LIRNEasia has been invited in the past to comment on and make suggestions on how to enhance the Alliance for Affordable Internet’s (A4AI) Affordability Index. Our latest contributions were made in preparation to the recent launch of the report that took place at the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress. Affordability is essentially an objective measure of the cost of a good or service in relation on one’s income. When subjective angles such as the availability (not necessarily the effectiveness) of national broadband plans, universal service funds, spectrum allocation strategies and so on are introduced it muddies the water. While the Affordability Index takes in to account a number of viable indicators, it also looks at many others that muddy the waters. For example, instead of using for example broadband prices as a percentage of GNI per capita (as reported by the ITU), in 2014 the A4AI decided to focus on “drivers that push prices down”. Why then call it an “Affordability” index?
For example, of the 51 countries surveyed, the A4AI ranks Rwanda at #1, Pakistan at #8 and Indonesia as #10 ( as the top 10 among the developing countries, defined as low to lower middle income countries). However, according to the ITU’s Measuring the Information Society Report of 2014, the cost of the fixed broadband sub-basket as a percentage of GNI per capita is 6.87 in Indonesia, 10.7 in Pakistan and 642.45 in Rwanda. The reverse.
The ranking in the report is really more to do with plans and funds in place as opposed to it’s title, affordability. LIRNEasia continues to engage with the A4AI in its efforts as affordability of broadband services is a relevant issue; however, our initial concerns on the method remain. LIRNEasia will continue to participate specially as they begin to focus on Myanmar.