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Internet costs impede digital inclusion

Oxford Analytica

Internet costs have fallen across the 55 low and middle-income countries that are home to 6.4 billion people

Infographic looking at the costs of accessing the internet in LMICs. Costs are gradually decreasing but are still well in excess of UN affordability targets

Source: Alliance for Affordable Internet; ITU and GSMA’s Mobile Economy reports (2019-21)


By end-2020, a basic internet package of 1 gigabyte (GB) of mobile broadband data per month was affordable for 5.2 billion people across 43 low and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, fuller digital inclusion of LMICs -- characterised by access to data-voluminous services such as online healthcare, education and business -- still faces a major affordability barrier. The cost of high-usage mobile data and fixed broadband far exceeds the ITU’s 2% for 2GB target, and is nowhere close to the 2% for 5GB goal set by the Alliance for Affordable Internet.

As a result, per capita average data usage by 2026 will range from a high of 49GB per month in North America to only 8.9 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Internet costs could rise if services providers attempt to recover their high capital expenditure on 5G telecommunications by raising prices.


  • China’s 5G investment exceed all emerging and developing economies, promising a sustained boom in its digital economy.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the greatest need for expanding internet infrastructure, but the lowest investment capacity.
  • Wealth inequality within LMICs will widen the digital gaps between those who can and those cannot afford high-speed internet


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