At the Connect Americas Summit held by The International Telecomunication Union this week in Panama, leaders from Latin America and the Carribean called for a $53 billion commitment to increase inter-American connectivity and digital inclusion. This large investment would be used to fund information and communication technology projects aimed at infrastructure development and to not just build next-generation networks, but also safeguard them by strengthening cybersecurity, forge an enabling regulatory environment and build the necessary human capacity while addressing global challenges.
During the two-day event, government leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean sought to mobilize “the human, financial and technical resources needed to connect the unconnected and to strengthen the role of ICT as the engine of economic prosperity and sustainable development, as well as reduce poverty in the Americas region.”
The ITU Connect Americas Summit looks to create widespread broadband connectivity in the region and increase “digital inclusion” to enable social and economic development through affordable access to ICT and services for all, while paying attention to the special needs of indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, women, youth and children.
The summit focused on some of the same regional priorities for the Americas region for 2011-2014 that were adopted at the World Telecommunication Development Conference in Hyderabad, India in 2010:
- Develop telecommunication and ICT infrastructure, covering a complete range of access levels within the region
- Adopt national regulatory frameworks which help close existing gaps in ICT development, while addressing evolving needs, including those brought about by an increasingly converged environment
- Establish effective and practical emergency communication plans at the national and international levels
- Implement a smooth transition from analogue to digital broadcasting
- Develop Internet Exchange Points at the local, national and regional levels to reduce internet access costs, as well as to enable the provision of new services
- Promote the use of ICT as a tool for development by creating human and institutional capacities, particularly in rural and under-served urban areas, with special emphasis on indigenous peoples and people with disabilities
Check out a few commitments announced at the Connect Americas Summit:
- The World Bank and the Government of Nicaragua signed an agreement to provide $5 million in financing to increase access to telecommunication services for more than 200,000 rural inhabitants in Nicaragua.
- Intel announced its “Third Billion Program” to roll out broadband to transform education using Universal Service Funds.
- ITU and the Geneva University Hospitals will collaborate on creating a Pan-American Telemedicine Network to enable the deployment of telemedicine services and tools along with IT-enabled diagnostic devices to hospitals in remote areas of Latin America.
- ITU and the Real Madrid Foundation announced a partnership to support social inclusion and integration of youth into society by providing education and training in ICT and sports at school.
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré also noted that mobile cellular penetration has surpassed the 100% threshold in Latin America and the Caribbean, while 30 million mobile broadband subscriptions were added by the end of 2011. The percentage of households with Internet access also continues to increase, reaching 29%. Touré said that the Americas are a dynamic region with the potential to achieve inter-connectivity and provide the benefits of ICT to everyone even in the remotest communities and under-served urban areas.
The commitments announced during the summit are expected to intensify efforts in the coming years to make the transition to what Toure “true knowledge-based information society that lies at the heart of achieving the broader goals of sustainable development.”
Latin America and the Caribbean key statistical highlights released by ITU
- In 2011, average mobile-cellular penetration surpassed the 100% threshold in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- By the end of 2011, there were 20 countries (out of 33) in the Latin American and Caribbean region with more mobile-cellular subscriptions than inhabitants, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.
- In 2011, more than 30 million mobile-broadband subscriptions were added in the Latin American and Caribbean region, most of them in Brazil (20 million) and Mexico (3 million).
- By the end of 2011, eleven countries had a fixed-broadband penetration above 10% including Barbados, Mexico, Chile and Uruguay; this is above the world average of 8.5%.
- The percentage of individuals using the Internet continues to grow in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in 2011, 39% of individuals were using the Internet.
- In the Latin American and the Caribbean region, the percentage of households with Internet access continues to increase, reaching 29% by the end of 2011.
- In Brazil, the percentage of households with Internet access grew from 27% in 2010 to 38% in 2011, the highest increase in the region and among the highest in the world.
- The percentage of households with a computer is increasing in Latin America and by the end of 2011, almost 36% of households in the Latin American and Caribbean region had a computer.
- International Internet bandwidth in Latin America and the Caribbean increased more than 12-fold over the last five years, reaching 4,700 Gbit/s by the end of 2011. This corresponds to more than 10-times the total international Internet bandwidth in Africa.
- Major differences in Internet bandwidth per Internet user persist within the region: on average, a user in Panama enjoys 10-times as much international Internet bandwidth as a user in Bolivia.
Source: ITU World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Database – data release June 2012