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

Uruguay: Electronic Infrastructure  

        The most basic level of infrastructure that affects the potential for Internet connectivity in a country is its power grid. In order for Internet access to be convenient and affordable at a given location, it needs to have access to a consistent source of electricity for a computer, or possibly another device with Internet capabilities. In this respect, Uruguay does not face the same challenges as its neighbors in the region. The national power grid reaches 97% of its territory, which makes it the most electrified country in all of Latin America.

        Its telephone network also has a remarkable penetration. With a teledensity of almost 30 fixed lines per 100 inhabitants, it is well above the Latin American average of 17. What makes this network even more valuable is the fact that it is 100% digital. This ensures that every business and every household with a fixed phone line can also potentially use it to access the Internet through a broadband connection, instead of being restricted to connecting through dial-up.

        Besides ADSL and dial-up, the Internet is also accessible thorugh wireless broadband connections, which are more expensive than their ADSL counterparts, but which are independent of the presence of the telephone network, and can thus reach a wider range of customers.

        This extensive and modern infrastructure, unique in the region, situate Uruguay in a privileged position when it comes to providing its population with widespread access to the Internet using the latest technologies. While most of the countries of Latin America must struggle to expand their infrastructure through significant investments or creative solutions, this is not an issue for Uruguay. Despite this advantage, Internet penetration in the country is not as high as one might expect. Currently, penetration is a the level of 20.4%, which is slightly above the regional average of 19%, but not as high as that of Argentina (34%) or Chile (42.4%).

        In the year 2000, Uruguay had the highest Internet penetration in the region, but today it has fallen behind despite its superior infrastructure. This evidently suggests that a developed infrastructure is not all that matters when promoting Internet connectivity in Latin America, and that other factors of a different nature may hinder its effectiveness.


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