In a region of great inequality, affordability is not the main reason for low penetration of mobile broadband services, rather lack of local, relevant content, according to a report by GSMA Intelligence.
In recent years, the gaps in coverage in Latin America have been reduced and, currently, about 10% of the population is without access to a broadband mobile network. But the report, presented at Mobile World Congress, shows that 363 million Latin Americans out of the 570 million who are covered by 3G and 4G networks, are not using the service.
Among the main barriers identified in GSMA's research, lack of local content, both in terms of language and relevance, seems to be the largest.
Analysis of Web traffic data shows that less than 30% of content accessed in Latin America and the Caribbean is in a local language – despite the prevalence of Spanish and Portuguese languages in the region. “Entertainment makes up most of the content available, creating a misconception among non-users that the Internet is just an entertainment tool,” says the report.
Lack of digital skills (insufficient ICT infrastructure and teaching support for digital education), affordability (for 40% of the population, the cost of mobile ownership is 17% of their income), and network coverage (although LATAM is the third region with best coverage worldwide, covering sparsely populated and remote areas is not commercially attractive), are cited as the other three main barriers keeping Latin Americans from subscribing to mobile Internet services.
“Mobile broadband is the primary method of delivering affordable Internet access across the Latin America and Caribbean regions, delivering a range of economic and social benefits,” said Sebastian Cabello, head of Latin America, GSMA. “But there is also danger of a widening ‘digital divide’ in the region due to millions being either unable or unwilling to use mobile broadband services. We therefore urge governments to work with the mobile industry to address the barriers to adoption and ensure that the mobile Internet is more accessible, useful and understandable for everyone.”