Monday, 20 April 2015 20:04

Colombia sees technology as key poverty-fighting tool

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Technology must be leveraged as a key tool for fighting poverty and helping spur businesses that can boost the social inclusion of very low-income Colombians, who make up 30.6 percent of the population, the deputy information and communications technology minister said.

During the opening in this Caribbean city of the 2014 Andicom congress, Latin America's largest and oldest in the ICT sector, Maria Carolina Hoyos said the "industry has the enormous challenge of building businesses based on connectivity."

"Colombian entrepreneurs must focus on creating technological tools that facilitate social inclusion for the 30.6 percent of the population that lives in poverty and for the 9.1 percent of (the population) in extreme poverty," the official said Wednesday.

Hoyos said IT developers should not try to compete with Silicon Valley, hub for the world's most innovative technology companies, because it is "simply impossible."

Instead, the goal of this new generation of Colombian entrepreneurs should be to "develop applications and digital content" for the lower strata that make up 74.1 percent of all households in Colombia, she said.

In that regard, Hoyos said 96 percent of Colombia's municipalities are now connected to the Internet via fiber-optic cables, 94.7 percent of homes have at least one cellular phone and 42.2 percent of families have a computer.

But "technology alone does not reduce the digital divide. In fact, it can widen the gap between rich and poor," she said.

In underscoring the market potential that low-income consumers represent, Hoyos cited Inter-American Development Bank figures showing "people at the poverty line spend $5 trillion annually worldwide."

Netflix, Waze, Bitcoin, Salesforce, Twitter, BuzzFeed and Daily Mail are among the firms with a presence at this year's Andicom, which ends on Friday. EFE

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