Understanding the Drivers of Internet Poverty in Africa
TWCF Number
Project Duration
March 1 / 2023
- February 29 / 2024
Core Funding Area
Individual Freedom and Free Markets
Amount Awarded

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Jesus Crespo Cuaresma
Institution World Data Laboratory

In today’s world, access to the internet could be considered a basic human need and a prerequisite for economic freedom. It connects individuals to essential information and services, employment, education, and to each other. It also serves as an invaluable resource for a free society, enabling people across the world to exercise their religious, political, and economic freedoms. A team, led by Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, and co-directed by Reshma Sheoraj and Jack Gisby, at World Data Laboratory, aims to extend the concept of internet connectivity as a key driver of economic freedom in the 21st century.

The price of a basic internet package varies considerably at the country-level across Africa. This variation can be explained, in part, by the different levels of wealth, income, and expenditure seen across the continent. Country-level geographic and demographic characteristics, such as population size and density, or whether or not a country is landlocked, are also factors. However, a significant degree of internet pricing variation remains unexplained. The World Data Lab posits that this variation is largely driven by the policy and regulatory environment that govern the domestic telecommunications market.

While geographic, demographic, and economic characteristics are difficult to alter or improve in the short-term, telecommunications policy and regulations can be re-shaped by policymakers relatively quickly. This research project will attempt to understand what policy-relevant factors may be driving relatively cheap and relatively expensive internet prices across Africa and then deliver a set of proposed policy implications derived from the relevant insights. The primary objective of the engagement is to expand the evidence base surrounding telecommunication policy and regulatory best-practices within the African context and ensure policymakers can make more informed and effective decisions.

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