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Plugged In: Tapping into the Potential of Broadband

By , , and - Jun 11 2015

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When we think of the elements of a successful economy, access to ICT and connectivity is undoubtedly among them. But though market penetration of mobile phones among the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region’s adults has reached a saturation point, other figures position the region as one far behind advanced economies. For instance it is expected that at current rates, it would take LAC 142 years to catch up with the OECD in terms computer penetration relative to the population. That’s more than a lifetime that LAC simply does not have to ramp up its ICT and connectivity adoption. Given that a 10 percent increase in broadband service penetration is associated with an average 3.2 percent rise in GDP and a 2.6 percentage point rise in productivity, acting to expand broadband now is sure to uplift the region as a whole. But where do we begin?

Like any development challenge, expanding and enhancing broadband and ICT access must be tackled from different angles. While many LAC officials in the telecommunication sectors are aware that broadband is critical for a country’s development, governments often lack the capability to diagnose and clearly identify the problems and challenges associated with increasing broadband penetration. This is more evident in some Central American and Caribbean countries, which according to the IDB’s DigiLAC have a particularly low status of broadband development. For instance, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are scored 3.52, 3.58, and 3.64 out of 8 in the Broadband Index.

To speed up broadband and ICT development and propel LAC out of the proverbial Stone Age, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), with support from the Korean government, has recognized the urgent need to collectively provide training and education services for government officials in the region, and decided to take action.

Thanks to this partnership, the first broadband training center for Central America and the Dominican Republic, or “Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Banda Ancha para el Desarrollo” (CEABAD), was launched in Nicaragua in June 2014. Since its establishment, the center has been supported by the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, who participated in the inauguration ceremony.

The center provides LAC government officials  intensive and in-depth training services on broadband development. It will be more than just an educational facility, however, as it strives to also become   a hub for regional dialogue on broadband topics, where specific worldwide experiences and lessons learned will be presented, collaboration will be fostered between countries with similar contexts, and educational materials will be efficiently developed and used.

To advance these goals, CEABAD offers three main products, which include on-site courses in Managua, online courses, and specific courses based on country demand. These courses will createa better understanding of broadband challenges, making countries more capable of fostering competitive broadband markets as a step toward universal internet access.

In November, CEABAD launched its first module of courses on broadband applications for strategic sectors. Targeting policy makers from Central America and the Dominican Republic,  the four-day workshop brought together government representatives from eight countries in the region to share experiences. Topics such as cyber security, financial inclusion and mobile money, universal service and the Internet of things, entrepreneurship and technology, e-government and smart cities were discussed, among others.

As 2015 approaches, we look forward to four additional workshops scheduled in Managua, the launching of the virtual campus, and the great Broadband progress our partnership with Korea will make possible. Thanks to not just Korean resources, but also their expertise and commitment to bringing connectivity to our region, CEABAD is sure to prove an important instrument for LAC governments as they address obstacles and challenges related to the access, adoption and use of broadband.

Please visit www.ceabad.com for more detailed information.

Video: Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega inaugurated the Center (CEABAD)

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