IDG Connect, (UK) - The Global IT Series, Part 7: South America


On 8th March a basketball game between two popular Cuban teams degenerated into a riot. To quell the disturbance police entered the fray wielding batons and pepper spray. In the past this would have been the stuff of rumour. Not any more - footage was captured on mobile phone and uploaded straight to YouTube. The use of mobile is growing exponentially across the region - leaving a trail of social and political shockwaves rippling in its wake...

Two years ago Castro lifted the ban on mobile phones in Cuba. Today, due to prohibitive costs, it still has the lowest dispersion across the continent. However, availability is rising and one million users are expected by the end of this year. Across South America mobile penetration stands above the world average and many countries have passed the 100% threshold. Venezuela is the regional leader in terms of SMS traffic. In Uruguay mobile subscribers rose 17% year-on-year at the end of 2009. And in Mexico the government is making unregistered mobile ownership illegal in a bid to clamp down on crime.

The use of smartphones and rise of social media go hand in hand. This April Telefonica selected a vendor to provide social networking aggregation services to mobile subscribers across 12 countries. This will facilitate social media use. Already, Brazilians are the second largest users of Twitter in the world (after the USA). Since last year, the number of Venezuelan subscribers has increased ten-fold. And now even the notoriously loquacious Chavez has started distilling his message into 140 character tweets; even managing to accrue 12,000 followers before his missives began at Midnight on 27th April!

South America is famous for its differences: from extreme political regimes, to the dichotomy between rich and poor; from acute biodiversity, to the gulf between rural and urban. Practically these distinctions exhibit themselves in the speed of the internet. Last year's findings from Companies and Markets revealed that South America is 27% below the world average for broadband speed, whilst a recent government report from Brazil states despite being a top ten global economy its broadband is slow, expensive and not widely available. Divergence and adaptation are the side effects of these difficulties and they can be clearly witnessed in the unique way that cloud computing manifests itself across the continent.

In North America cloud computing is predominantly used as a means to streamline IT operations and rationalise costs. Yet in South America, many smaller companies see it as a way of instantly ramping up to a level playing field with some of their larger competitors. Many small companies in Latin America are hardly involved in mission-critical applications, but mid-size and large companies have to compete with far larger global organisations. This makes cloud computing a flexible way to grow, to develop solutions and to become more efficient and effective. With the biggest markets are Brazil and Mexico and second-tier markets like Colombia and Argentina, it is fascinating the way these countries are taking this trend and truly making it their own.

IDG Connect's series on South America is set to continue throughout the Summer:

  • 8th July - Cloud computing Brazil, Gabriel Congo, Bazil
  • 5th August - Software development & outsourcing, Leonardo Mattiazzi, Brazil

Based in South America? What do you think the biggest challenges for your unique region will be over the next 18 months? Please comment below - or if you would like to submit a blog post simply email the editor.

Read Part 1, Africa
Read part 2, Asia
Read part 3, Australia
Read part 4, Europe
Read part 5, Middle East
Read Part 6, North America



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