Mérida, 13th August 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela leads the world in increasing internet usage, according to a study by internet marketing research firm Comscore.
The study revealed that between April 2011 and April 2012 the number of people using the internet in Venezuela increased by 62%, ahead of India (34%) and Indonesia (29%).
The findings contrast with Venezuela’s own national telecommunications body CONATEL, which reports that internet access here has increased by 7% in the past year.
According to CONATEL 40.27% of Venezuelan’s have access to the internet, up from only 3.4% in 2000, and there is a higher level of access than all countries in South America apart from Chile (58%), Argentina (57%) and Colombia (50%).
However, by using a new methodology focused on measuring the number of internet users rather than the number of connections, for example in households with a wireless router, Comscore claims that the increase in internet usage in Venezuela is actually much greater.
“Our sources are experts in Venezuela who tell us how internet use is evolving. We also take a census measurement, we take the CONATEL measurements into account, and other media contribute their [internet] traffic data to us,” Comscore director for Venezuela and Colombia, Alex Castro, explained to BBC World recently.
According to digital market research firms Comscore and Digital Trends (TD), increased access to previously marginalised communities has been an important factor in explaining the sharp rise of internet usage in Venezuela.
“What has grown most in [internet] penetration is access by poor; you don’t even need to get the exact number. The poor are connecting to the internet more,” claimed Carlos Jimenez, president of TD.
The government of President Hugo Chavez has introduced a number of policies over the previous twelve years aimed at increasing internet access in Venezuela.
A key initiative has been the Infocentros; free to use internet cafes that now boast a network of 700 centres in low income and rural communities throughout the country. In January the Infocentro Foundation was awarded a prize by UNESCO in recognition for their role in providing access to information technology for traditionally excluded sectors of the population.
Since 2009, the government has also provided almost 2 million Canaima laptops to primary school children in order to incorporate technology use in the education system.
The public telecommunications company CANTV, nationalised in 2007, offers credits and loans to allow lower-income users who solicit an internet connection to buy computers, an initiative that has “born fruit” in increasing internet access, according to Jimenez.
Private television companies offering combined internet and television packages, and a sharp rise in the number of users of cell phones with internet capabilities have also contributed.
Alex Castro further commented that Venezuela’s index of a more equal distribution of wealth has likely been a factor in increasing internet usage among Venezuela’s poorer communities. “When I passed through the poor neighbourhoods of Caracas, it really surprised me that many had Direct TV, and I asked myself “What’s this?” In Colombia for example, we see that the marginal sectors really are just that”.
However, Venezuela is also considered to have one of the slowest internet connections in the world, and is currently ranked on speedtest.net as 157 (at 1,7Mbph) of 176 countries measured by internet speed. Internet connectivity is also still largely limited to cities.
The government is currently constructing 5.796 km of fibre optic cable, with continuing to increase internet access part of Chavez’s Socialist Plan of the Nation 2013 – 2019.
Below is a Press TV report on the Comscore study.