Around 63 percent of rural residents in Latin America and the Caribbean have little or no access to internet services, severely undermining their ability to improve their competence and economic well-being.
In other words, at least 77 million rural residents in the region are unable to access internet services that satisfy minimal quality standards, according to a study jointly conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Microsoft.
Considering the report, 71% of the urban population has connectivity options, in comparison to only 37% of their counterparts in the countryside.
The connectivity gap varies from country to country, with the gulf widening up to 40 percentage points in some areas.
Of the total amount of individuals with no internet access, 46 million live in rural areas, the report noted.
While authors of the report claim to have surveyed 24 countries across the region, they concede that they could not measure the true level of connectivity in several countries because of the non-availability of official statistics.
“The absence of connectivity is not merely a technological barrier. It also represents a barrier to health, education, social services, work, and the overall economy,” argued Marcelo Carbrol, Social Sector Manager at the IDB. “If we do not bridge this gap, the divide will continue to expand, and we will allow a region that is already the most inequitable in the world to become even more inequitable”.
The bank says that a 1% increase in fixed broadband penetration would result in a 0.08% increase in GDP, whereas a 1% increase in mobile broadband penetration would lead to a 0.15% increase in GDP.
The countries that have better access to broadband include Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama, while countries with weak internet service in rural areas are Belize, Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela.