No internet access for 244 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean

November 09, 2021
No internet access for 244 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean

Near 224 million people, or 32%, in Latin America and the Caribbean have no internet access, according to a joint report by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Microsoft.

The case study in 24 countries reveals that 71% of the urban population has connectivity options against less than 37% in rural areas.

Based on the numbers of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 81% of households of the highest income quintile (quintile V) has internet connection versus 38% and 53% of households of the first and second quintiles, respectively.

Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest technology inequality in the world, further aggravated and visualized by the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) reckons that some US$68.5 billion would be needed to overcome the digital gap, and that 59% of this amount should be used to improve connectivity in the cities. Private communications companies usually take on such task.

Moreover, 41% of the lump sum should go to rural areas, where public investment tends to be the main financing source. The case study suggests that more public-private partnerships are required to meet the demand. Precisely rural areas, a vulnerable sector, are among the priorities in the regional plans of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA).

Having remarked that the lack of connectivity poses a challenge for the region, Ambassador Clarems Endara, the Permanent Secretary of SELA, has insisted on the need to work on it, particularly in rural areas.

Ambassador Endara pointed out that, while much progress has been made with digitalization, the region is still behind some other regions as regards connectivity.

For access of all the countries in the region on equal footing, high-quality infrastructure and affordable prices are of the essence.
Data of CAF-development bank of Latin America show that digital inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean has become glaring in the post-pandemic era. Less than 50% of Latin American and Caribbean people have broadband connectivity and as low as 9.9% has good-quality fibre optics.

High cost of internet services and electronic devices (smart phones, tablets and laptops) is among the potholes. On average, the cost of a plain data plan of 1GB represents 2.7% of the monthly family income, far beyond the affordability threshold of 2% of the International Telecommunications Union.

Of note, some projects as the initiative of “Internet for All” in Peru, undertaken by CAF, have succeeded in connecting 2 million people. Also, in Argentina, telecommunications services are provided to 10,000 rural schools and 2,000 health sites.

Such initiatives will continue to overcome digital inequality in Latin America, involving all of us in the connectivity network.

Key topics: pymes