The cost of accessing the internet remains prohibitive, with Southern African countries among the most expensive on the continent according to data that has been released.
The Worldwide Mobile Data Pricing 2022 report released by Cable.co.uk shows that the price of 1 gigabyte of data in Botswana is on average $15.55, the most expensive in the region. In Seychelles, 1GB of data costs an average of $12.66.
In Namibia, the price of 1GB of data costs an average of $10.52.
In Zimbabwe, the average price of 1GB of data is $4.92, with the cheapest plan being $1.73 and the most expensive being $12.92.
In the region, the price of data is the cheapest in Tanzania, where the average cost of 1GB is $0.71.
In other countries in the region – in Eswatini ($0.84), Mozambique ($1.33), Zambia ($1.36), South Africa ($2.04), Lesotho ($2.20), Angola ($2.33) and Malawi ($2.42).
The price of accessing the internet remains prohibitively high in Southern Africa, with at least three countries being among the most expensive in the region.
Access to the internet facilitates access to information and, therefore, there is need to make the price of data affordable.
Access to information is a fundamental human right central to the exercise of free expression that empowers citizens to make informed choices and decisions on socio-economic and political matters that affect their daily lives.
As such, internet affordability becomes an urgent issue that governments, service providers and other critical stakeholders, should address to give effect to the constitutional provisions that provide for the right to access to information.
Technology and the internet continue to shape critical aspects of our lives such as education, banking, access to information, and the purchase of goods and services and, thus, access to the internet must be affordable.
What is clear from the study is that there is a digital divide that has emerged in Southern Africa, where the price of 1GB of data is almost 20 times more expensive in Botswana compared to Tanzania. There is no logical explanation for such an astronomical difference in the cost of accessing the internet.
Policymakers, consumers, private companies, civil society organisations and regulators should have meaningful, truthful and open conversations on this issue.
MISA is running a #DataMustFall campaign in recognition of the centrality of the internet in access to information and enhancing freedom of expression and democracy. Further MISA continues to engage in the multiple stakeholder approach towards internet governance with the aim of ensuring that all the stakeholders have a say on how this ubiquitous service is accessed.