|Issue:||Latin America 2013|
|Topic:||‘Live Digital’ in Colombia|
|Author:||Diego Molano Vega|
|Title:||Colombian Minister of Information Technology and Communications|
|Organisation:||Ministry of Information Technology and Communications, Colombia|
Diego Molano Vega is the Minister of Information Technologies and Communications of Colombia. As Minister of ICT he launched the Vive Digital Plan, which seeks to expand and massify the use of Internet in the country. In the past, Minister Molano served as the Director of Colombia’s Communications Regulation Commission (CRC) and focused on the liberalization of the sector, to increase competition and private foreign investment. He has held executive positions in multinationals such as Ascom (Switzerland) and BellSouth (USA) At Telefónica (Spain) he was responsible for corporate relations, regulation and wholesale businesses in 20 countries.
Minister Molano has been a member of the boards of the American Association of Telecommunications Operators (Ahciet), the Mercosur Business Forum-Europe (MEBF), EU Brazil, the Colombian Chamber of Commerce in Spain, and was founder and President of the Telecommunications Regulators Association of Latin America (Regulatel).
Diego Molano Vega earned a BE, and a MS in Economics, from Pontifical Xavierian University. He also holds a MBA from the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), of Lausanne, Switzerland.
In its drive to develop its economy, Colombia faces significant technological challenges, but it has identified the challenges and, by 2014, will have one of the largest ICT infrastructures in Latin America. Colomba’s Vive Digital Plan is working to reduce the country’s socio-economic gap by bringing ICT to every citizen. The plan stimulates Colombia’s digital ecosystem, expands its infrastructure, creates new services at lower prices, promotes the development of applications and digital content, and fosters the popular uptake and use of technology.
Vive Digital (Live Digital) is Colombia’s technology plan for 2010 – 2014, which aims to give the country a technological leap by the massification Internet usage and the development of a national digital ecosystem. It is a response to the challenge of President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon’s administration: achieve democratic prosperity, through the adoption and use of technology.
While creating the plan we determined that Colombia must overcome several obstacles to massify Internet usage, including barriers in infrastructure, services, applications and users of the digital ecosystem. That is why Vive Digital, the most ambitious public policy strategy ever implemented by the Colombian government for the ICT sector, was created in 2010: to meet the challenge to grow the ICT sector in Colombia, and improve the social conditions of the country habitants.
To achieve widespread Internet use, Plan Vive Digital established three specific objectives for 2014:
1. To triple the number of municipalities connected to the information highway. The aim is to extend the infrastructure to connect 1,053 of the country’s municipalities to the national fibre-optic network.
2. To connect 50 per cent of Colombia’s micro-enterprises and small- and medium-sized enterprises (known as MIPYMEs) and 50 per cent of its homes to the Internet.
3. To increase the number of Internet connections fourfold. By 2014, we want to reach 8.8 million Internet connections
Goals and achievements
Within the last three years, the plan has changed the digital landscape in Colombia. By 2014 we will have all of the Colombian municipalities connected to high speed Internet, the majority of which will have fibre optics. Vive Digital has already made a huge difference; Colombia has gone from 2.2 million Internet connections to 6.2 million in the last 2.5 years. Just in 2013, Colombia will reach 7.2 million Internet connections; and in 2014, 8.8 million connections.
We have increased Internet connections by 166 per cent in the lowest strata of Colombia’s system of classification by economic status; in addition, more than 1 million people have received subsidies for Internet access or to buy a computer.
This year our 4G auction process was a huge success. As a result, we will have five of Colombia’s six mobile operators competing to offer 4G to customers. The auction terms obliges operators to provide all of the country’s municipalities with effective connections to Internet and to give 550 thousand tablets to public schools. The Ministry also collected over USD 400 million dollars more than the amount expected from the auction; this discretionary income will be used to further the social initiatives of the Vive Digital Plan.
Strengthening the digital content industry is of paramount importance to a successful digital ecosystem. Colombia is currently implementing a digital content policy to address this need. One of the main goals of this policy is that, by the end of 2014, there will be 17 digital centres across the country (called Vive Labs). These centres will provide places where anyone can learn digital content skills and will empower new entrepreneurs with high-quality equipment and licensed software.
