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Report: Rwandans spend 7% of their income on the internet

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Internet users in Rwanda spend 7.1 percent of their average income on mobile data, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) report.

As a result, the report puts Rwanda in the top 30 countries globally with the least affordable internet.

Measuring Digital Development: ICT Price Trends report measures the affordability of telecommunication services around the world. It compares the prices of mobile voice services, mobile data, and fixed broadband with the gross national income (GNI).

An internet user in Rwanda pays a 7.1 percent share of the gross national income –  $780 or around Rwf744,000 – for a monthly allowance of 2GB.

The UN Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development defines the internet as being affordable when 1.5GB of mobile data is priced at no more than 2 percent of average income.

In addition, the report shows that voice packages  cost 4.5 percent of average income, falling short behind the global average by 2.5 percent.

According to the report internet  users in Rwanda spend 7.1 per cent of their average income in mobile data. Photo: Sam Ngendahimana.

Commenting on the findings, Patrick Nyirishema, Director General of Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA) said the analysis “is not a good measure” to the reality of Rwanda as a small economy.

“When a country’s economy is 20 times bigger than yours, you would need to have internet cost which is 20 times lower in order to have the same affordability rate. That is not reasonable because the cost of telecommunication equipment is almost the same everywhere around the world,” he said.

“This is not a measure to determine how expensive is your internet, but rather what level is your economy.”

The affordability shown by the report is “different from the actual cost in gross terms,” added the official, explaining that Rwanda has the lowest internet cost in the region, below $2 per 1GB.

Continentally, the report found that internet remains out of reach for many Africans, despite a steady dropping of prices worldwide.

In dollar terms (nominal price), internet users on the continent pay an average of $10 per 1.5GB over 3G or higher networks – lower than users in Europe and the Americas.

But expressing those prices as a share of average income reveals a huge difference.

Against a global average of 4.3 percent, mobile internet users in Africa pay 11.5 percent of gross national income, or three times more than users in other regions.

Only two countries: Mauritius and Gabon have crossed the global benchmark. Seychelles, Nigeria and Botswana show promising progress towards the target by 2023.

Rwanda ranks the 20th on the continent and second in East Africa, after Kenya.

Fixed broadband remains the most expensive, with dispersed affordability relative to regions.

In Africa, an entry-level subscription costs 33 percent of GNI, compared to 1.4 in Europe.

Wireless broadband networks still carry far less traffic than fixed networks and they generally offer lower speed and reliability, according to the report.

While the prices of mobile data, voice and fixed broadband are decreasing steadily around the world and in some countries even dramatically, they do not translate into increased Internet penetration.

Rwanda’s internet penetration is 21.77 percent, according to the United Nations E-Government Survey 2020.

Among barriers to the uptake of internet usage, affordability of internet is out of the question, said the official. Rather, it is the one of devices that can connect to the internet.

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