Educational Connectivity in Complex Areas: Challenges and Objectives for a Regional Agenda
One of the main challenges facing Latin American countries is extending significant connectivity throughout their territories. Areas with low population density, distant from urban centers or isolated due to their geography – regions that are difficult to access, particularly “rural areas” – present specific challenges for connecting schools and homes for educational purposes.
Ensuring meaningful connectivity requires finding creative and flexible solutions to extend quality service quickly and in a way that is economically viable for all. The technologies to do so already exist. Reaching this goal requires sustainable public financing schemes and the provision of appropriate regulatory and institutional conditions so that the private sector, communities, and users develop the necessary investments, complementing the investments made by the state.
This report compiles the findings of a research effort led by the Inter-American Dialogue, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank, which also led to a call to action to resolve regional educational connectivity gaps.
By presenting several key cases and experiences in the region, the report identifies the greatest challenges and opportunities in four areas:
Incentives for private investment and good regulatory practices: Private investment can be, and has been in many contexts, the driving force behind the expansion of rural connectivity in complex areas. To support projects and initiatives from the private sector and from the communities themselves, it is essential to create consistent regulatory conditions and incentives.
Effective public investment: Beyond the implementation of a consistent incentive structure to promote the participation of the private sector and civil society, it is highly unlikely that extending quality internet access to populations in rural areas will be possible without public investment.
Alternative technology options for the short and long term: For last-mile contexts where low density or geographic location limits investment and complicates the expansion of terrestrial networks, there are viable and effective technological alternatives being implemented in the region.
Inter-ministerial and public-private coordination for a shared strategic vision: The coordination between the multiple actors of the ecosystem and the development of a common vision in relation to this complex technological, regulatory, and service supply model will be critical for the success of any educational connectivity strategy.
As Latin American countries reassess their energy policies in light of lower oil prices, there is an opportunity to apply lessons learned from the US experience to enact regulations that mitigate environmental risks, strengthen public support, and attract investment.
At a breakfast meeting with members of the Inter-American Dialogue’s Energy and Resources Committee, Michael Reid, The Economist’s senior Latin America editor and author of the “Bello” column, discussed why he thinks the region is shifting to the right.
Across Latin America, the sustained decline in global oil prices has had a profound impact on economic growth, political stability and the viability of resource nationalism – when governments assert more control over the nation’s natural resources.