Latin America and the Caribbean have an Internet gap: Can it be filled?

CMI
Irtra

The COVID-19 crisis has affected Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) area the same way it affected any other region, highlighting the importance of resilient and inclusive recovery.

Increased digital access is the foundation of this push, and it necessitates an extensive policy, regulatory strategy, and additional infrastructure expenditures. This is especially significant as the area prepares for 5G rollouts while continuing to expand its 4G network.

The justification for digital access is unmistakable. Digitization improves social and financial inclusion, as well as educational and health outcomes. The lack of a stable Internet sources leaves many at a disadvantage and denies them access to crucial services.

Countries with stable Internet access have shown a significant improvement in nearly all sectors, such as transport, health, education, and entertainment.

The current state of the Internet in Latin America and the Caribbean

In terms of users, Latin America and the Caribbean were the fourth largest regional Internet markets in 2019, after Asia, Europe, and Africa.

By June of the same year, the area had over 450 million Internet users, up from roughly 200 million in 2010. South America had the highest Internet availability rate, with 72% of its people enjoying access to the service.

However, the obstacles are significant: poor and patchy coverage, expensive Internet subscriptions, and device costs continue to hamper digital access. Fewer than half of LAC’s population has fixed broadband access, and only 9.9% have high-quality fiber connectivity at home.

Even though 87% of the population is well within the coverage of a 4G signal, real use and uptake remain low (3%). In addition, just four out of ten rural Latin Americans have access to the Internet, compared to 71% of the population in metropolitan regions.

You will find differences in why the Internet is or isn’t prevalent everywhere you look.

What is the Internet primarily used for in LAC?

The average duration of online activity in Latin America has exceeded three hours per person per day, with mobile devices accounting for most of the time spent online. Like everywhere in the world, the Internet in LAC is used for activities like:

  1. Accessing social media – Participating in social media is one of the most popular Internet activities across the region. In Latin America, social networks were used by 81% of Internet users.
  2. News & Entertainment – Most people keep abreast of events and check out new shows and movies from streaming sites right from their phones or PCs.
  3. Interactive gaming – Gaming generally includes multiplayer games, participation in individual games, online casinos, and much more.
  4. Shopping – Retail in Latin America shows that it is growing quite rapidly. By 2019, e-commerce sales hit more than 70 billion dollars, with a significant spike during the pandemic that indicates it could reach 160 billion dollars by 2025.
  5. Education – Most information, papers, books, and even basic educational resources are found online and became crucial during the pandemic.
  6. Accessing productivity tools – Another result of the pandemic was the switch to work-from-home and, later, hybrid work, which has led to every productivity tool going online and being accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection.
  7. Downloading files – The Internet is a great place to share images, videos, and other downloadable files, which are crucial in places where the Internet is too spotty to support any reliable streaming for videos or online-only access.

These are not, by any means, the only ways the Internet is used or why it is important. Internet connectivity has become a basic element of contemporary life, essential for ensuring freedom of speech, political involvement, health, and other fundamental human rights.

It provides a vital forum for underprivileged populations to promote social change and build identities. That is why access is important. So, how can Latin America tackle the issue and fill the gap?

Proposed remedies

Let’s look at some solutions:

Leased lines

A leased line is a dedicated circuit from the nearest fiber connection to your location. Leased lines guarantee better connectivity and faster broadband speeds.

Leased lines ensure that the Internet service is not interrupted or slow. This would be ideal for businesses, residential areas, and communal facilities. Such connectivity would also benefit people invested in stock markets, sports news, casinos, and students.

Businesses with a reputation for prompt service will likely draw in more clients.

Point-to-point communication

This is an ideal setup for businesses in rural areas or the suburbs with limited access to the Internet. Point-to-point transmits signals wirelessly from one point to the other within the line of site.

It can also increase the signal strength in one’s premises, making it easy to access services. A stronger signal improves the broadband speed.

Modern devices

Modern devices are known to have additional features necessary for efficiency. Considering upgrading one’s devices, such as the Wi-Fi router, might be a good option.

Older technology on broadband will significantly slow things down. Upgrading one’s devices reduces errors and improves general connectivity.

4G WI-FI

Switching to 4G Wi-Fi ensures reliable speeds and a seamless browsing experience. This reliability is especially important to users who want to stream content like games, TV shows, movies, and perform other high-bandwidth tasks.

If the connection is still poor once you have switched to 4G, consider attaching an antenna to the router, or look for other tips, to ensure it picks up the signals.

Improvement is not cheap, but it is worth it

Additionally, the government and telecommunication companies need to invest more in infrastructure to ensure better connectivity. Durable and reliable infrastructure and systems solve half of the issues limiting Internet connectivity.

While the process of renewing or setting up the necessary systems will be costly at the beginning, the rewards are worth it.  

Guaranteed access to the Internet without any interruptions or barriers ensures that people can access all sites and platforms they need. As the need for Internet connection grows in Latin America, so is the demand for reliable services, offering a big gap to be filled by potential investors and the government.

Nestle

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