Thursday, April 04, 2013

Digital Divide in Latin America

A ministerial meeting of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean yielded some interesting insights into digital development:

The components of the digital economy are the telecommunications infrastructure - particularly broadband networks, information and communications technologies (ICTs) (software, apps, hardware and ICT services) and the level of digital numeracy of users. According to preliminary measurements carried out by ECLAC using 2008 data, the digital economy represents an average of 3.2% of the economy of four of the region's countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico).  This is a significant figure if we compare the European Union average of 5%.

However, there is serious intra-regional and inter-regional inequality in this regard:

The ECLAC Executive Secretary cited the asymmetrical development of critical infrastructure with mobile broadband penetration in the region: the three most advanced countries have 15 times as much development than the ones lagging the furthest behind. Furthermore, the digital divide between Latin America and countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in terms of mobile broadband is getting wider (11% versus 55% penetration in 2011).

So Latin America is not well enough connected, and is not promoting enough industries that foster such connection. This represents another opportunity to reduce the region's dependence on commodity exports. It also is a way for governments to reach out more effectively to citizens and generate at least some more measure of efficiency and transparency.


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