When broadband costs 100 percent of average monthly income

The recently published ITU study, Measuring the Information Society Report, 2014, is a sobering document for those interested in how Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific getting connected in the information age.

ITU estimates that almost 3 billion people globally are using the Internet, a penetration rate of over 40 per cent. However usage rates in Asia and the Pacific are low: the only region with even lower rates is Africa. And when you allow for the relatively high usage rate of China, Japan, and South Korea, the underwhelming service and low usage witnesses in many of the islands of the Pacific is brought into stark relief.

Asia and the Pacific is indisputably the world’s most diverse region in terms of ICT development, reflecting the stark differences in economic development throughout the region. At the top of the ICT Development Index (IDI) are the usual suspects. Fiji, with recent investments in connectivity, sits in the middle. The Solomon Islands are in the lower quartile: other smaller Pacific island states don’t even feature in the report.

Fixed-broadband prices as a percentage of GNI p.c. in Asia and the Pacific, 2013

Fixed-broadband prices as a percentage of GNI p.c. in Asia and the Pacific, 2013” width=

Even more alarming are the data on fixed broadband prices as a percentage of GNI per capita: Micronesia Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Kiribati, are once again reported by ITU as experiencing some of the most expensive fixed broadband pricing in the world. These countries, for which the relative cost is most crippling, have also seen the least improvement in pricing over recent years. Indeed no viable infrastructure development seems able to fix the issue to date and bring them on par with the rest of the World. Where improvements are made it’s usually in the speed, not pricing.

The report notes: “This suggests operators in several developing countries focused their efforts on improving the speed rather than the price of fixed-broadband entry level plans in 2013.”

World Bank data shows the average price of an entry level fixed broadband plan is 100 per cent of per cent of GNI per capita in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

It gets worse: “Despite paying more for an entry-level fixed-broadband plan, customers in developing countries are getting a connection five times slower on average than that enjoyed by customers in developed countries.”

In the age of universally accessible information that’s not a recipe for national growth and development. And that’s the circle we are trying to break working with governments and private stakeholders in the Pacific Island States.

You can read the full report here.