MEXICO CITY – Latin America’s challenge in improving Internet connectivity in rural and urban areas to reduce the digital divide, which is key to economic development, was the focus of discussion on Monday at the virtual forum “Connectivity for Shared Prosperity.”
Peru’s minister of transport and communications, Eduardo Gonzalez, said during the forum that his country “has developed connectivity” even though only 8.2 percent of households in rural areas have access to fixed Internet, far below the 41 percent level in urban areas.
“In the Amazon, 90 percent lack connectivity,” Gonzalez explained, expressing concern about areas that have “zero connectivity” but could benefit from satellite technology systems.
He said that in Peru’s rural areas, 26 percent of the people have access to fixed or mobile Internet, while in the cities it is 70 percent.
“We have proposed a plan that we have called ‘Everyone Connected,’ with the objective of creating a new base for the country as a whole. The aim is for all citizens to have access to the digital world and connectivity,” he said, after presenting several projects for agricultural and rainforest areas.
The Peruvian minister acknowledged that doing so is “a very big challenge,” but said he was “confident” of success thanks to the “concerted participation of private and public institutions.”
In addition, Gonzalez accepted that the COVID-19 pandemic had increased the demand for Internet use and had established digital habits that are going to continue.
“It is not just temporary. New habits have been created that society now assumes and that means that this demand for data will be sustained over time,” he said, offering support for installing 5G technology in a “democratic” way.
Mexico’s director general of telecommunications, Rocio Mejia, acknowledged that her country’s situation is similar to Peru’s in terms of connectivity, noting that the problem is of particular concern during the pandemic.
“When we talk about digital inclusion and connectivity as a democratization of access to information and communication technologies, we must think broadly, not just about providing a device or a computer,” she said.
She called for using those digital platforms to improve access to education, contribute to social coexistence, facilitate medical services and make social and government services more accessible “The Mexican government is committed to reducing the digital divide and has raised this commitment to the highest level by including it in the Constitution,” she said.
The governor of the Brazilian state of Goias, Ronaldo Caiado, spoke about the benefits of technology and 5G connectivity for agriculture and the livestock sector, saying they can help industries grow while “preserving the ecosystem and improving products for consumers.”
Caiado said experiments are being carried out in Goias with the goal of “increasing productivity, reducing costs and seeing how to use fewer and fewer herbicides and pesticides to care for the environment” through the use of technology developed by private companies, such as Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, and academic institutions.
“Thanks to 5G technology, farmers can receive images of where a fungus or a problem is developing in a specific area, and are immediately able to take the action required to control the pest without having to apply pesticides to the whole plantation,” he said.
The virtual event was inaugurated by Huawei Senior Vice President Catherine Chen, who called for “a true consensus on technology” and its appropriate use worldwide to advance technological development without disputes and controversies.
Experts and representatives from Latin American companies and governments are participating in the online forum organized by Agencia EFE and Huawei to discuss how the region can promote the digital economy as an engine for development.