The Colombian government plans to have 27 million people connected to the Internet by 2018, a figure representing 63% of the population, Colombia’s Semana news magazine reported on Wednesday.
Beginning in 2010, Colombia’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology’s Live Digital Plan (Vive Digital) has raised the country’s online connectivity from 2.2 million to 8.8 million, with the goal of increasing that number three-fold in the next four years.
The program estimates that 80 out of every 100 Colombians access the Internet in some way, a figure that the program hopes to increase by 10% by 2018, which will bring Colombia up to a similar connectivity level as Belgium or Italy, reported Semana.
According to the Washington Post, the aim of the project is to lift people out of poverty by providing Internet access to Colombia’s poorest areas.
“The main objective we have in Colombia is using technology and ICT [information and communications technology] to solve the most important problem in Colombia – and that problem is poverty,” stated Colombia’s Minister for Information and Communication Technology, Diego Molano, in a March interview with the Washington Post.
“Three and a half years ago, when this government started, more than 38% of Colombians were living under the poverty line. The government has focused on helping people to leapfrog. We’ve taken 2.5 million people out of poverty in just three years,” added Molano.
The Washington Post described Colombia’s mission as using “bleeding-edge technology” even by US standards, which has already helped bridge the gap between the rich and the poor in the country.
With this new project comes a government commitment to increase four-fold access to free computers for school children and state school teachers.
“There is a very strong correlation between Internet penetration and the reduction of poverty. I see that every day,” said Diego Molano to the Washington Post.
“When we connect, for example, a rural school to Internet, when we connect a small school in the middle of the jungle to Internet, those kids in the middle of nowhere have effectively the same opportunity to access the whole of information society — just like any kid in New York, London or Paris.”
There is; however, at least one major drawback with providing Internet access to poor and rural areas, and that is online access requires electricity and many rural parts of Colombia don’t have it.
One employee of Vive Digital, who wished to remain anonymous, told Colombia Reports that many computers he delivered to schools and communities over the past year have sat unused for lack of electricity.
He added some communities without electricity may have access to a generator, but being powered by gasoline, they are expensive to operate, and are used sparingly.