TODAY COLOMBIA – SOPÓ, Colombia – The popularization of the Internet and the development of digital infrastructure in Colombia are the main goals of the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications’ (MinICT) Vive Digital project.
Hundreds of people are working nationwide to expand the coverage of the fiber optic network, facilitate the acquisition of personal computers, provide connectivity in thousands of schools, open digital kiosks and promote the creation of information and communications technology (ICT) companies. Providing digital technology to ethnic communities and the disabled also is a priority.
In Sopó, a municipality in the department of Cundinamarca, Sonia Panqueva, 31, and her mother, Margarita Rincón, 57, wake up early and prepare two children for school. They then walk 20 minutes under a light drizzle to the Vive Digital Point, where they have been receiving free digital literacy training for the past two months, three times a week.
Rincón, who had never sat in front of a computer before starting the training, opens her email and sends a message to all of her classmates, testing technology’s possibilities.
“We learn about tools that can help us in our work, which hadn’t been available to us before,” said Panqueva, who manages a school union.
Joaquín Aguirre, 68, participates in the second module of the training and is determined to pursue other free digital literacy programs offered through the Vive Digital program in Sopó.
“I was a digital illiterate, but these classes opened my eyes and showed me the options that are available these days,” he said.
To date, the program has installed 101 Vive Digital Points nationwide. In Chocó, which is among the departments with the highest levels of violence and the most unmet basic needs in Colombia, the project has installed 14 Vive Digital Points, connected 42 municipalities with fiber optics and provided 1,500 educational institutions with Internet access.
“It’s important regional leaders recognize technology as a key tool for creating jobs, reducing poverty and improving the country’s competitiveness,” MinICT Deputy Minister María Carolina Hoyos Muñoz said.
The World Economic Forum ranks Colombia 66th among 142 countries in terms of information and communications technology infrastructure and usage. Chile (34) leads the region, followed by Panama (46), Uruguay (52), Costa Rica (53), Brazil (60) and Mexico (63).
In Pachavita, a village with 2,600 residents in the department of Boyacá, the project, which is in its first phase, has been working since June 2013 in coordination with Municipal Library programs to install free wireless access connections in libraries.
“The Internet provides a range of information to students. It’s a matter of guiding them and awakening their curiosity about the issues that contribute to society,” Pachavita librarian Jazmín Lorena Morales said.
Between 2010 and 2013, Internet connections reached seven million people, according to the MinICT. A total of 15,000 kilometers of fiber optical cable now connect more than 620 municipalities, out of a total of 1,078, especially along the Andes, which concentrates the majority of the Colombian population.
“ICT initiatives must not be isolated,” said Ana María Rocha, the former communications manager at Fundación Conexión Colombia. “It’s a comprehensive process. The infrastructure and the teams must be accompanied by educational campaigns, so new possibilities are discovered, benefits are obtained from the tools and a positive impact is made on society.”
In Chile, for example, increasing Internet penetration by 10% could reduce unemployment by 2%, according to studies by Raúl Katz of Columbia University in the United States.
With the support of the MinICT, 2,700 people will pursue technical and university degrees related to ICT at no cost.
Another effort to promote the use of technology to benefit the community took place on Feb. 6 during Bogotá’s Car-free Day, which has been observed annually in Colombia’s capital city for the past 15 years. To address the city’s urban mobility issues, the MinICT and City Hall presented a campaign promoting telecommuting.
Articly by Infosurhoy.com