The Internet in Latin America:
A detailed look at the cases of Mexico and Uruguay

Uruguay: Internet Access and Usage Patterns 

        Although Internet penetration (measuring the number of Internet connections) in Uruguay is on the order of 20.4%, a much larger proportion of Uruguayans connects to the the Internet when a broader range of access mechanisms is considered. In 2005, 55% of the population said that they were Internet users, even if they accessed the net only sporadically.


        A remarkable recent trend in Internet use among Uruguayans is the significant growth in the number of cyber-café users in the last few years. The graphs above, from a proweb survey, represent the number of users who access the Internet in different locations. The bottom graphs, which show a 16-fold increase in the number of users between June 2002 and September 2005, represent cyber-cafés. This jump from 30.000 to 480.000 users shows that there is a very high demand for Internet access which had not been met previously.

         What is behind this huge increase? Most likely, it was caused by a combination of the high price of home Internet access, mentioned in the section on ISPs, and the deeper problem of having access to a computer in the home. In the same study, 47% of PC owners said that they did not access the Internet at home because of the high connection costs. A potential solution for this limitation would be a liberalization of the market, which would tend to drive connection costs down by increasing competition.

        More serious, however, is the limited number of computers which can connect to the Internet in Uruguayan homes. A Panos Institute report has stated that “problems of access to telecommunications pale into insignificance beside those of gaining access to a working computer capable of connecting to the Internet” in developing nations. Thus, the large number of Uruguayans who are turning to cyber-cafés for connecting to the Internet reveals a very important hurdle in the process of Internet diffusion, which can undo the benefits of Uruguay’s outstanding communications infrastructure. Unless computers become more affordable for the general population, Uruguay will not be able to reap the social and economic benefits of widespread Internet connectivity.


 “Conozca al Internauta Uruguayo: 2º Estudio de Internet en Uruguay.” proweb. 2005. <

 “The Internet and Poverty.” Panos London. 1 Jun 1998. <>.