RAYMOND, Maine — The internet is a basic necessity, critical for all aspects of life, including, work, education, home, health resources, and more. Additionally, all things that internet connectivity provides are necessary for decreasing local and nationwide poverty rates. In rural Latin American and Caribbean communities, more than 50% of both communities lack internet connectivity, leaving those regions lacking necessary resources and with higher poverty rates than their neighboring communities. Improving internet connectivity in rural Latin America and the Caribbean will require a great deal of assistance from the public, private and non-profit sectors. Companies such as Intelsat, Andestat and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), strive to improve internet connectivity rates and the economic status of rural Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Necessity of Internet Connectivity for Decreasing Poverty
According to the World Bank, “internet connectivity is a basic necessity, not a luxury.” The internet connects remote communities in ways that can improve all aspects of life including distance learning and all forms of education, digital cash transfers, telemedicine and online public services.
Internet connectivity is necessary for improving a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), even minimally. Suppose internet connectivity was to reach 75% of the population in developing countries, where poverty rates are often the highest worldwide. In that case, it could add $2 trillion to the countries’ GDPs. Increased internet connectivity could also create at least 140 million jobs worldwide, according to the World Bank.
Additional jobs and new business sectors that are created with increased internet connectivity rates in rural regions are crucial gateways to decreasing local poverty rates that come with the “digital divide.
Digital divides occur when internet or digital connectivity rates have significant gaps between a nation’s rural and urban regions. These divides often leave the rural regions poorer than their urban counterparts and create a significant economic strain. This economic strain is prevalent in the rural Latin American and Caribbean communities where internet connectivity is lacking and the digital divide is wide, according to the Wilson Center.
Internet Connectivity in Rural Latin America and the Caribbean
In most rural Latin American countries, at least 60% of homes have internet connectivity. However, in rural areas, of the region internet connectivity rates are approximately 23%, the Wilson Center reports. Internet connectivity in rural Latin America and the Caribbean represents the overall digital divide and economic status of the region. In most rural Latin American regions, less than 50% of the population has a bank account, let alone a debit or credit card.
A recent World Bank study suggested that in developing countries, many have indicated that one of the key barriers to improving internet connectivity is a need for a greater understanding of the internet and its use. Secondly, affordability is a barrier to improving internet connectivity and decreasing the digital divide in the rural Latin American and Caribbean regions.
The digital divide persists in Latin American and Caribbean nations as governments and international aid organizations work to find the best method of improving and integrating technology into the daily lives of those in the rural regions. Until then, rural Latin American and Caribbean citizens are behind in technological, business and socio-economic advancements.
How is Internet Connectivity Improving?
Internet connectivity in rural Latin America and the Caribbean has slightly improved since 2020, but over 70 million residents of these areas still lack internet connectivity. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) studied the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in rural Latin American and Caribbean countries. At the end of the study, the IDB proposed new economic opportunities to promote socio-economic growth in areas negatively affected by the digital divide and lacking adequate internet connectivity. The IDB has proposed that to improve internet connectivity rates and decrease the digital gap, it would require about $68.5 million in private and public funding combined.
Intelsat and Andesat, two dominant cellular and internet connectivity companies in Latin America, are partnering to increase internet connectivity rates and improve local economies. The two companies estimate that with every 10% increase in internet speed and connectivity rates, the country’s GDP can increase by 1.4% and improve local businesses, which creates job growth and decreases local poverty rates.
In rural Latin American and Caribbean communities, internet connectivity rates should be higher for there to be truly lasting economic improvements. The low connectivity rates parallel the higher poverty rates in these regions. International assistance from the IDB and local services from Intelsat and Andestat could bring economic advancements needed for decreasing poverty rates and moving countries away from “developing countries” status.
– Clara Mulvihill