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Connectivity Growth In Latin America

The development and growth of Latin America has come a long way in no more than a period of ten years. Issues such as e-health, e-education and e-government were products of wishful thinking rather than having the possibility to be actually implemented in Latin American countries. There is no doubting the fact that the region today is arriving at a turning point in terms of connectivity with Government policies, markets and non-profit initiatives all translating to its overall improvement.


The Rapid Growth Of Connectivity In Latin America

According to the 2012 World Bank Report, 98% of the population of Latin America had access to a mobile phone signal and 84% of households were subscribed to some form of mobile service. This rapid expansion of information and communications technology in Latin America caught many of the industry leaders and commentators off-guard. Whilst the professionals were still discussing hypothetical models for the region, on the ground, a significant portion of the region’s population was already putting into practice innovative uses for newly available technology.

Latin America’s Connectivity Promoting Innovation

The economic constraints surrounding connectivity led to the creation of innovative strategies such as the arrival of cybercafés within the slums of Brazil. These lan-houses merely had a single internet connection which was shared with the locals in exchange for a small amount of money via computers arranged in a local area network. Another development was the emergence of a secondary market for mobile telephone minutes, causing the statistic of more than 80% of the mobile phones in the region being on pre-paid contracts.

It is also important to note, that the potential hardware design and manufacturing in the low income market of Latin America did not go unrecognised. Asian companies realising the potential and demand of the mobile phone market for a lower income market, began designing and selling inexpensive mobile phones which were capable of using four simultaneous sim-cards. This allowed the user to switch between the different network providers in order to get the lowest fares and seasonal promotions. The mobile phones were also fitted with the ability of receiving radio and TV signals over the air, noting that this was a valuable capability of a mobile phone for those living in underprivileged areas.

The Tablet Boom

While mobile phones have been at the centre of the technology boom in Latin America, a new challenge for researchers, policy makers and providers has emerged. The rapid growth in the number of tablets can be seen in Brazil where in 2011 the country had only 200,000 but by late-2012, that number had exploded to 5 million. One of the most interesting facts about this tablet boom was that more than 50% of these were low-cost tablets of unknown brands, purchased by low-income populations that could not or did not want to buy top-tier brands such as, Apple and Samsung.

This movement straight to tablet, having not previously owned a computer mirrors the same pattern as seen with mobile phones and smartphones where many people in the region had never had a fixed phone line before. The straight to tablet movement has therefore created uncertainty and challenges in the market as it is hard to predict what content the lower-income population will access through these devices. What can be derived from the current prices of downloadable Amazon books and iTunes movies is that these types of mainstream services will most likely miss out on the low income family market as their prices are too high for the region.

The issues that face Latin America will in the next few years have a great impact on their society, education policies and the technology industry which is looking to infiltrate this growing market. Policymakers and educators especially will have to keep a close eye and begin to anticipate the changes that are rapidly changing the environment of connectivity and access within Latin America. Ignoring the developments in technology as well as the needs of lower income families to be connected, will not only hamper innovation in the region but will also see a widening gap between those who have access and those who aren’t connected.


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