Great Disparity in Internet Penetration and Development in Central America


An Engineer by trade, Cesar Diaz has joined LACNIC’s staff as External Relations Officer for Central America. His challenge is to help the work of local communities and to improve access to information and communication technologies throughout the countries of Central America.

Diaz is a leading expert in the ICT sector who has first-hand knowledge of the local realities in Central American countries and has been working in Internet promotion and development for over 20 years. In dialogue with LACNIC News, he admits that there is great disparity between the different countries that are part of the region and that the “main challenge lies in developing adequate infrastructure that will allow providing access to the majority of the population.”

What is the status of ICT development in Central America? Are national realities very different?

Over the past few years, ICT development has been improving in the region thanks to the incentives provided by Central American Governments and to the private companies looking to grow ICT technologies. Most incentives have tried to encourage the development of telecommunications infrastructure that will allow different broadband services to be offered to most of the population and companies in order to improve competitiveness and regional integration.

However, the situation isn’t consistent across Central America. According to statistics provided by the 2013 World Economic Forum, Panama leads the region in terms of mobile broadband, with a 15% penetration rate among its population. On the other end of the spectrum, Nicaragua has a penetration rate of only 1%.

As to fixed broadband, Costa Rica is the region’s leader with a 10% penetration rate, while in Honduras the penetration is extremely low at 0.8%.

What are the main challenges?

In my opinion, the main challenge lies in developing adequate infrastructure that will allow providing access to the majority of the population. Social and economic differences make it harder to consistently develop and deploy infrastructure throughout the region.

Which areas should be given priority to further promote Internet development?

Once adequate infrastructure has been deployed, the main priority should be providing value to network development and utilization through applications and content that target each region and contribute to the population’s ethnic, cultural, social and economic development.

Are the region’s organizations, companies and governments aware of the exhaustion of Internet protocol version 4, IPv4?

In my opinion, the region is not fully of IPv4 exhasution. The region’s stakeholders are considering IPv6 deployment based on technical solutions that allow the coexistence of IPv6 and IPv4. Our challenge is to support the region in defining new short-term strategies that will allow users to utilize the IPv6 protocol transparently.

Have Central American countries already adopted IPv6 ?

There are very few IPv6 deployments in the region. Until short- and medium-term IPv6 deployment strategies are adopted, the region will have limited access to these new resources and their benefits .

From your perspective as part of LACNIC, what do you think organizations in Central America should do to encourage IPv6 deployment ?

I believe there is a lot that organizations throughout Central America can do to promote IPv6 adoption. Implementing policies that encourage IPv6 deployment is possible if all stakeholders are taken into account and, with LACNIC’s support, we should be able to see the results we are hoping for.

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