Rapporteur Report

Digital transformation in rural areas is one of the main priorities for development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Sixty-six per cent of households in the region have a fixed Internet connection, which is needed to facilitate high-capacity data transactions, such as video calls, for work or study. While this marks an improvement over the pre-pandemic regional average of almost 50%, disparities between countries persist. According to UNDP data (2022), 17 countries out of 24 surveyed are below the regional average, including Mexico, Uruguay, and Costa Rica. Haiti and Nicaragua lag behind other countries in the region, with only 6% of households in Haiti and 25% of households in Nicaragua having access to a fixed Internet connection at home.

On average, 74% of urban households in the region have access to fixed Internet connections, compared to only 42% of rural households. This gap may be driven by the challenges of installing telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas. Thus, for example, in countries such as Peru and Bolivia, the rural-urban gap is greater, as these two countries have large topographical variations that can impede the connection of some mountainous regions.

In countries such as Jamaica, El Salvador, Belize, Bolivia, Peru, Honduras, Venezuela, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Guyana, the Significant Rural Connectivity Index varies from 29% (Jamaica) to 11% (Guyana), which means that between 71% and 89% of the rural population in these countries do not have access to quality connectivity services. For countries such as Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Bahamas, Barbados, Panama and Colombia, which represent 37% of the rural population in the sample, the Significant Rural Connectivity Index for this group varies from 46.9% (Brazil) to 37.5% (Colombia), which means that between 53% and 62% of this population group does not have access to significant connectivity services.

The countries in the region have implemented various public programmes or in partnership with private companies, in order to reduce the digital divide. These programmes include: Rural Connectivity Plan (Colombia), Rural Connectivity Project (Brazil), Rural Broadband Programme (Dominican Republic), Federal Internet Plan (Argentina), among others. The aim of these plans is the creation of broadband networks, the deployment of wireless and mobile communication technologies, and support for Internet access projects at affordable costs.

Finally, empirical studies show that there is heterogeneity in access to connectivity between and within countries in the region, with rural dwellers, women and populations in unfavourable socio-economic contexts being at a disadvantage in terms of access to the benefits offered by new information and communication technologies.

A fundamental challenge for public policy design is the distinction between public and private goods, which in some cases justifies direct state intervention with efficient regulatory frameworks and public investment. In other cases, the right incentives are required to encourage private investment and sufficient income levels to stimulate demand for connectivity equipment and services.

Improving connectivity and bridging digital divides among people and between rural and urban territories should be a priority for policy design if the benefits are recognised and evidenced. Better digital and connectivity services generate returns, make productive processes and public and private services more efficient, boost employment, improve productivity and the quality of products and services, promote inclusive education and expand the possibilities of knowledge and participation in global culture. These are key factors for achieving the sustainable development of the region's agricultural and food systems, which would not be viable without promoting the competitive, environmentally sustainable and inclusive development of rural territories.


In order to address this issue, a virtual event is proposed to be held with the following objectives:

  1. Provide a space for the discussion and learning of best practices that promote regional cooperation in rural digital connectivity projects.
  2. Generate a set of recommendations that strengthen public-private partnerships to improve rural digital connectivity.
Event information
  • Date: 24 April 2023
  • Time: 9:30 - 12:30 (Caracas time | GMT-4)
  • Modality: virtual, via ZOOM platform
  • Registration: https://bit.ly/3mJoBNF
  • Aimed at: public officials linked to the connectivity development policy in rural areas of Latin America and the Caribbean, representatives of business associations and representatives of international organisations.
  • Language: Spanish and English

24 April 2023

Time Activities

Ambassador Clarems Endara, Permanent Secretary of SELA

9:25 – 10:30

Moderator: Ambassador Clarems Endara, Permanent Secretary of SELA

10:30 – 11:40


Moderation and introduction to the session: Pablo García de Castro, Inter-American Association of Telecommunications Companies (ASIET)

  • Teresa Gomes, Executive Director of Internet para Todos. Connectivity and regulation in rural areas (Spanish)
  • Germán Otalora, Business Operations & Program Management Leader LATAM at Microsoft Corporation.
  • Javier Padrón, President, Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe.

11:50 – 12:50


Moderation and introduction to the session: Carlos Lugo Silva, Regional Director, Capacity Building and Member/Partner Relations, Expert Officer for the Americas, International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Innovation in public policy and regulation for digital development (Spanish).


12:50 – 13:00