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

OLPC

Uruguay: Initiatives to Promote the Internet 

        Until recently, the Uruguayan government had not implemented strong policies to promote Internet use among the country's population. The task of spreading the Internet among end-users was undertaken solely by ANTEL, which had a commercial interest in doing so. While the results of ANTEL’s efforts were not bad, they could certainly have been better. There was not as much motivation behind the company’s efforts as there would have been in a public initiative, where making a profit is not an issue.

        In 2000, ANTEL launched the “Plan Mercurio” (“Mercury” Plan), whose aim it was to universalize Internet use, increase the available bandwidth of connections, and achieve a massive sales of personal computers. While its objectives may have been noble, and aimed in the right direction, the plan was poorly handled, and ultimately ended in a notorious failure. Only 300 computers were sold, and connection bandwidth still hasn’t improved nearly as much as in other countries in the region.

        The State, rather than a business, is probably significantly better suited to carry out a plan of such scale and complexity. Expanding Internet use is a matter of great social and economic for a developing country, especially for a small nation like Uruguay, which depends on good communication and efficient interactions with the outside world in order to grow and develop. There are now some hints that the Uruguayan government is beginning to take this task more seriously, and is trying to connect all sectors of society to the Internet.

        In December 2006, the Uruguayan government commited to the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, which aims to provide children in developing countries with inexpensive but useful laptop computers. The OLPC laptops were conceived with Internet connecticity in mind, and several of them can share a single connection. Uruguay has not yet received the OLPC laptops which it has ordered, but when it does, they could prove very useful in spreading internet use among the sectors of society which are most disconnected from it. They will be used in public schools to bring the Internet to children who may otherwise never have benefited from the country’s electronic infrastructure, thus beginning to bridge the gap between the potential of the Internet in Uruguay, and its reality.


References:

Campanella, Inés. “Uruguay en busca de un marco de políticas públicas de TIC.” 28 Aug 2006. <http://tic.item.org.uy/?q=node/266>.

“Progress: Discover the Origins of OLPC.” <http://www.laptop.org/vision/progress/>.