While many non-profits seek to improve conditions in developing countries by improving Internet accessibility, the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) leads the way in taking a new approach to the problem. As we’ve seen recently, the national GDP in developing nations correlates strongly with Internet accessibility. Unlike the non-profit organizations working to improve accessibility through increased funding, A4AI doesn’t try to supplement or change the way a country’s money flow works, just work within it to make affordable Internet access a reality.
What is A4AI?
A4AI is a global coalition that monitors Internet accessibility and affordability in emerging and developing countries. The Alliance works with these countries to make policy, regulatory, and infrastructure changes that will spread the availability of Internet access. Theoretically, by increasing availability and regulating price, market competition increases, which means more people are able to connect to the Internet.
Where is A4AI Working?
Founded in 2012, A4AI targeted Ghana and Nigeria as the first nations with which it would work. In our research and data correlations, we’ve seen that Ghana and Nigeria should both cross the digital divide within one year. Since A4AI only signed coalition agreements with the Ghanan and Nigerian governments at the beginning of this year, it’s too early to say how their efforts will impact the timeline for Ghana and Nigeria to cross over.
A4AI will publish an Affordability Report every year, starting in 2013, that identifies the top countries set to gain access to affordable Internet. In the 2013 report, A4AI identified their top five emerging countries (countries that show rapid growth and economic development, but have not crossed the digital divide):
And their top five developing countries (countries that have not yet hit the rate of growth necessary to prepare them for economic change):
A4AI works toward easily-accessible, affordable Internet in more desperate economic situations because “the Web is becoming increasingly important in the developing world as a tool to set up businesses, drive improvements in health care and education, and increase government accountability to citizens.”1 Based on infrastructure support and existing policy and price regulations, the A4AI report only looks at 46 emerging and developing nations.
Who is Helping A4AI?
A lot of heavy-hitting organizations and companies have backed A4AI’s efforts. These include, but are not limited to:
While some corporations have profit-based interests in improving Internet accessibility and cost across the globe, companies like Omidyar Network, an investment company captained by eBay’s founder, Pierre Omidyar, are also deeply interested in the individual opportunities that can be created.
“At Omidyar Network, we start from a fundamental belief: People are inherently capable, but they often lack opportunity. We believe if we invest in people, through opportunity, they will create positive returns for themselves, their families, and the world at large.
We also believe that businesses can be a powerful force for good…Just as eBay created the opportunity for millions of people to start their own businesses, we believe market forces can be a potent driver for positive social change. That’s why we invest in both for-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations, whose complementary roles can advance entire sectors.”2
The list of civil society and foundational backers is equally impressive:
The Centre for Internet & Society
Association for Progressive Communications
Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
Digital Society Foundation
Open Technology Institute
World Wide Web Foundation
WISAT (Women in Global Science & Technology) and more
These organizations understand the significant opportunities Internet access provides to developing nations and their citizens.
Bringing the Internet to the Entire World
A4AI and its partners continue to think outside the box for finding solutions to the digital divide created by limited Internet accessibility in the developing world. One partner, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the UN, manages global radio spectrum allocations and satellite orbits, creates best practices and technical standards for seamless technological interconnectedness around the globe, and works to bring information and communications technologies to underserved communities worldwide.3
The efforts to improve a nation’s conditions through internet accessibility seem to be working. As Alcatel-Lucent’s Vice President phrased it, “We are now able to start measuring the significant positive impact broadband connectivity is having on improving access to education and health, how it creates jobs and economic growth, reduces poverty, facilitates better governance, enables gender equality and connects citizens.”4
Here at HighSpeedInternet.com, we’re excited about the innovative thinking of A4AI and its partners as well as the measurable results we’re beginning to see. We’ll continue to follow their progress as they bring affordable Internet to countries on the brink of breaking through the digital divide.
A4AI is on Twitter as @A4A_Internet and uses the hashtag #affordableinternet. Join the conversation and show your support of a world where everyone has Internet access.