A new policy brief from ITU and the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), finds that high costs for Internet access relative to income remain one of the main barriers to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) services worldwide.
Taking income differences into account, a mobile broadband subscription with at least 1.5 gigabytes (GB) of data costs around four times more in developing countries than in developed ones.
“The affordability of ICT services 2020″ analyses five categories, namely mobile broadband, fixed broadband, mobile data and voice low-usage, mobile data and voice high-usage, and mobile cellular low usage. Service prices in all five categories continued a slow but steady decline over the past year.
Developing countries were the main drivers of this global price decline. However, a pronounced affordability gap remains between developed and developing countries. While 4G networks cover areas with about 85 per cent of the world’s population, nearly half of those people were still offline in 2020.
“The declining price trend for mobile and fixed broadband is encouraging, but we need to strengthen our efforts to lower the prices in developing countries,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred the digital transformation, we need to connect all people to schooling, work, health, business and government services. We build up the infrastructure for a better future, not only for challenging times.”
According to the UN Broadband Commission on Sustainable Development‘s Target 2 for 2025, entry-level broadband service in developing countries should not cost more than 2 per cent of monthly Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. The global median price for entry-level mobile-broadband services in 2020 fell within that target, at 1.7 per cent. However, the median price for entry-level fixed-broadband (i.e. at least 5 GB) services was considerably above the target, at 2.9 per cent of GNI per capita.
Broadband in developing countries had a median price of 2.5 per cent of GNI per capita, compared with only 0.6 per cent in developed countries, the brief shows. Over the past year, the number of economies that met the 2 per cent affordability target increased by six: out of the 190 economies covered in the report, 106 have achieved the target, while 84 economies have prices above the target.
Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau, said: “ICT services in the majority of least developed countries (LDCs) remain prohibitively expensive, even for entry-level users.”
Despite the median price decline in the past year, the mobile broadband data-only basket was unaffordable in 39 out of 43 LDCs, while the fixed-broadband basket was unaffordable in 32 out of the 33 LDCs for which data are available.
For a fixed-broadband service, the median price in developed countries stood at 1.2 per cent of monthly GNI per capita, while in developing countries the median price was much higher, at 4.7 per cent. Out of the 178 economies for which these data were collected, the price was below 2 per cent in 67 economies and above this threshold in the other 111.
“This data makes clear that we need to rapidly accelerate progress to remove cost barriers to Internet services,” said Sonia Jorge, Executive Director at A4AI. “The pandemic not only underlines the critical importance of Internet access in today’s world but has laid bare the scale of digital inequality that remains. We need ambitious, coordinated action to make affordable, meaningful connectivity available to everyone, with efforts targeted at those least likely to be online, including poor and rural populations, women, and people living in the least developed countries. As the world becomes increasingly digital, the need to expand connectivity to everyone becomes ever more urgent.”
Fixed-broadband services, the most expensive category studied, saw the least change in the past year. This apparent price stability, however, does not reflect recent, and varying, quality improvements. In developed economies, the median speed of entry-level connections increased from 30 to 40 megabits per second (Mbit/s) last year. In developing countries, it only increased from 3 to 5 Mbit/s.
Africa witnessed the biggest price decreases in all five categories in relative terms, although its median prices remain well above world prices. In general, regional disparities are less pronounced than the gap between economies with different income levels.
MTN Targets $6 Billion Valuation for Mobile Money Business
MTN Group CEO Ralph Mupita said the company is targeting a valuation of between $5 billion and $6 billion for its mobile money arm, as it prepared the sale or listing of a minority stake in the unit.
Mupita outlined basic details about the future of its mobile financial services arm, which is set to be separated as part of a strategy to help it cash-in on various assets unveiled in March.
The company, which operates across several of Africa’s largest markets, has long prized its mobile money offer with the segment often cited as one of the major growth areas in the business.
Mupita said MTN planned to structurally separate the business within the next year. Funds raised from its money and infrastructure assets will go towards further cuts in MTN’s debt pile, adding to disposals of a number of parts of the business deemed non-core in the last two years.
MTN is also in the process of selling-up in the Middle East as it plans to focus its efforts on Africa.
Mobile Money: YDFS Expands Cardless Cash Withdrawal Service to 44 Financial Institutions
Mobile money service provider, Y’ello Digital Financial Services (YDFS) has announced the expansion of its MoMo Agent cardless cash withdrawal service to over 40 banks and other financial institutions nationwide, providing seamless financial solutions to more people.
Initially exclusive to Access Bank, the service has now been extended to include First Bank of Nigeria, Zenith Bank, GTBank Plc, United Bank of Africa and other tier-one commercial banks.
