At the ongoing World Telecommunication Development Conference, various panelists highlighted the need for universal, but most importantly, affordable internet for all.
Reports note that around 3.6 billion people are still offline, most in low-income countries and therefore excluded from digital promises.
This comes at a time when the world is preparing for the digital age. A prerequisite for accessing the opportunities of this digital age is access to good quality, reliable, affordable and secure Internet connectivity.
According to the State of Mobile Internet Connectivity Report 2021, In sub-Saharan Africa, only 28% of the population is connected to broadband, 19% is not covered by mobile Internet and the data gap utilization reaches 53%. . This is mainly due to limited affordability.
45% of people living in the same region use feature phones, 36% use 3G smartphones, and 12% use 4G/5G smartphones. The internet usage gap between rural and urban areas remains significantly high, the report reads.
In Rwanda, during the fourth quarter of 2021, only 1,943,786 smartphones were operational or active (about 15% of the entire population), according to data from the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA). This means that if a company rolls out an app in the market, its target market is only 1,943,786 in a market with a population of over 8 million adults.
The boundary between connected and unconnected has obvious consequences for employment, education, family and social life, and access to information.
According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) 2020 Affordability Report, there is a need for national broadband plans; with the aim of making public investments more effective, encouraging private sector investments and creating new partnerships and sources of accountability.
Connectivity and broadband are no longer a luxury but a prerequisite for economic and social development.
The connectivity gap statistics should motivate stakeholders at all levels to consider ways to ensure that the masses have access to gadgets as well as affordable and reliable connectivity. The motivation for stakeholders to seek to have an intervention is that the benefits of increased broadband will not only be for the masses but also for investors and businesses as it enhances opportunities in the ecosystem.