Colombia is seeking to invest $200 million to expand the internet and other telecommunication services to businesses and consumers, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
In a meeting in Washington to promote his ‘Vive Digital’ plan, Colombian Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Diego Molano Vega said that “American companies are very welcome as Colombia is looking for partners to invest in the industry.”
Colombia has already reached out to several American companies, including Verizon and AT&T, to see if they are interested in investing, Molano said.
The announcement comes at the same time as a free trade agreement is finalised between the two countries, pending U.S. Congress approval.
Possible plans to improve Colombia’s internet services include a high speed optic fibre network that can reach 700 towns, the country’s current infrastructure only connects 200 large urban areas.
Molano explained that internet usage in the country is currently dominated by the upper classes, and while small businesses make up 96. 4% of the economy, only 7% use the internet.
Molano went on to describe how selling the idea of using the internet to enhance business may be difficult in Colombia. He thinks that people do not see the value of it as the internet is currently tailor made for the developed world.
To solve this problem Colombia has entered into talks with companies like Coca Cola. If Coca Cola develops an online payment system allowing Colombian business to save money by ordering online, it would save the beverage producer money and the country could begin to see the potential of going online, according to Molano.
At least two 4G licenses for mobile and wireless internet may also be granted to the highest bidders this year. At the moment Colombian cell phone use is very widespread, but Molano believes there is a potential to open the market to smartphone technology.
Once the 4G network is in place, Apple could start selling the iPhone and Google could do the same with Android phones, allowing mobile app developers to tap the market as well, the minister explained.
Eric Farnsworth, Vice President of the Council of the Americas described Colombia as ‘a country trying to get ahead of the curve’ in Latin America when it comes to internet service provision.