The UN is to review proposals this week for member states on how to best drive global fast broadband rollout.
This weekend its Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, received the final report of the body's Broadband Commission for Digital Development (ahead of the key UN Millennium Development Goal Review Summit.
The report includes input from a range of national governments, industry, civil society and UN agencies while the Commission itself is made up of over 50 public and private sector leaders including the head of UNESCO and the leadership of the International Telecommunications Union.
Active since May 2010, the idea is to look to find practical ways in which governments of countries “at all stages of development” can provide broadband networks for their citizens, in co-operation with the private sector in their respecyive regions.
Increasingly it's become clear the group believes broadband should be viewed as a basic national infrastructure, as signalled by recent ITU reports , and so this sentiment is likely to form part of the output of the UN meeting.
The Summit itself is an attempt to re-focus international efforts to meet targets adopted at the UN Millennium Summit of 2000 around slashing poverty, hunger, disease, maternal and child deaths and other ills by a 2015 deadline.
Research by analyst firm Ovum into broadband in 15 emerging markets revealed that emerging consumers are paying far more on average than the rest of the world, despite earning the lowest wages.
“The striking difference in broadband prices in mature and emerging markets means there is a huge divide in terms of uptake of services," commented Angel Dobardziev, an Ovum practice leader. “The cost of broadband in some emerging countries is three times as high as in mature markets, which when coupled with low wages, makes it an unaffordable luxury for all except a small group at the top of the socio-economic pyramid.
Nigeria’s broadband tariffs were among the most expensive of those sampled by Ovum, with the annual cost of some services reaching more than $2,000 per year, despite the country having a low GDP per capita at $1,170. South Africa had the highest broadband prices of all the countries sampled. The annual cost of some services was found to be more than $5,000, against a GDP of $5,820 per year.
“The key to making broadband more affordable for emerging markets will be an increase in supply and competition, which is currently modest in most markets and non existent outside the key urban areas," said Dobardziev. “However, many markets will require concerted regulatory and policy efforts to increase competition and supply and bring affordability within reach of the mass consumer market. As yet it is unclear how quickly this will happen.”