The internet has in the last few decades grown exponentially. The internet as it is now getting more than 11 users per second which amounts to 1 million new users each day. Recent statistics have shown that internet users now make up 57% of the global population, a 9% growth from 2018. In all this, mobile phone connectivity has accounted for the increase in internet usage.

Inasmuch as the internet has grown, the world remains years, if not decades, away from achieving universal, affordable internet access. The stubborn digital divide mirrors wider inequalities that divide the world’s population today: income, gender, location and education are highly predictive of whether an individual has access to and can regularly use the internet. This is according to a new report by the Alliance for Affordable Internet.

For 50% of the world unable to connect, the greatest barrier remains affordability. Across Africa the average cost for just 1GB data is 7.12% of the average monthly salary. In some countries, 1GB costs as much as 20% of the average salary — too expensive for all but the wealthiest few. This gulf shows the challenge we have to bridge the global affordability gap and ensure that everyone has affordable internet access.

The Report looks at the policy progress low and middle-income countries are making to support affordable internet access. It explores how governments can shape healthy, competitive markets supported by public access solutions to deliver affordable and meaningful connectivity to everyone.

The report gives a challenge to policymakers to set fair rules for entry into the market, with clear licensing requirements for traditional providers and community networks. It also emphasizes on the necessity of effective operating rules for service providers to plan longterm network investments. Closing this divide holds enormous economic and social benefits. These include benefits such as:

Education-Many public access programs promote a range of educational and training opportunities through digital technologies, particularly for citizens who may have few other options. Such facilities can support students at all levels.

Healthcare– The role of advanced ICTs in healthcare is rapidly changing, as new tools and applications are improving access and treatment options. Public access ICT facilities can play an important role in this growing e-health ecosystem.

Digital inclusion– The core mission of many public access programs is to connect those who have been unable to access and use the internet. This often includes people with low incomes or levels of digital literacy and those who live in remote or rural areas. Public access policies can actively support these and other specific groups to get online and access the internet’s benefits. These target groups include women and people with disabilities.

“Internet access should not be a luxury. Not only a pathway to information, communication, and economic opportunity, the internet is increasingly necessary to access basic commercial and public services. As more of the world becomes digital those unable to connect will be left behind. It is therefore crucial that everyone has the opportunity to get online,” Says the report.

Read the full report, here.