Revolution. The word carries a tremendous amount of weight. From the Arab Spring to the American Revolution, from wars to ideas, countries rise and fall on the waves of revolutions. A new revolution is sweeping through Latin America: a digital revolution.

Latin America currently has about 232 million Internet users. This number is a sharp increase from the number of Internet users in 2005: 78.5 million. By 2017, Internet users could rise by 63 percent to 294 million.

In Mexico, Colima’s 600,000 residents have complete Internet access to all kinds of different state services and documents. The state has made health records electronic and crime reports can be filled out online, as well as filing documents for permits. To go along with this, Colima has hundreds of Wi-Fi hotspots for those that do not have Internet at home.

Further to the south, Columbia and Peru are spreading broadband Internet to remote corners of the two countries. The Peruvian government is working to spread Wi-Fi to public buildings, including hospitals and schools in all of its 25 regions.

The Columbian government in Bogotá has subsidized the spread of fibre optic networks around the country to the point where nearly every town in the nation is connected. The government has also gotten rid of taxes on Smartphones, tablets and computers. Under-resourced families have been given vouchers for broadband access. In the last five years, Internet usage has increased from 16 percent to 50 percent.

The digital revolution is helping to improve education equality in Brazil. The state of Mato Grosso do Sul began a new free online program for high school students to help prepare them for a difficult national exam. Grades from the national exam dictate whether students can attend the federal universities. Students who used the service were 31 percent more likely to achieve grades high enough to enroll in the universities, and the system was so successful that 10 other states have implemented it.

Latin America is often cited as a relatively violent area of the world. Never fear, the digital revolution is helping to fix this too. Ecuador released a real-time data supplier for crime hotspots four years ago. Fast-forward to today and the homicide rate has been reduced by 48 percent, thanks to the system.

Tech start-ups have followed the digital revolution. Coupled with inspiration from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, new “technolatinas” are using the Internet in Latin America to create start-ups of their own. Some companies have used close ties with Silicon valley to register their companies in the U.S. Successful companies have the potential to bring outside investments, creating the potential for economic growth.

The spread of broadband Internet opens up “new frontiers for regional development. It can serve as a tool for reducing social and economic inequities.” However, it can also lead to more inequality. It can enable a select few to “hyper-develop,” leaving the rest in the dust. However, the risks outweigh the gains. With the potential for reduced crime, increased economic growth and a more equal education system it is little wonder the digital revolution is booming in Latin America.

Greg Baker

Sources: FT, Latin Post, ABCNews
Photo: Unitee

Schools-in-Nairobi-Free-InternetBecause of an amazing contribution from the Wananchi Group, over 2,000 public and private schools in Nairobi County will be receiving free, unlimited, high-speed fixed Internet. The Wananchi Group has invested two million dollars to provide this access.

Continuing a partnership with the Kenya Education Network (KENET) and the County Government of Nairobi, over 150 schools have been connected to fixed high-speed internet since the initial piloting trial in April 2014.

As this project supplements a recent government initiative to provide free laptops to schools across the country of Kenya, students will now be able to perform research with a broader collection of knowledge and information from different parts of the world. This will not only open up a previous barrier, but also increase the students’ awareness of global society.

The Wananchi Group is a part of the Zuku Fibre project, a private-public partnership that uses the Wananchi Group’s fiber infrastructure to provide these services. The partnership was created for the betterment of the country of Kenya as a whole.

In fact, this achievement is along the lines of the Vision 2030 initiative. Vision 2030 is Kenya’s development blueprint to transform Kenya into a “newly industrializing, middle income country providing a high quality life to all its citizens” by 2030. By making progress toward this step, Kenya can now continue to focus its efforts on other areas.

Perhaps they will focus next on the health sector to improve community health centers, or the environmental sector to improve waste disposal and sanitation measures, or the manufacturing sector to help revitalize industry. Regardless, within the Vision 2030 initiative, Kenyans will continue to make strides within economic, social and political spheres to improve Kenya as a country for its current and future generations. Providing free internet to schools is a monumental milestone toward these efforts.

– Alysha Biemolt

Sources: IT News Africa, Vision 2030
Photo: Computer Aid International


In Nigeria and South Africa, Blackberry has launched its latest smartphone, the Blackberry Leap. According to the company, this smartphone offers more than a day’s battery life, even with heavy use.

This latest version of the phone has switched out its old keyboard to feature a new touchscreen, much like the Apple iPhone. The new touchscreen keyboard features error correction and multilingual support.

Many may question why a consumer would buy a Blackberry when there are much more popular phones like iPhone, Android and Samsung.