All these efforts to connect all our citizens to the Internet, are leveraged by other initiatives like developing applications and digital content, focused on local needs. This will yield greater productivity on the part of consumers as well as an increase in development opportunities. Since 2010, the ICT Ministry’s e-government program ‘Gobierno en Línea’ has framed its activities especially in the development of applications, content, and users components, facilitate the relationship between our government’s entities and our citizens.
When President Santos took office, only seven per cent of micro-enterprises were connected and used the Internet, mainly because they were not aware of how the Internet could help them. Our SME
Vive Digital program seeks to help Colombia’s small and medium-sized enterprises boost their competitiveness, productivity, and job creation by widely expanding their use of the Internet.
The initiative has centred its efforts on deploying applications, through medium-sized and large enterprises, to micro-enterprises that are their providers or distributors. By using these applications with hundreds or thousands of micro-enterprises can improve the larger businesses’ relationships and processes. In this way, micro-enterprises see the real business value of the Internet and appropriate its use in their daily operations. The government is also working with ICT providers such as telecommunication operators, PC vendors, and software developers to change and complement their products so that they include business applications specifically for micro-enterprise sectors.
With this program the main objective is to build the Internet penetration among micro-enterprises up to 50 per cent. Internet penetration among micro-enterprises had increased almost threefold by December 2012, and is now at 20 per cent; at the end of 2013 we will reach 40 per cent.
The Apps.co program was created to strengthen the Colombian digital entrepreneurship. With this initiative, more than 44 thousand Colombians are learning how to code, and more than 650 projects are looking for business opportunities. All these projects are being supported by accelerators and institutions that have been trained by Bob Dorf and Steve Blank, two of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world. Currently the ICT Ministry is supporting 90 companies looking for venture capital investments. In that way, the Ministry aims to foster both ICT entrepreneurship and private investment within the country.
In addition, the IT Industry Strengthening program, Fortalecimiento de la Industria TI – FITI, aims to contribute to the transformation of the IT industry into a world-class sector. To fulfil this aim, the program has a number of different lines of action integrated into a systemic model.
During the 2012Global Telecommunications Conference in Barcelona, the Colombian ICT Ministry won the Government Leadership Award in recognition of: “the management and strategies established by solid telecommunication regulators, based on clear principles that encourage private investment and healthy competition in the last twelve months”. Winning this award emphasizes the high economic and social impact of Vive Digital’s innovative ICT policy.
In addition, the CPE (Computers for Education) program of the ICT Ministry was designated as a world model, for exemplary performance in access to technologies and knowledge at the opening of the World Summit on the Information Society that was held in Geneva, Switzerland. In addition, the CPE program was chosen as a project that generates lessons that can be replicated elsewhere in the world. For CPE, the fundamental principle is to reach the teachers with training in their own context, so that they get the most out of technology. That is the added value of this social program, as well as the care and maintenance that allows educational venues in Colombia to have technical support.
In e-government, according to the Survey of the Economic and Social Department of the United Nations, Colombia is ranked in second place in Latin America and the Caribbean in the use of e-government. Colombia is also the sixth highest ranked country worldwide for electronic participation, and tenth best ranked country worldwide with regard to electronic services.
Colombia faces significant technological challenges. However, we have identified the challenges and we have the will to do what it takes to overcome them. To that end, we rely on a highly qualified technical team and on the support of the national government. The goals have been established and we are on track. Step by step, we have witnessed how the investments we have made in infrastructure and contents, have not only improved the development of the digital ecosystem in our country, but changed the life of our citizens.
Our plan, and all the investments that we had made in it, are an indispensable stepping stone for growth and progress; the adoption and ownership of ICT serve as key tools – decreasing unemployment and poverty, while increasing the country’s competitiveness.
By 2014 we will have one of the largest deployed ICT infrastructures in Latin America. The challenges are to build strong digital and IT industries, to have applications that suit the necessities of our citizens, and to adopt responsibly the technologies in Colombia. This plan has taken these challenges into account and, over the next few years, should be among the brightest lights of Colombia’s public policy.
*See the presentation of the survey (in Spanish) at http://www. slideshare.net/DiegoMolanoVega/encuesta-de-consumo-digital.