Jamaica plateaus on internet affordability index

Jamaica has retained its 17th global ranking in the 2019 internet affordability report. The island, deemed a middle-income country, was among 61 countries investigated by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI).

The annual report examines the policy and regulatory frameworks that have allowed some countries to make broadband internet access more affordable, accessible, and universal. The report also seeks to understand what others can do to catch up quickly. According to A4AI, the 2019 Affordability Report focuses on low- and middle-income countries where internet costs tend to be the highest.

In the Americas, Jamaica was ranked ninth out of 15 countries scrutinised, with an Affordability Drivers Index (ADI) of 62.7 out of a possible 100 score. Colombia had the best regional affordability score with 83.1 and Caribbean neighbours Haiti on the other end of the spectrum with the lowest score of 16.9.

For the region it was deduced that on average, one gigabyte (GB) of data costs just over 1.9 per cent of one’s monthly income. The report acknowledged that data remains more expensive for the poorest in the Americas, where they would be required to pay up to 20 per cent of their monthly salary.

The ranking for select countries within the Americas on the 2019 Affordability Report. The analysis looked at 15 low- and middle-income states in the region with Jamaica being ranked 9th. (Photo: a4ai.org)

In its recommendation, A4AI called on policymakers and regulators to promote competitive and diverse broadband markets as key ingredients to drive down the cost of internet access. “Competitive and diverse markets, especially those with robust public access options, emerge as a path forward for increased inclusion and the expansion of digital economies,” the Affordability Report added.

Telecoms giants FLOW and Digicel dominate the local market in Jamaica with internet penetration still hovering around 60 per cent of the population. Contrastingly, African countries face the most expensive internet charges in the world. The A4AI defines affordability as 1GB of mobile broadband data costing no more than 2 per cent of average monthly income. But the average across the African continent is 7.12 per cent and in some cases, 1GB costs more than a fifth of average earnings.