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Panel: A Better Digital Life

Since 1997, there has been a huge increase in internet users in Latin America. However, challenges remain. How can we connect the other 50 percent of the population that is still not connected? How do we improve the entire digital landscape so Latin America can reap the benefits of digital connection? In our panel “A Better Digital Life,” panelists discussed the many challenges to digitizing Latin America and what important things we must consider as we set up policies.

It is estimated that we need $400 billion dollars to close the digital divide in Latin America. Revenue from traditional services, such as voice and SMS, is not a sustainable source of funding these new networks. We want to expand internet access to all and could close the gap by 2020, but it will take a lot of investment.

A recent survey in Chili found that four out of ten households don’t use the internet, don’t know what the internet is, and don’t know what value the internet would offer them. Other people in the region, even if they can afford an internet connection, do not feel that the internet is relevant to their lives. Lack of knowledge and lack of belief in the utility of the internet impacts demand.

Since one of the challenges to digitizing Latin America is a lack of understanding about what the internet is and its benefits, how should we go about expanding knowledge? Should we create policies that will educate the average person about how the internet will help them? Or should governments just begin to provide the internet and over time people will come to understand the benefits?

Even if we can help people understand what the internet is and what the benefits are, there will still be problems with usage. Some people will not have the skills necessary to take advantage of the internet, which will limit its impact. This issue speaks to the “human side” of the internet and the fact that this is not just about providing access – we must address human issues as well.


A Telefonica analysis found that people in Latin America don’t believe in the internet for financial purposes. They believe that doing things through the internet could compromise their financials. Some companies have recognized and adapted to this, for example,, an airline website that allows people to make reservations online but then pay at a bank or supermarket. However, this adds friction and inefficiency to the process. We need to overcome the issue of lack of trust.

The venture capital landscape impacts the development of tech-based companies and ideas. Panelist Camilo Kejner, who has invested in several tech companies in Latin America, says innovation could be fostered if the landscape was more collaborative in nature rather than competitive.


Latin America” is a collective term for countries that are actually quite diverse. Certain countries are performing well in digital life, while others are not. Since each Latin American country is not the same, each country has to analyze its own problems and diagnose its own solutions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for digitizing Latin America.

In many ways, each country must analyze its own conditions to figure out how to best spread digital technology to its residents. However, we also have to think of how to unify structures so Latin American countries can work together in the digital ecosystem. It’s one thing for a business in Chili to sell online to its own population of 17+ million citizens. It’s another thing entirely if that business could be opened up to a market that includes the 600+ million people of Latin America.

So far, governments have focused their efforts on policy and infrastructure development. They are asking themselves how they can get universal coverage, or at least basic internet access to as many people as possible in each country. However, this is a narrow view that doesn’t recognize the other issues that must also be resolved before a policy can be successfully enforced. By addressing the issues listed above on a country-by-country basis, we can create better policies and a better digital life in Latin America.