Policy Brief 1, 2019
With Internet-based services taking the centre of an increasingly digital global economy, reliable and up to date data sets are crucial for the formulation of evidence-based policy. Critical attention, however, should be paid to methodologies used to measure and compare indicators for policy formulation and to assess outcomes. One of the critical data points used to assess competitive outcomes and the impact on consumer welfare is price. Mobile data prices are increasingly used to assess Internet service affordability, among other variables that contribute to affordability measures.
Recently Cable publicised information covering 1GB data prices for 230 countries for the period 23 October to 28 November 2018. They ranked the countries based on the average between the lowest and highest price for 1GB. At an average price of USD 0.56, USD 0.68 and USD 0.88, Cable ranks Rwanda, Sudan and the DRC respectively as among the top 10 cheapest countries in the world. India, with an average price of USD 0.26 for 1GB data, is ranked first among the 230 countries. The most expensive country is Zimbabwe, with an average 1GB data cost of USD 75.20. This price is 289 times higher than the cheapest country, India, according to Cable.
Besides the average price not reflecting the actual price paid by consumers, the Cable methodology does not compare similar products. Data packages are priced based on the number of MB provided and the validity period. The Cable methodology seems to have completely failed to take this into consideration. To compare prices across countries we need to use a methodology that can compare similar packages. Because data products differ between operators and across countries this requires researchers to generates pricing baskets.