Latin America's digital and persistent gap

Pandemic showed us that Internet access is crucial for education, communication, financial services, economy, and health care.

Privilege is not always evident for the people who have it. It isn't easy to imagine a situation far away from ours. But sometimes, it's not that far. It can take place in our own country, city, or neighborhood. The fact that we wrote this blog and you are now reading it is something that not everyone can enjoy, for example. Have you ever thought about that? Waking up in the morning and reading some news on our smartphones is a huge advantage we have, even though we never stop to think about that while we scroll down our Facebook wall.

Pandemic showed us that Internet access is crucial for education, communication, financial services, economy, and health care. Being locked down was more problematic for people who had no access to the Internet. In numbers, 4 out of 10 people in Latin America don't have it. The lack of connectivity may be a well-known fact, but the reality in rural areas is a lot harder since only 23% of people have connectivity. Most of these houses have one cellphone with a prepaid data plan for six people, including children. What are these cellphones used for, social media mostly. And their data plan is not always available since they can't always afford to pay for it. Just to let you know, only 10% of homes with kids in Colombia have a computer per person. That means children have to share their devices to have classes, do homework, and study.

So, on the one hand, some families barely have Internet access, while 81% of wealthy households are connected. This difference leads to the slow development of countries in Latin America. Even the private sector is falling behind the digital transformation. In most big and small companies, the way business works has not changed much in the last 15 years. Only 20% of jobs can get done from home in Latin America since they need in-person interaction because businesses were not prepared for telework before the pandemic. But technology and the Internet have evolved so much, so almost all platforms and apps we use now because we need to make our daily lives didn't exist 15 years ago. Post-pandemic, we are moving in a world that's moving even faster.

So, what's the solution? The one thing we can be sure about is that it won't be easy or fast. We should make many changes to policies, ideas, politics, connectivity, education, and more. The digital gap in Latin America will not close one day to another. But an excellent way to start is working for that connectivity to happen. Internet access has to stop being a privilege for a few people because it's not all about social media and entertainment, but information, innovation, and communication. And you'll be happy to know that it is entirely possible. If we can achieve decentralized Internet service for all, we will be one big step closer to overcoming the persistent gap in our region.

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