The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every country in the region. Social distancing, school and office closures, and complete lockdowns have disrupted the lives of billions. Access to the Internet has enabled many to continue to work, learn and socialize while living under some restrictions on movement and association. However, neither Internet services nor Internet accesses are universal, and not everyone has benefited. The World Bank’s World Development Report 2021 has stated that more than 600 million people lived without access to the Internet in 2018.
Across the region, we still find lower rates of infrastructure development in less urbanized countries, and lower rates of Internet utilization in low- and middle-income countries. Similar trends are visible at the subnational level even in high-income countries – digital inequalities based on wealth and geography still exist in most Asia-Pacific countries.
In this regard, the ESCAP secretariat and the Alliance for Affordable Internet conducted a joint study on meaningful connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region. The main objective of this report is to better understand the policy and regulatory environment for information and communications technology (ICT) in Asia-Pacific countries and its implication on meaningful connectivity to people.
The key findings of the report indicate that there are large variations in the availability and affordability of digital connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region. It highlights that national ICT policies, such as introduction of competition in the mobile market and higher investment in education for higher digital literacy and Internet adoption, play an important role. It also highlights that favorable conditions for Meaningful Connectivity are not solely tied to a country’s income level or population density – some countries significantly outperform their peers at the similar income levels. These findings provide important policy implications for Asia-Pacific countries in ensuring that quality and affordable broadband access is essential for sustainable development.