Internet poverty: The next frontier in development

Article by Jesús Crespo Cuaresma, Katharina Fenz, Marianne Nari Fisher, Homi Kharas: “…people today also need to access a minimum package of internet services as part of basic human needs. To expand on the traditional method of poverty measurement, researchers at World Data Lab have identified and costed a “minimum internet basket,” which combines measures of quantity, quality, and affordability based on consultations with the Alliance for Affordable InternetOokla, and GSMA

Under this expanded definition (see below image), a person is considered internet poor if s/he cannot afford a minimum quantity (1 GB) and quality (10 Mbps download speed) of internet services without spending more than 10 percent of his or her disposable income on these services. This minimum package of internet services would allow a person to fulfill basic needs, such as accessing emails, reading the news, or using government e-services. The core methodology of internet poverty was initially presented in mid-2021 and has undergone additional enhancements to identify the number of internet poor in almost all countries. 

World Data Lab’s just-launched Internet Poverty Index can now adjust the actual cost of internet services in every country to estimate what a standard mobile internet package of 1 GB at 10 MB/second would cost in that country. It then computes how many people in the country could afford such a package. If the cost of the standardized package is above 10 percent of a person’s total spending, the person is considered internet poor. This allows us to create global estimates and share the number of people living in internet poverty globally, with disaggregations available by gender. 

As with the $1.90 threshold of extreme poverty, the key value added of the approach is not the threshold itself but its consistent measurement across countries and over time. There can be a legitimate discussion about the minimum package, just as there are now suggestions that higher poverty lines be used in lower-middle-income and upper-middle-income countries. For now, however, we use the same package in all countries, which would correspond roughly to $6 per month ($0.19/day; 2011 PPP)…(More)”