Lack of Internet Access isn’t an Infrastructure Issue, it’s a Cost Issue

Since the start of the millennium, the number of people who have access to the internet has increased by nearly 1400%. With the advancement of technology, the barriers to internet access have been torn down one by one. But our apparent progress in this regard shouldn’t make us complacent as not everything concerning internet access has been hunky-dory. 

If you look at the developed world, the numbers are quite satisfactory. There are still improvements that can be made but overall, both Europe and North America have the highest internet penetration rates. Around 90% of their population has access to the internet. 

But if you look at Asia, which is by far the most-populated continent, only about 61% have access to the internet. This means that almost 1.8 billion people in Asia alone are living without access to the internet. 

Yet as can be deduced from the fact that access to the internet has increased by almost 1400% over the last 22 years, the infrastructure isn’t that big of a problem for the majority of the nations today. 

It can be safely said that through initiatives by giants like Facebook and Google, the infrastructure will be there very soon. The biggest issue for consumers in developing markets is the cost. Even when mobile operators try to explain the cost per megabyte, it makes little sense to consumers as they are largely unfamiliar with what a megabyte is and how many of these they need. 

This is where LotusFlare, a Santa Clara-based software company, is really doing some groundbreaking work. They partner with mobile phone operators and offer bundles that not only fulfill consumer needs but also make sense to them and give them full control over their usage. 

One way they do this is by offering data bundles that use time as a metric as opposed to megabytes. Consumers can purchase bundles like unlimited Facebook and five hours of Skype and so on. Once customers understand what they are being offered and realize that they have full control over their data costs, they are more willing to sign up. And it makes total sense as to why they are so wary of data costs. In some Asian nations, the monthly bill for data alone could cost 10% of a household’s total disposable income. 

LotusFlare began its operations with a $4 million seed investment from names such as Social Capital, Google Ventures and Metamorphic Ventures among others. In 2015, Chamath Palihapitiya joined their board of directors, whose firm, Social Capital, led a $6 million Series A investment. 

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