The Colombian government announces plans to invest $170 million to subsidize internet access and computer purchase for the country’s poorest people.
More than a million families living in Colombia’s lowest socio-economic groups will be given an average payment of $170 between now and 2014, though the amount will vary according to the amount of internet access in each region — those living in places with the fewest users will receive more.
“It has been proven by international experience that internet access and its good usage see improved economic growth and job creation,” said Information, Technology and Communications Minister Diego Molano. “We want Colombians to have the best tools to overcome poverty.”
Families living in Colombia’s two lowest social strata will be able to receive the benefit from August 1 through the government’s Social Broadband Plan, an internet plan which will not be subject to VAT.
Molano also called on computer manufacturers and distributors to create strategies to increase accessibility for Colombia’s poor, stating the price of equipment remained the biggest barrier to internet access.
The investment is the latest step in the Colombian government’s ambitious plans to introduce low-cost wireless internet access across the country. It wants to increase internet coverage from 2.2 to 5 million households within 12 months and decrease the cost of connecting by 50% each year.
About 70 percent of the population currently have Internet in their homes, but mostly in urban areas. The government wants 90% of the population to be connected by 2014.
Molano visited the U.S earlier this month to seek private investors for an infrastructure plan to expand fiber optics and a 4G network serving laptops, smartphones and tablets into remote regions of the country.
As the Colombia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement gets underway, he hopes to persuade U.S. companies of the financial benefits of advancing technology in the Andean nation.
Last November the Colombian Senate approved initial steps towards making internet access a consitututional right.