The Blackberry, jokingly referred to as the “Crackberry,” was once the must-have device for executives. It was the first smartphone that allowed easy and constant access to email and the Internet. The easy-to-use QWERTY keyboard allowed executives to respond to emails without being tied to a computer.

But with the emergence of the Apple iPhone, Blackberry quickly lost its dominance as the number one smartphone in the market.

Would you buy an unpopular smartphone? The answer from consumers in Africa is… yes.

Over the past four years, the Blackberry Curve has been the most popular smartphone in South Africa. A recent survey conducted by Vodacom in South Africa found that Blackberries make up 23 percent of the smartphone market. In Nigeria, Blackberries make up 40 percent of the smartphone market.

But why have Blackberry phones become so popular in African countries?

The first reason is that Blackberries are a status symbol; they were once the phones used by top executives. People strive to achieve the same success associated with the phones.

Additionally, an attractive feature of the Blackberry is its low-cost data bundles. In fact, Blackberry users can send messages for free using the Blackberry Messenger (BBM). This makes the phones well-suited for less capable mobile networks.

And lastly, Blackberries are able to stay updated without the purchase of a new smartphone. In developing countries, phones are upgraded less frequently. Before the introduction of the Blackberry Leap, the most up-to-date Blackberry in South Africa was 3 years old.

There is still room for growth for Blackberry in African countries. In a poll conducted by GeoPoll, 17 percent of people reported that they would buy a Blackberry as their next phone.

Blackberry is predicted to keep its number one spot in Africa as the most popular smartphone brand partly because of its popularity with students.

The Blackberry brand has transitioned from being known as the phone for high power executives to the most popular, affordable phone used in developing countries. Of course, affordability is an important aspect when purchasing a smartphone. Blackberry has allowed consumers in developing countries to afford a smartphone without sacrificing technology, mobile network service or various communication abilities.

– Kerri Szulak

Sources: Inside Blackberry, IT News Africa, The Conversation
Photo: TechLoy

Digital Poverty
The digital age has improved quality of life for many people around the world. The digital era has become a great asset to today’s world and has helped with business, community and even the economy. However, as prevalent as technology has become, there are still many countries that live with little or no access to technology; limited access means limited benefits. Among those countries living in what is called digital poverty, they are, more often than not, developing nations. So, what is digital poverty exactly and how does it affect the economy?

“Digital poverty is the inability to use IT, either due to the lack of access or due to the lack of skills,” said Thierry Geiger, co-editor of the Global Information Technology Report. “It is really a form of poverty because without digital access, without digital skills, you cannot tap into the huge potential of technology to improve your lives and create opportunities.”


Digital Poverty and Economic Growth


There’s an apparent link between countries with slow economic growth and limited access to technology, which results in digital poverty, according to a new report. The Global Information Technology Report for 2015 stated that only a minority of the world’s population has internet access; meaning, the economic and even social benefits that arise from being digitally involved are not reached. Approximately 39 percent of the world’s population has access to the internet. Additionally, many of the nations that do not have access to technology are failing to address digital poverty as a means to end poverty in general. Invoking simple, technology-focused reforms can not only help develop the economy, but boost productivity as well. Technology can also help improve education, communication and business practices.

According to Geiger, technology has a powerful impact on economies, especially those which are struggling to sustain their country’s needs. Digital poverty affects nations’ unemployment rates, increases inequalities and financial demands, particularly in countries with emerging and developing economies. In order to help in economic growth, countries need to establish a more advanced, digitally acquainted population.

Geiger also emphasized that the notion that technology is prevalent around the world is actually a myth because only a small percentage of the world’s population has access to technology. According to the report, out of 143 nations, among the top countries that have access to technology and use it as means for communication and economic impact are Singapore, United States, Norway, United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, Netherlands and Finland. Additionally, the countries that have minimal access includes Yemen, Haiti, Burundi, Madagascar and Angola.

There are also countries that have made significant improvements in technological developments. The report revealed that among the countries that ranked high in development include Latvia, Macedonia, El Salvador and Armenia. The report reveals that those countries that utilize technologies have improved their economies by 20 percent, compared to 10 percent in nations who have not.

Aside from government actions and reforms, the population needs to be willing to become part of the digital world. Governments and content developers producing better and more relevant content can help with the job market, people’s income in particular. Providing the people with an incentive to advocate for technological advancements can help bring nations closer to the digital age. As countries become more digitally acquainted, digital poverty will decrease and in the process, more people will begin to see an increase in economic growth and a reduction in poverty rates.

– Nada Sewidan

Sources: VOA News, WE Forum
Photo: Flickr