Around 72 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean have no access to Internet services that meet minimum quality criteria, according to a study by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
Although millions still lack quality Internet services, rural connectivity in the region improved by 12% compared to two years ago, when the number reached 77 million.
Es imprescindible formar más habilidades digitales entre los agricultores para potenciar aprovechamiento de nuevas tecnologías en producción de alimentos, coincidieron expertos en presentación en Chile de estudio sobre conectividad rural
— IICA (@IICAnoticias) April 17, 2023
The report notes that lack of connectivity as well as digital illiteracy is keeping rural residents poor. According to a previous analysis by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), a 1% increase in fixed broadband penetration leads to a 0.08% boost in GDP, while a 1% increase in mobile broadband penetration leads to a 0.15% gain in GDP.
While the countryside lags behind, more and more cities have started enjoying high-speed internet, further widening the digital gap across the region.
Only 44% of people living in rural areas have access to high-speed internet, compared to around 79% of city dwellers. The gap is wider in Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Suriname.
The report acknowledges the rapid deployment of fiber optic cables and says that, on average, 43.2% of the rural population accesses fixed broadband, up nine percentage points from 2017.
Governments with limited resources are struggling to increase network coverage in rural areas, while telecom companies avoid doing so because of the high investment and little return.