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Latest Survey: 77 Million Citizens in the Rural LATAM and the Caribbean Can’t Access Minimal Quality Internet Services

The spread of internet services connectivity has proved to be a major advantage during the COVID-19 pandemic for citizens who live in urban areas. But, for those who live in rural areas, the lack of minimal quality internet services is just as debilitating as the lack of other essential infrastructure and resources such as mobility, logistics, and healthcare. The citizens in the rural LATAM and the Caribbean are the worst-hit population. While the world is looking into the space to expand internet services and broadband facilities, the majority of the world’s population still lives in digital darkness, a doomsday phenomenon that are inflicted upon rural areas of the LATAM, the Caribbean and some parts of the Africa.

Why Internet Services Penetration is so Important in 2020?

This is how internet services influence regional and national growth.

  • a 1% increase in fixed broadband penetration would result in a 0.08% increase in GDP.
  • a 1% increase in mobile broadband penetration would lead to a 0.15% increase in GDP.

The report underlines the role of internet connectivity in LATAM countries with regard to the rapid adoption of Internet-based services and support solutions in emerging areas such as Remote workplace, Modernization of IT and ITES, HR outsourcing, rural governance, education and research, and telemedicine.

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Estimation of the Significant Connectivity Index for LATAM

We have already witnessed the power of the internet and what it can do when people have the means to access it to transform their lives and businesses.

According to the latest survey by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and Microsoft, 71% of the urban population in Latin America and the Caribbean have connectivity options, yet only 37% of their counterparts in rural areas are internet-connected. An astounding 32% of the Latin American and Caribbean population, 244 million people, have no internet access.

The study on the Minimal Quality Internet Services focused on 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Here’s a list of LATAM countries and dependencies. 

IICA, IDB, and Microsoft undertook this research on Internet Services because the partner organizations believe that promoting connectivity is essential in fueling agricultural production and economic, social & Community development in rural areas. The research will serve as an appeal for decisive action by governments, the private sector and civil society to quickly remedy the rural connectivity gaps.

The analysts recorded the  Rural Significant Connectivity Index (ICSr) and the Urban Significant Connectivity Index (ICSu) as a means to establish an appropriate approach to connectivity and to establish a reliable relationship with the appropriate frequency, speed and devices for meeting the demands of the moment.

Here are some of the unique findings published in the report on LATAM Internet Services coverage.

  1. The data on the limits of remote work in the agriculture sector show that addressing the rural-urban gap is a task that remains pending in Latin America.
  2. The rural digital divide is immense in the LATAM countries due to the abysmal distribution of mobile internet facilities and 4G technologies.
  3. The availability of broadband and fixed internet lines in LATAM countries vary between 3% and 50% due to a lack of equipment.
  4. The access to internet at home and at work / agriculture fields is key to combat healthcare and economic crisis.

Manuel Otero, the Director-General of IICA, declared that, “We have set ourselves a very ambitious goal: to reposition rural areas as regions that have tremendous potential to become areas of progress and prosperity, which is something that will necessitate production linkages enabled by access to adequate levels of services, technology, and connectivity. As a key institution in the agriculture sector, IICA is working with its partners to join efforts with countries and the private sector. Our goal is to drastically reduce the gaps that are hindering development. The rural-urban connectivity gap is an issue that demands the greatest level of attention.”

“The absence of connectivity is not merely a technological barrier. It also represents a barrier to health, education, social services, work, and the overall economy,” argued Marcelo Carbrol, Social Sector Manager at the IDB. “If we do not bridge this gap, the divide will continue to expand, and we will allow a region that is already the most inequitable in the world to become even more inequitable.”

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Luciano Braverman, Director of Education at Microsoft Latin America remarked- “At Microsoft, we know that connectivity provides a population with many opportunities to work and generate income, to acquire the knowledge and information that facilitates this work, as well as to access telemedicine health services and online educational content. It is particularly important that we stress the positive and extensive social and production impact that full connectivity will provide to rural areas. For this reason, we are prioritizing our efforts to bring connectivity to rural areas in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

To expand internet services in the rural LATAM countries and the Caribbean, global technology firms such as Microsoft are providing internet support through joint collaborations, and public-private partnerships.  For example, in collaboration with IICA, Microsoft is developing a digital educational alliance, with the aim of using the Microsoft technology platform to meet innovation needs in the agricultural and ecosystem segment within agriculture.

Conclusion

Internet penetration is key to the adoption of other emerging technologies such as AI ML, Industrial Automation and Robotics, IoT, Mobility, Big Data Analytics, Marketing and Sales Automation, and Telemedicine. It affects all walks of livelihood, whether we are connected now or plan to do so in the coming months. The massive gaps between internet services facilities and the role it plays in improving economic, healthcare and governance pose a huge opportunity for public as well as private players to leverage analytics and behavioral marketing strategies to reach the rural populations with internet-based solutions, products and platforms.

Source: IICA / IDB / Microsoft

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