Today marks the launch of the Alliance for Affordable Internet – or A4AI, according to the domain name for the group.

Consisting of major internet and networking companies, including Google, Omidya Network, Alcatel-Lucent, Intel, and Facebook, the organisation aims to drive down the costs of connectivity across the world. Other members in the organisation also include public organisations and countries, such as the government of Sweden, US State Department, Internet Society, and others.

But how cheap is cheap, and what is the organisation’s goal for affordable internet access? According to its statements, the coalition wants to “drive down artificially high internet prices in developing countries”, and aims to do so by advocating open, competitive, and innovative broadband markets. Ultimately, it wants pricing to be less than 5% of the global monthly income – a figure set by the UN’s broadband commission.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, comments, saying, “The reason for the Alliance is simple – the majority of the world’s people are still not online, usually because they can’t afford to be.”

Citing our neighbour to the North, Mozambique, he said, ” In Mozambique, for example, a recent study showed that using just 1GB of data can cost well over two months’ wages for the average citizen.”

That should lend some perspective to those who complain that they have to pay R99 for a 2GB mobile data package. But it doesn’t mean those prices can’t be driven down, either.

Berners-Lee adds also highlights the web’s influence in all parts of our lives – it’s not just for fun and cat photos, anymore. Vital areas like healthcare, education, and science all rely on cheaper, better internet access. With smartphones and newer undersea cables helping democratise the web, there’s no need for a digital divide anymore, he says. Now, all that remains is to get people online at a reasonable cost.

 

Eleven years ago Christo started writing about technology for one of South Africa's (then) leading computer magazines. His first review? A Samsung LCD monitor. Hey, it was hot news, back then. Nowadays he gets more excited about photography, cars, game consoles, and faster internet connections. He's sort of an Apple fan, but will take any opportunity to remind you about his Windows-powered home theatre PC and desire to own a vanilla Android tablet.   Currently uses: Apple 13-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, Apple iPhone 5, Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000, Audiofly AF78 Earphones, Xbox 360, Nikon D50.