Mobile data prices have declined in all regions, but in the least developed countries the cost is still seven times higher than the affordability target set by the United Nations.
Internet access is considered affordable when 1GB of mobile broadband data is available for 2% or less of monthly gross national income (GNI) per capita. Lowering the cost of Internet access is one of the most important factors in connecting the 50% of the world who still live offline. A range of policy, commercial and technical interventions can help lower costs. Internet advocacy groups say most countries aren’t acting decisively enough to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goal of universal Internet by 2020.
Price per 1GB of mobile data as percentage of monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita
Data source: ICT Facts and Figures 2017, International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 2017
Europe and North America were the only regions to meet the meet UN affordability targets in 2015. Internet users here paid less than 1% of GNI per capita for 1GB of mobile data in 2015.
In Africa, people were spending an average of 17% of their average monthly incomes for the same amount of data, and often for much slower connections.
Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) is one organization that has encouraged the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to keep updating its methodology to reflect current Internet use. For instance, A4AI’s own broadband affordability study (covering fewer countries) focuses on prepaid data plans only, which is how most people in low and middle income countries connect.
By either counting method, affordability improvements are most evident in Africa.
Price per 1GB of mobile plan as a percentage of monthly GNI per capita, by region
Data source: A4AI calculations based on pricing data by ITU, 2017 A4AI Affordability Report, 2017