Colombia “Seeks to Promote Widespread Internet Use”
Colombia, a country with one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the region, is currently finishing preparations to host Lacnic’s annual meeting.
Carolina Hoys, Colombia’s Deputy Information and Communications Technology Minister, highlighted the government’s commitment to Internet development and its view of the Internet as a tool for job creation and bridging the social divide.
The following is a summary of the Deputy Minister’s interview with Lacnic News.
How important does the Colombian government believe Internet development is for the country?
Thanks to its potential as an agent for business development and a powerful educational tool, Internet penetration growth and the appropriation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are effective job creation and poverty-fighting tools.
The government is aware of this and has created Plan Vive Digital, a program that seeks to promote widespread Internet use as a leap towards democratic prosperity.
According to the latest ITU report, Colombia has an Internet penetration rate of 40.4 users per 100 inhabitants. What is the government’s strategy for bridging the country’s digital divide?
The ICT Ministry measures Internet penetration by the number of Internet connections. When we began our term of office there were 2.2 million broadband Internet connections, now there are more than 6 million. Our strategy is to continue to connect the country and to reach 8.8 million connections in 2014.
This year we hope to add another million connections, thanks to the subsidies provided by the government for connecting the country and the natural growth of the market. We also expect that, when all operators begin providing 4G services, Internet use in Colombia will explode.
Are there any projects for helping the most disadvantaged communities and those with the lowest levels of ICT development? What can you tell us about these projects?
We have several projects:
The National Optical Fiber Project, which will connect the country’s 1078 municipalities to the information highway. This means that local governments and operators will be able to provide high quality broadband Internet services. 551 Municipalities have already been connected with optical fiber.
Vive Digital Points. In the more remote locations, particularly in stratum 1 and 2 neighborhoods, we have been installing 101 Vive Digital Points, centers where the local community can connect to the Internet, access the Colombian State web portal, use a video gaming room, and receive training in the use of different technologies. Twenty-five of these points have been designed considering users with disabilities.
In addition, this government has taken the Internet to rural and/or remote areas through 1055 Vive Digital Kiosks, Internet access centers located in places with more than 100 inhabitants and also in national parks. In 2013 we will add 1689 new kiosks, which will bring us to our total goal of 2744.
Financial assistance for purchasing a computer or Internet access. Around 1,000,000 families will benefit from broadband Internet subsidies. On average, each new user will receive 300,000 pesos through Internet service providers wihch they can use to subsidize the purchase of a computer or their monthly Internet fees.
We have connected around 1.2 million students from 7295 public schools in far-away municipalities and rural areas. This government will also provide public schools with 577,000 computers and 77,000 tablets.
Finally, every department has its own Regional Vive Digital Plan. The TIC Ministry co-finances these programs with the regional governments and the capital cities’ municipalities.