Smartphones are unaffordable for billions of people worldwide. Nearly 2.5 billion people live in countries where a cell phone costs at least a quarter of a month’s or even a year’s income, the Alliance for Affordable Internet reports. Many people could not afford data packages either.
Drastic price differences
The alliance compared smartphone prices in 70 low- and middle-income countries with a combined population of more than five billion. In Sierra Leone in West Africa, such a cell phone is the most expensive. It costs more than six average monthly wages, the equivalent of 225 euros. Burundi is the next most expensive country, followed by India. In a place where almost one-fifth of the world’s population lives, the cheapest device costs two average monthly salaries, almost 300 euros. By contrast, a smartphone in Botswana or Jamaica costs only about 20 euros, around five percent of the average monthly income.
For one thing, the standard of living is higher in these countries and people have more money, says Teddy Woodhouse, research director at the Web Foundation, to the German Press Agency. But there data providers also offered devices without brand names. "The devices aren’t very fancy and often have slower processors and cameras and smaller memories", said Woodhouse. But as an entry-level device they are sufficient.
"The vast majority of the next one billion people who will go online will do so via a mobile device", the foundation quotes Woodhouse. "If we want to ensure that people can take advantage of the Internet, we need to make devices more affordable."
This is how long you have to work on average to earn the price of a smartphone.
A smartphone is not a luxury
In the coronavirus pandemic, it became apparent that people missed out on important health information because they didn’t have access to the internet, he said. A smartphone is not a luxury, but a vital health care tool, it said. The alliance calls on governments to require the production of cheap devices, reduce taxes on them and give people the option of installment payments.
The alliance is an initiative of the Web Foundation of Tim Berners-Lee, who 30 years ago as a physicist at the European nuclear research center CERN in Geneva laid the technical foundations for the World Wide Web.