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ITU says lower prices don’t lead to higher internet penetration

The UN telecoms agency observes that, while global connectivity prices are going down, the relationship with penetration is not as inversely proportion as you might think.

An International Telecommunication Union analysis of mobile and fixed connectivity has found that prices are decreasing, on average, across the world. Disappointingly for the agency, since lowering prices is one of its big things, this trend is not translating into rapidly increasing internet penetration rates. So it looks like there are other factors involved, such as quality of service, level of education and lack of localised content.

In spite of that, the ITU seems to be sticking with its price narrative. “Keeping telecommunication and digital services as affordable as possible has always been important to ensure broader Internet uptake, especially for lower-income households and consumers,” said Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General. “In the face of COVID-19, this is more vital than ever. People who do not have access to the Internet may not be able to access information about how to protect themselves from coronavirus, telework, learn remotely and connect with families and friends during quarantine.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has clearly shown us that nobody is safe until we are all safe,” said Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau (has it?). “By the same token, we will not be able to use the full potential of digital technologies until we are all connected. To connect all, we need to address all factors that may prevent meaningful connectivity.”

It’s not clear what the ITU top brass is getting at, other than to vaguely imply that it’s really important to have agencies like the ITU. If you fancy a bit of light reading to see you through the lockdown, you can download the 178-page report here. Universal connectivity is desirable but not essential and some parts of the world may feel there are matters in more pressing need of their scarce funds.


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