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Improving Access in Mexico

Improving Access in Mexico

  • Posted on: 31 October 2005
  • By: cathy

If you're reading about telecommunications in the news these days or if you happen to be subscribed to something like four different Americorps VISTA or Community Technology Center mailing lists (should you be as lucky as I am), you're probably seeing a lot about Internet networking in public housing in the U.S.. Baltimore, Houston, San Francisco…they all have movements and initiatives to bring broadband access coverage to a greater portion of the population.

It looks like our southern neighbors are starting to catch up. Back in August Cofetel, the Mexican agency that regulates telecommunications, approved the use of certain radio spectrum bands without licensing. The purpose of that is to expand wireless broadband signals. It may allow for more privatization in a government-controlled arena where networks have been mostly limited to enclosed areas such as airports and some cafes. However, this initiative is meeting resistance up the line from the transport and communications ministry (SCT). Other resistance comes from commentators who don't see the benefit of Internet access for the poor, such as the ability to further educate themselves, receive money wired to them, etc. The digital divide in Mexico is huge, and Internet access is scarce in remote, poor communities, but that may improve significantly over time.

In the Mexico City suburbs, low-income government-sponsored housing developments are starting to provide free computers and affordable Internet connections in individual units. Intel was involved in a very successful project at a place called Tecamac in the state of Mexico. The ISP instrumental in this, Conectha, received a national best practices award for housing. Vicente Fox, el presidente, is supportive of these efforts. Considering that Mexico's rate of broadband penetration has recently been around 1%, compared to a 10% average for OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, he should be concerned and involved. If only big business and government could serve grassroots ends and care about bridging the digital divide, the talent and interest is there to make big changes in Mexico. Some social entrepreneurs think that computers and Internet access may become a standard requirement in housing for many consumers.

Globally, the popular viewpoint these days is that being able to get online is a necessity, not a luxury for the middle to top tiers of society. Back during the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas a little over ten years ago, the cause was espoused by many around the globe and popularized through the Internet. People in Italy or Austin, Texas were weighing in heavily on the Zapatistas' behalf. Maybe in the future, movement leaders can tell others about their issues firsthand. And mothers of all income levels can order necessities while watching their children play, too.

See these articles/posts for more details: