra, Ghana
The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) has predicted that the availability of lower cost smartphones in developing countries is expected to put pressure on network service providers to reduce cost on data to ensure that competition works for users.
According to Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) 7 Predictions for Broadband Access in 2016 report made available to Biztechafrica, the failure in many markets of ultra low-cost smartphones with very limited functionality will drive the development of, and demand for, low-cost smartphones that give users a better user experience and meet their smartphone ownership aspirations.
It believes users of these low-cost smartphones will demand more data and with that, more affordable data plans and larger data allowances. “As demand for low-cost smartphones increases, we hope to see governments help drive adoption by reducing taxes — including import and sales taxes — on smartphones so that they are no longer taxed as luxury goods, enabling lower consumer prices and more people to afford a basic smartphone” it stated.
The 7 Predictions for Broadband Access in 2016 put together by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) team members notice that the year 2016 will witness an increased focus around affordability of data.
“The attention paid to affordability as a key pathway to expanded broadband access and global development has grown by leaps and bounds since A4AI launched in 2013. We believe this energy will increase even more significantly in 2016, driven, in large part, by new global initiatives and agreements that focus on the importance of expanding access and the need to tackle the affordability barrier. The new UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the World Bank’s 2016 World Development Report, and the ITU’s Connect 2020 Agenda all stress the need to ensure that broadband services are available to and affordable for the world’s poorest; they also underline the urgency of working to close the digital divide, laying out tight deadlines that should compel governments, private sector actors, and civil society to act”. Governments will respond to this challenge by developing appropriate policies and regulations and A4AI will work on the ground with its National Coalitions to drive this trend.
A4AI mentioned in the report that the debate on what constitutes “affordable Internet” will heat up, spurred by the ambitious targets set out by the SDGs and other development initiatives noted above, stakeholders will recognise that broadband prices need to move well below the UN target price of 5% of GNI per capita if they are to be considered affordable. This will mean that governments will have to develop new plans for expanding access and will set ambitious targets to work toward the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
“Achieving the SDGs will require many governments to revise their existing targets for access, affordability (where they exist), and usage. These new targets will be ambitious, like the global initiatives that are driving them. They will also require governments to develop new plans and strategies, presenting many with a great opportunity to produce the type of evidence-based plans that have impact”.
This year will also see the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) team push for the expansion of digital opportunities for women, as will any government that is committed to achieving the SDG on gender equality at all levels of development. “We predict that ICT policy makers will finally start considering the wider socio-economic implications of gender inequality in access and adoption, and will consequently place renewed energy on closing the gender gap and improving outcomes in line with target 5b”it said.