According tomedia CNET, smartphones will be seen more as a necessity than a luxury in 2020 – a lack of a smartphone would mean missing out on many of the benefits of an Internet connection. But for billions of people around the world, owning a smartphone is still too expensive.
According to a survey released Thursday by the Alliance for The Internet, launched by Tim Berners-Lee’s Web Foundation, 2.5 billion people live in countries where smartphones cost a quarter or more of their monthly income. In some countries, devices are even more expensive, locking people out of their mobile phone ownership.
In Sierra Leone, for example, the average person must pay more than six months to be able to afford a smartphone, and the cheapest smartphone costs about $256. In India, the cheapest smartphone from jio, a leading operator, costs $346 – more than double the average monthly salary. Smartphones in Burundi cost less, at $56, but for most people, that’s the equivalent of 221 percent of their average monthly income.
The survey, conducted in 70 low- and middle-income countries, found a huge gap in the affordability of smartphones in different countries.
The survey also found that men were 25 percent more likely than women to own a smartphone. Women’s more limited spending power also means that when they own a mobile phone, they are likely to be older and less functional than men.
Increasing access to the Internet is one of the important objectives of the World Wide Web Fund, as well as the United Nations and many Governments. Internet access can improve education and employment opportunities, as well as access to critical services, and ultimately promote economic growth. As early as April, a Study by the World Wide Web Fund showed that the Big Purpose of the United Nations Internet access this year is likely to be missed — while the global pandemic shows how important the Internet is to keeping society functioning.
“The COVID-19 outbreak shows that the absence of Internet access can mean missing critical health advice, losing your livelihood, and disconnecting your loved ones when physical distance becomes the norm,” Teddy Woodhouse, research director at the World Wide Web Foundation, said in a statement. “The Internet is a lifeline, and we need to do everything we can to remove barriers that prevent people from accessing the Internet.”
Increasing the number of people who have access to the Internet on a global scale depends on several factors, including making the Internet affordable, regardless of their location or socio-economic status. But if people can’t afford the equipment they need to get online, an affordable data plan means nothing.
Mobile phones are an “important gateway” to the Internet, Mr. Woodhouse said. The vast majority of the next 1 billion people will use mobile devices, so mobile phones must be more affordable if we are to ensure that more people have access to the benefits of the Internet. “
In its report, the Affordable Internet Alliance acknowledges that many factors determine the basic manufacturing and marketing costs of smartphones. But it also says governments and multilateral institutions can do something to help, including reducing taxes on low-cost equipment and supporting projects that help people share the cost of equipment.