Ghana seeks to make 1GB of mobile internet cost below 2% of average monthly income

Ghana has endorsed the UN Broadband Commission’s “1 for 2” affordability target which aims to make 1GB of mobile broadband to cost below 2% of average monthly income. Ghana’s Minister of Communications Ursula Owusu-Ekuful made the announcement at the A4AI-Ghana coalition meeting held in March which was committed to leading efforts to drive down prices and achieve this target through policy and regulatory changes.

The announcement makes Ghana the second country, after Nigeria, to take this major step towards ensuring that income is not a barrier to access. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an A4AI Member, has also endorsed the target and is advocating for its adoption across the region.

In Ghana, 1GB of mobile data currently costs 4% of average monthly income, and the country ranks 26th (out of 58 countries) on the 2017 Affordability Drivers Index.

Below are policy recommendations for improving internet access as compiled from the 2017 Affordability Report:

Recommendations for Improving Internet Affordability and Access in Ghana

1. Update and revamp outdated national ICT and broadband plans. These updated plans should include bold, smart targets for bringing women and other marginalised groups online, while incorporating good practices.

2. Focus on public access initiatives. Build upon the success of GIFEC’s previous efforts to expand the provision
of free or subsidised internet services and public Wi-Fi, particularly in under-served areas, ideally through more
public-private partnerships.

3. Expand efforts to tackle demand-side access issues. Encourage the development of local and locally relevant
digital content, and improve digital literacy through trainings and incentives to develop technology and innovation hubs.

4. Reduce taxes on end-user devices, such as smartphones and computers.

5. Implement guidelines to encourage and incentivise infrastructure sharing, open access, and reduced
bureaucratic bottlenecks (e.g., streamline permit process across multiple agencies).

The UN Broadband Commission currently defines broadband as affordable if an entry-level (500MB) data plan is available at less than 5% of average monthly income (i.e., GNI per capita), though the definition of affordability fails to capture poverty and income inequality in various countries and populations.

In determining what a more accurate target should be, A4AI analysis shows that when prices drop to 2% or less of GNI per capita, all levels of income earners, including the bottom 20%, can afford a basic broadband connection. At the 4% and 3% levels, mobile broadband remains unaffordable for the bottom 20% of income earners in several countries. A more ambitious 2% threshold will thus allow a broadband connection to be truly affordable for all income groups.