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British scientist and founder of the Internet Tim Berners-Lee British scientist and founder of the Internet Tim Berners-Lee Featured

Inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee has joined forces with tech giants Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others in a bid to make Internet access more affordable in less-developed countries.

The British scientist launched the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) today as part of the World Wide Web Foundation, a not-for-profit group founded by Berners-Lee in 2009, at an international forum in Abuja, Nigeria's capital.

Berners-Lee said there was still a great disparity between those who can afford the Internet and those who cannot.

"The reason for the alliance is simple - the majority of the world's people are still not online, usually because they can't afford to be. In Mozambique, for example, a recent study showed that using just one gigabyte of data can cost well over two months' wages for the average citizen."

High prices led to "a widening digital divide that slows progress in vital areas such as health, education and science," he said.

The group is the second formed this year to improve worldwide Internet access, joining Mark Zuckerberg's 'Internet.org' intiative launched in August.

The A4AI said it aims to help reach the United Nations Broadband Commission's target of entry-level broadband services priced at less than 5% of average monthly income.

"With the advent of affordable smartphones, new undersea cables and innovations in wireless spectrum usage, there is simply no good reason for the digital divide to continue," Berners-Lee said. "The real bottleneck now is anti-competitive policies that keep prices unaffordable.

"The alliance is about removing that barrier and helping as many as possible get online at reasonable cost."

The Alliance said that around 31% of the population in developing markets are online, compared with 77% in developed markets, according to data from the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency.

Meanwhile about 90% of the 1.1 billion households not connected to the internet are in the developing world.

Sonia Jorge, executive director of the A4AI, said the alliance was different from other initiatives like Zuckerberg's because it is "the first to focus specifically on policy and regulatory change".

"The A4AI is the largest and most diverse coalition yet formed to tackle this challenge. We have over 30 members - many from the developing world - and our membership is diverse," she said, "incorporating governments and government agencies, civil society organisations, and information and communications technology companies."

Jorge told reporters other members of the industry such as Huawei and ZTE were welcome to join the alliance after its launch.

For more information visit the Alliance's official website here.

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David Swan

David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun.

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