Digital Connectivity: How Latin America Can Improve Technology Access

Latin American business leaders discussed steps that can improve digital connectivity and access across the region.


Air Date: June 9, 2022

Moderator: Sandra Reed, Partner, Pérez Bustamante & Ponce Abogados

Featured Guests: Mauricio Ramos, CEO, Millicom, Freddy Vega, CEO, Platzi

The COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on the digital discrepancy between countries around the world. Not every country has the same access and means to digital technology, which created a growing economic and social divide between nations.

During Day 2 of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Department of State’s IV CEO Summit of the Americas, Mauricio Ramos, the CEO of Millicom, and Freddy Vega, CEO of Platzi, discussed digital connectivity issues facing Latin America and how the region can address them.

Access, Not Coverage, Is the Main Issue

Ramos dispelled a common misconception about Latin America’s digital connectivity issues and its “lack” of 4G and 5G coverage. According to Ramos, roughly 95% of the population receives coverage from a mobile network, with 90% being covered by a 4G high-speed, broadband network. The bigger issue is that the population does not have access to mobile devices to use that coverage.

“It’s an affordability issue of the device and the content on it,” said Ramos. “In every conversation that I have about digital inclusion and how to bring more people to have more internet — every government official, every think tank — [they say it] is very important that we build more networks. I say, ‘No, coverage [is] not really the issue; let’s build that access.’”

Latin American Access to Education Can Break the Poverty Cycle

Vega agreed that the lack of access to internet connectivity and mobile devices is a hindrance in breaking the cycle of poverty in Latin America. To break that cycle, said Vega, people need to have access to a different type of education than what is currently available to them.

“We have already tried for 200 years; the kind of education that we have right now all across our continent,” said Vega. “After a kind of apocalypse that made us all stay at home and change the way that we behave as a species, we all wanted to go back to classrooms and the traditional way that we do things. But we now know that there are different ways.”

“Education [is] computing plus the internet,” he continued. “It's probably still the easiest way to break the cycle of poverty in a region that really needs it.”

Creating coding classes and connecting Latin America with the rest of the tech world creates better talent that will help the region create the “next Silicon Valley” and stop migrating to the U.S. for opportunities, said Vega.

It’s Time to Forge Digital Connectivity

Both Ramos and Vega agreed that now is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to connect Latin America with the rest of the world and educate its youth. Teaching the youth in Latin America coding and other skills not only fills a demand but supports citizens in creating better opportunities for themselves, said Ramos.

‘[We need] a sense of urgency,” he said. “We have in Latin America, one of the youngest populations in the world. We have a demographic dividend … but that's not going to last. We have a 10-year window for that to happen, so we cannot squander it.”