Why APC continues to obsess over “internet access”

No votes yet

Par APC pour APCNews

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, 13 October 2008

Internet access beneficiariesInternet access beneficiaries According to March 2008 statistics only 3.6% of internet users in the world were from Africa. Asia contributed to 37.6% of internet users globally, but this percentage is inflated by large numbers of users from China. The number of fixed lines has not increased significantly, and in some cases has even shrunk. And, in addition to this, a new divide is emerging: the broadband (or “high speed internet”) divide.

Africa
The pervasiveness of the African region’s information and telecommunication technology (ICT) infrastructure is very low and extremely uneven, largely owing to the wide variation in incomes, population size and telecommunication infrastructure policies.

Fixed telephone lines currently reach less than 4% of the population, and over 75% of them are found in just six of the 53 African nations. This has encouraged the uptake of mobile phones with mobile growth rates being the highest in the world, led by countries with more recent market entrants, more competitive pricing and improving coverage. For example Nigeria’s mobile phone users are currently increasing at over 50% per year. A number of regional mobile operators in Africa have also deployed ‘borderless roaming’ between their networks on the continent, allowing people to make low-cost international calls to users of the same network operator in another country.

Africa had a total of 44 million internet users by March 2008, giving a penetration rate very similar to fixed line infrastructure – about 4.7%. Four out of the 53 countries in Africa account for almost 60% of internet users in the region, and only 22 of the 53 countries have broadband providers, resulting in an average broadband penetration rate for the continent of below 1%.

Asia

Although some Asian countries have pervasive ICT infrastructures, others are at the early stages of adopting ICTs. Mobile penetration ranges from below 1% in economies like Myanmar and Kiribati, to 90% or more in Australia, Taiwan Province of China, Singapore, Hong Kong (China) and Macao (China). Internet penetration ranges from below 1% in economies such as Timor-Leste, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao P.D.R. and Nepal, to above 65% in Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

In many developing countries in Asia, improvements in connectivity have been tempered by their limited penetration in rural areas. Similar to Africa and Europe, slow connectivity in Asia has been caused by inadequate and restrictive policy environments, lack of focus on technological R&D innovations, and limited understanding of the effects of ICTs on communities.

Although some Asian countries have pervasive ICT infrastructures, others are at the early stages of adopting ICTs. Mobile penetration ranges from below 1% in economies like Myanmar and Kiribati, to 90% or more in Australia, Taiwan Province of China, Singapore, Hong Kong (China) and Macao (China). Internet penetration ranges from below 1% in economies such as Timor-Leste, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao P.D.R. and Nepal, to above 65% in Japan, Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

In many developing countries in Asia, improvements in connectivity have been tempered by their limited penetration in rural areas. Similar to Africa and Europe, slow connectivity in Asia has been caused by inadequate and restrictive policy environments, lack of focus on technological R&D innovations, and limited understanding of the effects of ICTs on communities.

The Americas

The Americas are characterised by a North-South divide in internet access, with the United States and Canada having a 71% internet penetration rate, or roughly 3.5 times the rate of South America, Central America and the Caribbean, where it stood at around 22% at the end of 2007. In the Americas, 81% of those who use the internet are on broadband.

The three largest fixed telephone networks – in the US, Canada and Brazil – account for more than 80% of all fixed lines on the two continents. Latin America and the Caribbean have shown strong growth in the mobile sector, with most countries in South and Central America now showing mobile penetration rates of over 50%.

Our concern

Affordable internet access for people who aren’t connected is a key challenge of today’s ICT policies in developing societies. The conventional policies privatisation of monopolies, the liberalisation of markets and the formulation of broad-based ICT policies is making access to the internet possible for more people, but not for people in poorer parts of town and more remote parts of the country. There has been progress but it is uneven and it is not time to move on yet.

According to Graciela Selaimen of Brazilian research centre NUPEF/RITS, “Although the numbers in the Brazilian media paint a picture of a country overcoming digital exclusion, the reality is different. Increasing growth of access to broadband is still concentrated in the richer regions of the country and town centres.”

In Manaus, the capital city of Amazonas, a state deep in the Amazon jungle, “broadband” is available but at a cost. There, a 200Kbps connection (the minimal speed of broadband by international standards but hardly considered “high speed” in better connected parts of the world) costs about $100 USD a month.

Note: This information provided on Africa, Asia and Americas is sourced from UNCTAD

Read about the APC Pro-poor ICT access kit, to find out how APC is contributing to equitable access.

Photo by Paco Olaya Pabón: Luis and Juan, two cousins living in Ecuador, who are benefiting from internet access in the Chambapongo community.

(FIN/2008)

I believe the african

I believe the african governments should play a big role in the deployment of Internet access in their regions. They should either promote open access and put flexible rules and regulations that would promote use of internet access for their citizens.

Connexion