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Latin American nations push digital connectivity

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Latin American nations push digital connectivity

  • A classroom in Colombia.
    GlobalOpportunityGarden/FlickrA classroom in Colombia.

BOSTON, Mass. — Last year, Latin Americans made a racket on the internet. Better web connections meant they could get rowdier online — whether engaging in bitter politics, social upheaval, or the odd online shopping spree.

Mexico's web-crazy elections in July were a case in point. Protesters marched under the banner of a Twitter hashtag, and some Mexicans even voted online for the first time.

Now, the region will make even more digital noise.

The year 2013 could be something of a breakout year for the web and telecommunications in the Americas. That's thanks to advances in broadband in several countries, and Google's new data center in Chile.

During the past two years, the governments of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru announced national telecom overhauls that are expected to take shape this year, according to an article by Signals Telecom consulting group.

Broadband service has been improving over the years across Latin America. But this year, writes Signals Telecom, more high-speed 4G TLE wireless networks will kick into gear. Brazil, with the region's biggest population and economy, will be a leader in this regard after the government's $1.5 billion auction of airwaves to top private carriers.

Its high-speed lines should be up and running in time for Brazil to host soccer's FIFA Confederations Cup this year, the World Cup next year and the 2016 Summer Olympics, writes RCRWireless.

Other South American countries are expected to expand LTE networks as well.

As GlobalPost's Simeon Tegel reported last year, Google made an exciting announcement that it plans to open a $150 million data center in Chile. That's also expected to open by the end of 2013.

Another major connectivity project could also see the light of day this year: a fiber optic broadband network linking all of South America. Brazil's communications minister announced the plan in 2011 as a way to bring down the cost of internet and cellphone access.

Broadband, it's been a big buzzword in the region for some time. But this year could be decisive for connectivity and bridging the digital gaps among countries and their rich and poor, urban and rural populations.

These tech advances come as the region witnesses the rise of its middle class, which grew by 50 percent from 2003 to 2009, as GlobalPost's Nick Miroff reported.

Despite strides, as GlobalPost's correspondent Tegel points out, the region still lags in connecting more of its population to the net, which politicians seem to be picking up on.

More leaders' thinking seems in line with a vision expressed by the United Nations' Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) — that broadband connections are a public good.

"Broadband should be considered a global public good, not free, but easy to access," ECLAC Executive Secretary Alicia Barcena said in November. "It's an essential element to achieve productivity, competitiveness and social inclusion."

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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