Internet in Brazil: IDB report warns about digital divide
Infrastructure problems and lack of familiarity of the users make Brazil a country that goes ‘two-speed’ internet, according to data presented recently by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
From urban to rural, levels of network connectivity fall ‘dramatically’, noted the IDB specialist on the topic Antonio García Zaballos in a interview with BBC Brazil.
The IDB presented the DigiLAC project, a website that provides information such as internet access, broadband and other infrastructure for more data on 15 000 municipalities in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The project contains a new indicator, the Index of Broadband Development, ordering the 26 countries in the second region 37 factors that favor the penetration of broadband as internet infrastructure, legislation and strategic insight on the subject, and uses knowledge and by users.
Brazil appears in 3rd place in the Latin American ranking, obtaining a total of 5.32 points on a scale from 1 (least developed) to 8 (more developed).
Brazil lags behind Chile (5.57) and Barbados (5.47). The grade point average Latin American is 4.37.
Far behind the Wealthy
However, García Zaballos warns that ‘no mistake’ with the relative positions of countries in Latin America, a region which, as a whole, is still ‘far behind developed countries’ in terms of broadband access.
For comparison, the Bank reviewed a total of 63 countries worldwide. In global comparison, Chile’s first Hispanic ranking falls to No. 26 position. Brazil, third in the region, is in 30th. Leaders are Sweden , South Korea and Iceland , who score 7 or more points on a scale of zero to 8.
‘Still a long way to reach penetration levels that they (the rich countries) have, “said the expert.
The IDB study the reasons for this gap are infrastructure, familiarity and cost, and regulatory aspects, indicates.
‘As a member of the OECD (the group that includes the most advanced countries of the world) devotes approximately 3% of your gross monthly income broadband services in our region, the percentage rises to over 10%, “says García Zaballos.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recommends that the cost is below 5% of the gross income of the users.
According to the ITU, half of Brazilians were using the internet in 2012, compared to 56% of Argentines and 61% of Chileans. In Nordic countries, the percentage ranged between 91% and 96% of the population.
The difference was even more striking when the subject is the speed of connections.
In South Korea , for example, almost all internet connections by carrying data at a rate of 10 Mbit/s – in Brazil, only one fifth of connections travels so fast.
More inclusion, more GDP
The benefits of broadband access are economic and social. Zaballos García is the author of a study that relates to the IDB increases in broadband penetration with increases in GDP, productivity and employment.
According to the survey, an increase of 10% in rates of broadband penetration generates an increase of 3.2% in the GDP of a country.
The expert also notes the social aspects of the problem. ‘Broadband may be one of the first forms of social inclusion when it has access, and one of the earliest forms of social exclusion when you have’, he says.
‘People think that broadband is not the most important in a country’s schedule, however, and are connected to read the newspaper, answer emails and make phone calls from the moment they wake up.’
For him, ‘countries should stop thinking about choosing between broadband and roads between broadband and water. Should say want broadband and water, broadband and roads’.
One way to do this is to foster the development of mobile internet, whose penetration rates and growth rate equivalent to the explosion of the number of mobiles. The number of devices is expected to surpass the number of people in the world – 7 billion – this year, according to the ITU.
More than half of the 2.3 billion mobile broadband connections worldwide are in developing countries, says the agency.
‘In Brazil, perhaps the best way to bring broadband either through the mobile phone. Here is fundamental to have a regulatory and policy in March to encourage investment that accompanies this national strategy, “says García Zaballos.
For him, the auction of the frequency range of 700 MHz (for the 4G mobile internet services) will be ‘crucial’ within this strategy.
‘Moreover, there is a theme of infrastructure, which does not reach rural areas’, says the expert.
‘A specific regulation that favors sharing of infrastructure, or to strengthen the use of other infrastructure services such as electricity, gas and roads, can be a catalyst to bring broadband to these regions’ recommends.
The IDB project reinforces the message that broadband requires an ‘ecosystem’ of regulation, infrastructure and knowledge of the users to develop.
National plans for universal broadband access, as that Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Mexico have since 2010 (and that Uruguay has since 2007), are a good indication of the efforts of governments to direct these strategies.