Google is teaming up with the World Wide Web Foundation, U.S. and U.K. government international development agencies, non-profits and a host of other tech companies to launch the Alliance For Affordable Internet, an organization with a simple but extremely ambitious goal: to reduce the cost of internet in poor regions of world to less than 5 percent of income.
That number might seem like a big amount to you or I as we’re accustomed to spending much less for a broadband connections, but according to the International Telecommunication Union, many households in the developing world pay up 30 percent of monthly income for their precious internet link. A4AI’s point seems to be that technology and network availability aren’t the only limiting factor to connecting the world’s unconnected. For much of the world’s population, it’s price.
According to the World Wide Web Foundation’s Tim Berners-Lee:
“The reason for the Alliance is simple – the majority of the world’s people are still not online, usually because they can’t afford to be. In Mozambique, for example, a recent study showed that using just 1GB of data can cost well over two months’ wages for the average citizen.
“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.”
The project definitely seems to fit into Google’s other global broadband initiatives, from Project Loon’s plans to blanket the world in coverage from the stratosphere to Google’s work on white spaces broadband and its investment in developing world satellite internet provider O3b. Google is a founding member of A4AI, but it’s not the only tech company getting involved. Facebook has recently gotten more vocal about making internet more affordable and available, founding Internet.org. It joins Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel and several networking equipment vendors in backing the initiative.