In recent years, the countries of Latin America have substantially increased access to telecommunications services and the use of applications and social networks (ECLAC, 2015). In this line, the ninth Sustainable Development Goal was committed to “significantly increase access to information and communication technology” and to “strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in the least developed countries here. to 2020. ” However, important socioeconomic and gender gaps persist in the access and use of new technologies. For example, around 2013, the incidence of the population residing in households that have computers and of the population with Internet access in the home was substantially higher in the higher income quintiles. And although both increased in all the income quintiles between 2008 and 2013, these increases, measured in absolute values, were less important in the poorest quintile.
When examining the evolution of home computer availability in the lowest income quintile, there is great heterogeneity among the countries. The country with the highest absolute increase between 2008 and 2013 was Uruguay (with an increase of 53 percentage points). Then there are the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (23 percentage points), Chile and Brazil (20 percentage points, respectively). The least favorable situations for the poorest quintile were verified in Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico and Paraguay, with increases of 0.5 percentage points, 2 percentage points, 3 percentage points and 4 percentage points, respectively.
The gap in access to home computers among the extreme quintiles decreased in 3 of the 12 countries with information available around 2008 and 2013: Uruguay (-37 percentage points), Chile (-14 percentage points) and Brazil ( -5 percentage points) 37. The largest increases in the gaps occurred in Paraguay, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. In these countries, the absolute difference between the extreme quintiles grew by over 15 percentage points, because the absolute increase in access to computers in the home was much higher in the quintile of higher income than in the first quintile of the distribution.
This trend towards a greater increase in access to mobile telephony in lower income groups meant that the average difference between the extreme quintiles in this dimension was significantly reduced between 2008 and 2013: in 2008 the absolute difference between the two groups was 32 points percentage, while in 2013 this value fell to 15 percentage points. The percentage of population with access to mobile phones in the home was greater in urban than in rural areas in 2013, but the differences by area of residence were considerably lower than those appreciated for the provision of computers and the Internet connection in the home . At the same time, between 2008 and 2013, the absolute increase in access to cell phones tended to be higher in the rural population than in the urban population. If we add to this the fact that the increase in cellular access was more pronounced in the lower income groups, we find that the highest absolute growth of the population with access to mobile phones in the home was registered in the lowest income rural quintiles.
Finally, the availability of a computer, Internet access and mobile home ownership provide limited approaches to accessing new technologies. For years, public and private initiatives have been developed in many countries of the region that provide free or subsidized access to computers or Internet access in schools, telecentres and cybercafes, among others. In addition, people can also access computers and the Internet at their places of work.
In terms of mobile telephony, lower income users could opt for low cost plans with limited connectivity in quantity and quality of services, or they may not have enough resources to buy Internet plans. Finally, even if it is assumed that these indicators, despite their limitations, provide a relatively reliable picture of access to new technologies, they can not directly measure their use. With regard to the latter, the information from nine countries in the region around 2013 reveals the existence of wide gaps in the use of the Internet between the different quintiles of the income distribution. On average, the population that does not habitually use the Internet reaches its highest incidence in the poorest quintile (79%) and has its lowest value in the highest income quintile (38%). When examining the situation of the countries, the largest gaps between the richest and poorest quintiles are seen in Paraguay, Peru and the Plurinational State of Bolivia, and the smallest in Chile and Uruguay. The data available for 2013 also show that the non-use of the Internet is higher in the older age groups. In the population under 60, this generational effect is enhanced or softened by socioeconomic differences: for example, the lowest level of non-use of the Internet (17%) is seen in the youngest population (10 to 29 years) it belongs to the richest quintile, while the highest incidence of non-use of the Internet (90%) is found in the population aged 30 to 59 years, which is located in the poorest quintile. For its part, for the age group of 60 years or more, the situation is different, since the rate of Internet non-use exceeds 90% in the first four income quintiles, and only in the richest quintile reaches 76% . Given that the richest quintile is the one with the most access to the Internet in the home, possibly a significant part of the non-use is due to factors related to age.