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UN Tech Group Finds Most Expensive Broadband 89

Posted by samzenpus
from the golden-dial-up dept.
destinyland writes "In the Central African Republic, broadband internet service costs 3891% of the average monthly income. 'Put another way, a month's broadband service costs more than three years' average wages in the country,' notes one technology blog, 'compared with less than two hours' earnings in Macau.' A United Nations' technology group released the figures in a new report in advance of a September 19 summit on the digital divide in developing countries. ('We are trying to avoid a broadband divide,' said Dr. Hamadoun Toure, the secretary general of the UN's International Telecommunications Union.) Their agency noted that the rate for broadband penetration is below 1% in many poor countries, with monthly costs higher than the average monthly income. 'By contrast,' notes the BBC, 'in the world's most developed economies, around 30% of people have access to broadband at a cost of less than 1% of their income.' And the report also estimates that there are 5 billion cellphones in the world — though some people may own more than one."
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UN Tech Group Finds Most Expensive Broadband

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  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pseudofrog (570061) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @01:33PM (#33482122)
    "And the report also estimates that there are 5 billion cellphones in the world — though some people may own more than one."

    Yeah -- I'm pretty sure that worldwide ownership rate of cell phones is somewhat less than 73%.
  • Um...yeah. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DurendalMac (736637) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @01:37PM (#33482144)
    It's going to be pretty difficult to proliferate anything through much of Africa with ultracorrupt asshats running many of the countries, not to mention other ultracorrupt asshats trying to overthrow the current ultracorrupt asshats in power. You'd think that they'd stop caring about goddamned broadband and start worrying about actually getting a stable infrastructure first. Yes, I realize that the guys talking about broadband are part of a subgroup within a much broader one, but still, focus on what you can actually accomplish, not something that's going to take a lot more work in other areas to become even remotely feasible.

    Then again, Nigeria seems to be doing just fine with internet access...
  • by msobkow (48369) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @01:39PM (#33482154) Homepage Journal

    I don't think it's at all fair to compare prices based on average monthly income in a country. If the average income is mere dollars per day or per month, how can you possibly expect internet access to be within means? It's like complaining that the average New Yorker/Manhattanite can't afford a car because the parking costs almost as much as their rent!

  • by tomhath (637240) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @01:42PM (#33482168)

    3891% of the average monthly income

    Given that the monthly income is roughly $50, I doubt a lack of broadband is what keeps them up at night.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 05, 2010 @01:45PM (#33482174)

    There are many things more accessible in the developed world than the developing world. Oh, such as food, clean water, medicine, clothing, shelter, literacy-level education.

    Yes, broadband is nice, and (in developed) countries plays a role at improving human rights (through emporewment of individual citizens to read and share information, both through official channels and outside them).

    But in the poorest countries, things are different. Massively accessible broadband would not improve jack squat until people can actually read and write, until they are not dying of hunger and disease. Any investing in broadband infrastructure would be a money hole which would only benefits the pockets of those in power (who undoubtedly will take a graft in exchange for permission of setting up the infrastructure).

    Solve the basics, like food and water, before you go hi-tech, mmmk?

  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @01:57PM (#33482208)

    Thank you, Captain Obvious.

    Countries with devastating poverty have a lot of people who can't afford broadband internet for the computer they can't afford to own that runs on electricity they don't have in the "house" that we wouldn't consider a house.

    Perhaps we should start with something more basic, like access to clean water, absence of marauding militias, a level of education somewhere above shockingly bad, etc.

  • Misplace Priority (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argontechnologies (865043) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @02:05PM (#33482254)
    Perhaps the developed world should consider that when you can't feed yourself or your family, broadband is not really that high a priority. If you also factor in the illiteracy rate, it becomes even less of a priority. The things these countries need are much more basic and critical to survival. Clean safe water, renewable, self sustained sources of food. To hell with broadband, and I run an ISP.
  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @02:36PM (#33482348)
    It might be. Cell phones are a great example of how developing world can use technology to leapfrog certain stages of development that they missed out on. Countries without functioning telecommunications infrastructure can (contract foreign companies to) slap a bunch of cell phone masts around the major population centers and combined with cheap handsets practically overnight you got 80% of your population connected. Of course there is a bit more to it, but it's a lot easier than wiring up the country.
  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sznupi (719324) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @02:43PM (#33482380) Homepage

    At the end of 2007, the world had 3.2 billion mobile subscribers (that's the metric used here, active numbers - it's damn easy to determine); at the end of 2009 - 4.6 billion. It's quite plausible there would be 5 by now.

