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IDB hosts meeting to encourage greater broadband penetration in Latin America and the Caribbean

Representatives of leading international companies that provide telecommunications service, equipment and software met today with telecom experts from the Inter-American Development Bank to discuss ways of improving the regulatory framework in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to encourage greater broadband penetration and usage.

Around 50 industry representatives participated in the half-day brainstorming session, “IDB’s Broadband Platform: Creating a regulatory framework that works,” at the Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Among the companies and nonprofits that attended the meeting or followed the proceedings by teleconference were Alcatel-Lucent, Intelsat, Microsoft, Intel, Qualcomm, Telefónica, Cable & Wireless, UNCTAD, Connected Nation and Inveneo. The meeting was organized by the Bank’s Office of Outreach & Partnerships (ORP) and the Science & Technology Division.

The objective of the consultation was to seek industry experience and input to improve the region’s regulatory framework to help facilitate increased broadband penetration. Over the next two months, IDB experts will write a publication with the industry’s input that will be part of the IDB’s Broadband Platform strategy for the LAC region.

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the average penetration rate of fixed broadband services in Latin America and the Caribbean is below 5 percent. In contrast, Korea has a 36.6 percent penetration rate, while in the United States it is 26 percent.

An IDB study currently being conducted indicates that a 10 percent increase in the number of broadband subscriptions in the region’s 26 countries would boost GDP growth by 3.19 percent, would increase productivity by 2.6 percent, and would create 67,016 new jobs.

The same study concludes that a strategic regulatory framework is necessary in order to ramp up the rollout of broadband services. Public-private partnerships that lead to improved information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure are another key element.

To contribute to bridge this gap and accelerate the penetration and usage of broadband services by companies, citizens and governments, the IDB is working on a broadband platform that has four major pillars:

  • Develop public policies and governance models to accelerate the penetration, use and adoption of broadband services.
  • Update regulatory frameworks to promote investment in infrastructure and the adoption of ICTs.
  • Deploy infrastructure to increase the penetration of broadband services by increasing the geographic and population coverage
  • Build capacity and generate demand for ICT through the development of innovative services and applications and through capacity building of the public and the private sector

Participants in the meeting discussed key obstacles to fostering broadband deployment in the region; the need for investment in physical infrastructure to make faster broadband rollout possible; ways of expanding broadband access to poor and geographically isolated communities; and proposals on encouraging the use of broadband in key areas such as energy, education, health care and in the public sector in general.