High cost of smartphones a barrier to digital inclusion, report says

The report says the high cost of smartphones is a barrier to digital inclusion

Retail prices of smartphones are high in developing countries compared to the average income, which prevents people from owning a mobile phone, according to an international statistic. Report. The report stated that the high cost of mobile phones and the Internet are major barriers to digital inclusion.

According to the report entitled Strategies towards Universal Access to Smartphones, in the United States and Europe, the cost of smartphones has fallen to less than 5 percent of average monthly income, while in low-income countries it has exceeded 70 percent.

As a result, smartphones are not affordable for the majority of people in most low- and middle-income countries, according to the report.

Santosh Segdel, founding president of Digital Rights Nepal, an advocacy group promoting civic space and digital rights, said access is linked to the affordability required for both the internet and smartphones. “Not having one of these elements creates a digital divide.”

As more information is released online, the government has a responsibility to ensure that phones and the Internet are accessible to reduce the digital divide, according to Sigdel.

The price of smartphones has gone up in Nepal due to the increase in shipping costs, the appreciation of the US dollar and the ban on importing mobile phones.

Sanjay Agrawal, Vice President, Association of Mobile Phone Importers, said smartphone prices have increased by 10 percent in recent months.

The report said that despite new innovations, the retail cost of mobile phones is still affected by the costs of hardware and operating systems.

“The disruption of global and domestic logistics services caused smartphone prices to rise during the early days of the pandemic, only to decline again in response to increased supply in the face of declining demand,” the report said.

The report says affordability of devices affects women more than men in many low- and middle-income countries, and cites it as the biggest barrier for women to owning a mobile phone.

The report showed that women in low- and middle-income countries are 18 percent less likely than men to own a smartphone. This exclusion is exacerbated in LDCs, particularly in rural areas, and it reinforces and increases their marginalization.

In Nepal, the government imposes an 18% tax on smartphones and a 15.5% tax on mobile phones.

Markets with high fees tend to be very inefficient, the report said, because fees drastically reduce legal imports, and then illegal imports go up.

In countries where there is no domestic industry, taxes and fees are levied on mobile phones to increase government revenue.

“Most devices purchased on parallel markets are produced from copied parts that often fail after a short period of use. Moreover, these devices are sold without warranties or repair options.

Since retail prices of mobile phones are affected by device features, there are suggestions that rethinking hardware design, combining features of smartphones and feature phones can provide affordable devices with sufficient capabilities.

According to the report, an estimated 2.7 billion people globally remain offline. Most of these people live in low- and middle-income countries and most of them live with good internet coverage.

However, the cost of a smartphone for internet access can exceed 70 percent of average monthly income in low- and middle-income countries, which is a major barrier to digital inclusion.

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development has set a target of reducing the price of entry-level fixed or mobile broadband services in low- and middle-income countries to less than 2 percent of monthly GNI per capita by 2025.

More than 99 percent of people in high-income countries have access to mobile phone coverage, while only 86 percent of people in low-income countries do.


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