Bolivia & technology
bolivia | by Miguel Centellas | 17 Mar, 2004 at 01:28 PM | comments (3) | trackback (0)

The UNDP (United Nations Development Program) just released its 2004 report on human development in Bolivia. Despite October's turmoil, the report's optimistic — even though Bolivia ranks 114th (out of 175) in the human development index.

The UNDP report's not all optimism; there are problems. While 60% of the over-15 population identify themselves as "indigenous," 25% describe themselves as intolerant of cultural differences. More startling, 81% of rural respondents identify themselves as somewhat intolerant of cultural differences. Such widespread lack of tolerance — pluralism — marks the lack of a "liberal, democratic" political culture.

The report argues that the best way to overcome Bolivia's crisis is to establish an "intercultural" citizenship. It also argues that natural gas could be a catalyst for the country's economic development. The report — which includes many statistics & survey data — also focuses on technology.

I'm particularly interested in internet use stats.

An estimated 270,000 people regularly use the internet — corresponding to the 3.4% of the population w/ home internet connections (10% of the population has a home computer). Of the general population: 53.3% have never used the internet (but would like to); 25.3% has used the internet; and 21.4% have never used the internet (and don't want to).

Compared to other media: 75.71% have a radio; 54.37% have a television; 22.69% have a phone (cell or landline); and 6.1% have cable TV.

Of regular internet users, 67% gain access from cybercafés. Beyond that, 8 of 10 Bolivians think greater access to new technology & information is important. Since the published estimate for "regular" internet users is based on those w/ home internet access, it's unclear how many frequently use the internet from cybercafés (or work) — I wonder if it's at least twice that figure?

And w/ the recent introduction of free dial-up through COTEL, the La Paz telephone company, I wonder how many people w/ home computers (if they have a modem) access the internet w/o a "dedicated" ISP. If you're wondering how COTEL offers "free" dial-up, it's because COTEL charges per-minute fees on all phone lines — users don't sign up for ISP service, but they still pay for every minute online.

While internet statistics pale in comparison to the US & other developed nations, I was impressed at the relatively high numbers. That a quarter of Bolivian users have used (meaning have access to) the internet is impressive. It could be revolutionary.

The numbers are low. But. What percentage of Bolivians own a printing press? Or a radio or TV station? I've tremendous faith in the power of internet & "citizens' media" to democratize information, public opinion, and the power that goes w/ it.

" comments

Is this available online? I couldn't find it on the pnud homepage..maybe I'm blind?

I think it's interesting how they focused on how use of the internet affected opinions. I don't think there is much difference in the use by the urban poor and the middle class, as most young people I know regardless of their class status has used an internet cafe and has an email address. I think Bolivian internet users are still exclusively using the internet as entertainment rather than education/information. Hopefully internet use is still evolving, as broadband continues to become more available and things such as university class registration are being utilized.

Posted by eduardo | March 17, 2004 06:14 PM

The report's not online. Yet. Also, the emphasis on internet was my own — their report covered many topics. And while I agree that most internet use is probably what we might call "frivolous", that's all subjective, isn't it? And some of that's a gateway into other uses. No one jumps right into blogging, say, w/o first dabbling in "frivolous" internet use. Then again, who are we to decide what's frivolous?

Posted by miguel | March 18, 2004 12:16 PM

Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Posted by Golden Brigham | June 30, 2004 01:24 PM

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