Using the service, customers can visit MoMo Agents nationwide to access funds in their bank accounts without requiring an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or ATM card. The service utilises a secure gateway that protects customers against fraudulent transactions and requires transaction validation using their bank PIN.
Commenting on the expansion, Chief Executive Officer, Y’ello Digital Financial Services, YDFS, Usoro Usoro said, “We all must play our part in the Federal Government’s financial inclusion drive, which we know is essential for every Nigerian. With this, more MoMo users can walk up to the nearest MoMo Agent to withdraw cash from their bank account without visiting a bank or an ATM.”
Launched in 2019, MoMo Agent expanded its financial services in 2020 for underbanked and unbanked communities to include bill payment, cash deposit and withdrawal, data and airtime purchase and bulk disbursement services. With an agent base of over 150,000 spread across over 700 local governments, customers on the MTN network can dial *223# to locate the nearest MoMo Agent.
Why it matters
With the cardless cash withdrawal service, MoMo Agents’ sustained innovation aligns with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) financial inclusion target of 95% by 2024. This target was reviewed in 2019 as part of a five-year strategy to sustain inclusive economic growth.
To achieve this, Nigeria must attain an inclusive financial sector that has closed the gender gap. As at 2018, Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access (EFInA) revealed that only 59.1% of women compared with 67.5% of men were financially included representing a gender gap of 8.4%. The nature of mobile money makes it easier for women in rural areas to access financial services, which in turn stimulates economic growth.
The cardless cash withdrawal is a good initiative to deepen this inclusion. With the service, residents in rural areas can perform financial transactions without worrying about or using an ATM card. It is another major collaborative step between the mobile money service provider, YDFS and commercial banks in Nigeria.
List of Financial Institutions
- First Bank of Nigeria
- Zenith Bank
- GTBank Plc
- Access Bank
- Access (Diamond) Bank
- Ecobank PLC
- Standard Chattered Bank
- Fidelity Bank
- United Bank for Africa (UBA)
- Unity Bank
- Union Bank
- Sterling Bank
- First City Monument Bank (FCMB)
- Skye Bank
- Wema Bank
- Enterprise Bank
- Keystone Bank
- Jaiz Bank
- Stanbic IBTC Bank
- Suntrust Bank
- Heritage Bank
- Citi Bank
- Coronation Merchant Bank
- Access Money
- Eco Mobile
- Fidelity Mobile
- GT Mobile
- Zenith Mobile
- Money Box
- Safetrust Mortgage Bank
- Covenant Microfinance Bank
- NPF Microfinance Bank
- Fortis Microfinance
- Omoluabi Mortgage Bank
- Sterling Mobile
- Page MFB
- Stanbic Mobile Money
- Fortis Mobile
- FBN Mobile
GSMA, Spain Agree International Travel Authorisation for MWC21 Barcelona
The GSMA and Ministry of the Interior of the Government of Spain have announced details of an agreement to allow all MWC21 Barcelona registrants – including exhibitors, attendees, sponsors, and partners – to enter Spain to attend the in-person event.
Whilst there is a current denial of entry to Spain for any national from a country outside the EU, exceptions apply to specific groups of people, including ‘highly qualified workers’. The decision from the Spanish government now includes MWC21 Barcelona registrants in this category.
John Hoffman, CEO GSMA Ltd, said: “The health and safety of everyone involved in MWC Barcelona, both in Spain and beyond, continues to be our utmost priority as we navigate rapidly shifting circumstances. This decision is a resounding vote of confidence in the careful planning undertaken to date, and our strong partnership with the Host City Parties. We will continue to work closely with our partners to deliver a safe and enjoyable experience.”
The GSMA will share details of MWC21 Barcelona registrants with Spanish authorities to facilitate entry into the country. This shift allows entry to those registrants who are currently denied entry, including those from China and the USA, to enter Spain for the purposes of attending and doing business at MWC21.
The GSMA will adapt its registration process, to accommodate this international business travel policy. All individuals participating in the event from outside of the European Union and Schengen Area must follow this process to facilitate entry into Spain:
- Complete your online registration for the event using the MWC21 Barcelona Registration System
- All individuals seeking entry to Spain must be fully registered for MWC21 Barcelona
- After completing registration, the GSMA will provide relevant information to the Spanish government for visa and border control purposes
- On completion of registration, you will receive a MWC Barcelona 2021 Attendance Confirmation. Please have this to hand when contacting your consulate or visa issuing authority and with you when you travel to attend the event
- The registration system will be updated in the coming weeks to reflect the updated process. Anyone already registered will be contacted and advised when to complete this additional information
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