Google leads Alliance for Affordable Internet

Google leads Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) to lead policy and regulatory reform and spur action to drive down artificially high internet prices in developing countries.

The Alliance has Omidyar Network, UK DFID and USAID joined by a host of governments, tech companies and civil society organisations from developed and developing countries and backed by Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

By advocating for open, competitive and innovative broadband markets, A4AI aims to help access prices fall to below 5 percent of monthly income worldwide, a target set by the UN Broadband Commission. Reaching this goal can help to connect the two-thirds of the world that is presently not connected to the internet and make universal access a reality.

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

The Alliance will begin in-country engagements with three to four States by the end of 2013, expanding to at least twelve countries by the end of 2015 and will focus on 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.

Commenting, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation said, “The result of high prices is a 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.”

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.”

Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, secretary of state for International Development (UK) said, “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.”

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.”

Ory Okolloh, director of investments, Omidyar Network, said, “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.”

Dr Rajiv Shah, administrator of USAID said “The growing digital divide is a global issue that can only be tackled collaboratively, and we are thrilled to be working with the diverse and committed group of the Alliance for Affordable Internet to enable even the most remote and impoverished communities to access the wealth of
knowledge and connection that exists in the digital world.”

Professor Tim Unwin, secretary general, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation said, “In a world where information sharing and communication is increasingly dominated by the internet, it is essential that everyone should have access to it at prices they can afford. The rapid expansion of all types of ICTs is nevertheless currently leading to ever-greater inequalities in the world, and so the creation of the Alliance for Affordable Internet is timely and important. By working together in carefully crafted partnerships, we can seek to redress this balance and turn rhetoric into reality.”

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