    Also, while indeed some people have more than one number / some places more than 100% penetration - in many developing ones a group of poeple (say, a family) shares one mobile phone. That's an explicitly stated reason why Nokia puts, into their lowest end (on S30 - 1202, 1280, 1616, etc.) mobile phones, few separate / switchable contact lists & cost trackers.
    The above two factors cancel each other out a bit; I wouldn't be even too surprised if an actual number of people using mobile phones was slightly higher than the number of accounts.

  • Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp&Gmail,com> on Sunday September 05, 2010 @02:45PM (#33482386) Homepage Journal

    3891% of the average monthly income

    Given that the monthly income is roughly $50, I doubt a lack of broadband is what keeps them up at night.

    Thank you. You've got people saying things like "We've got to get broadband to the third world so they can catch up!". Broadband? Many of these people don't even have clean water supplies, or a house that isn't made of trash or mud. Just how much is a freakin' broadband connection going to help them?

  • Re:Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sznupi (719324) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @02:59PM (#33482466) Homepage

    Though the carrier issue is also quite often (probably more often) dealt with by carrying more than one simcard & one phone... Then there are dualsim handsets.

    Those mobile phones (and mostly so called "feature phones") are also increasingly a way of accessing the web [opera.com] (conveniently, last three reports are about Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America) - IIRC already close to 30% of Facebook usage is from mobiles. After looking at State of the Mobile Web reports from Opera (which include most popular sites per country), it's quite possible that some notable part of those ~30% is from places where it's often the only frequent method of access. And despite a lot of those users being rather frugal with the amount of browsing / data transferred, Opera Mini is still the #1 mobile web browser by worldwide website stats.

  • Re:Um...yeah. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by whitehaint (1883260) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @03:17PM (#33482590)
    Consider that Europeans and Asians had nobody to hold their hand when they developed technological and infrastructure improvements. Perhaps Africa is substantially lacking because they do not have the abstract thought needed for these improvements? I recall an effort in the DCR to protect some gorillas. The reserve officers relied on repeater radios, which were promptly looted for whatever was in the shacks. Bring broadband to the area? Prepare to replace lines constantly.
  • by sznupi (719324) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @03:20PM (#33482626) Homepage

    Prices in a given place, in relation to the average monthtly income, is all that matters to the poeple in the end...

    But even if you want to look at absolute numbers - apparently the average monthly income is in the range of tens of USD. You certainly wouldn't buy broadband at close to 40x of that amount, too. "High tech" stuff, of various kind, is typically most expensive at such places by all conceivable measures..

  • Re:Exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sznupi (719324) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @04:32PM (#33483118) Homepage

    You merely describe one of the extremes...

    In many so called developing places basics are covered decently.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @05:09PM (#33483406) Homepage

    The problem is that wiring up 80% of the country would create a thriving local economy and enable inexpensive communication while bring in a foreign company to throw up a few masts just exports more of what little wealth exists. That's why, in spite of the opportunity to leapfrog whole generations of tech, much of Africa remains undeveloped.

  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday September 05, 2010 @05:35PM (#33483554) Homepage

    It's the only meaningful measure. For example, if we all made a million dollars a day, we wouldn't mind much if a decent meal cost $1000/person. OTOH, we would mind very much if a decent meal cost $0.05/person but we only made $0.01/day.

    Yes, what they can afford would not be anywhere near enough for providers working at 1st world rates, but if you consider that those 3rd world wages are also coming from 1st world employers you start to see just how bad a deal they get.

  • Re:Um...yeah. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PGaries (827288) on Monday September 06, 2010 @03:16AM (#33486584) Homepage
    A more reasonable interpretation of "I won't have to worry about..." is that that's a figure of speech and not literal. The idea seems to be that Obama would increase people's standards of living by fixing the economy, rampant corporate greed, overpriced health care, etc. that contribute to keeping the poor poor. (She's probably a little too optimistic though, considering her statements in retrospect and two years into the Obama administration.)

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