(Note: China and India were broken out in this graph due to the distorting effect of their populations on the estimations per region.)
According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), broadband can be considered affordable when it is at or below five percent of the average monthly income. Statistics are usually reported on country averages; under a “Broadband for All” objective, it might be useful to realize that behind averages income is distributed unevenly among the population of a country. That is, even if broadband prices are effectively under five percent of the average monthly income of a country, that same price indeed represents a higher share of the income of the poorest segments of the population.
In this blog post, I will try to show the differences that averages hide, as well as highlight the importance of addressing specific segments of the population, especially when dealing with the bottom 40 percent of the population, which are – almost by definition – usually underestimated on average.
Using statistics from ITU and World Development Indicators (WDI), I have tried to calculate (grossly and certainly with lots of room for improvement) a tool to measure this “affordability gap” between countries and – more importantly – within countries.
Mr. Julio Lopes, Secretary of Transport of the State of Rio de Janeiro, recently visited the World Bank to present what the city is doing to improve the quality of public transport. It is a fascinating example of how cities can improve urban transport, with a clear target of benefiting the poor and reducing a city’s carbon footprint.
Lessons from the mobile revolution
The spread of the mobile telephone over the past decade has been nothing short of a revolution. According to market tracking firm Wireless Intelligence, in September 1999 there were about 340 million mobile telephone subscriptions worldwide. Ten years hence, that is less than the number of subscriptions in India or China alone, and worldwide the number has grown to 4.5 billion. There are valuable lessons from this revolution for the transformation we are hoping to see in broadband access and use.