SURF'S UP

Colombia 2014 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Diego Molano Vega, Minister of ICT, on expanding the inclusiveness of Colombia's digital revolution.

Diego Molano Vega
BIOGRAPHY
Diego Molano Vega holds a Master’s degree in Economics from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana as well as a Master’s degree in Business from the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. He has over 20 years of experience in the ICT industry, in both the public and private sectors. He was appointed Minister of ICT on August 6, 2010. He also served as the Director of the National Telecommunications Commission, and held executive positions at Ascom and Telefónica.

Could you elaborate on the success Colombia's government has achieved with its transversal policies?

We are implementing a digital revolution in Colombia; an inclusive revolution for all Colombians, especially those of limited economic means in rural areas of the country. This revolution is geared at broadening internet penetration and reducing the cost of access. For example, we increased the percentage of connected Colombian households from 17% to the current 50%, an increase that has had a significant impact on lower-income families. This digital revolution also includes Colombian SMEs, with the percentage of connected companies exceeding 60% in 2014. The digital revolution also impacts education; we plan to distribute 2 million computer units to decrease the current computer deficit from one computer per 24 schoolchildren to one computer for every four schoolchildren. The digital revolution is also linked to public workers and the increase of available e-services. For example, Colombia is a leading country in the region in terms of e-government. Colombia's digital revolution also encourages responsible web usage. For example, we are active in taking measures against children's internet addiction and work on training people to spot the risks and take preventative measures. Thanks to the digital revolution, we also boosted entrepreneurship among Colombians and are educating as many as 55,000 entrepreneurs as a result of our program. In fact, for our country it is vital to meet the potential of new technologies thanks to the pool of skilled and creative young people we have. There has also been a notable impact for farmers and rural communities in general, where we have set up 7,000 community centers, known as “Digital Kiosks," that boost connectivity in rural Colombia. We will have a fiber internet connection in all our municipalities in 2014. I would also add that our digital revolution includes the disabled, in a bid to increase their participation in daily life, and thus we have nationwide programs to boost inclusiveness in society through new technologies.

What will be the main benefits of the nationwide implementation of 4G technologies?

Recently, we carried out a kind of auction in the 4G field that brought more competition to the sector (from three operators to six) and we have also managed to draft a clearer and more commercially attractive regulatory framework. In this context, operators have already started working and will be able to reach a diversity of social groups across all cities, while also boosting the wider take up of new technologies. This strong interest from operators shows the potential of this segment of the industry, which in the near future will see key advances in the technological development of society.

What were the main achievements of the Ministry's “computers to educate" program?

It achieved something very important: a highlighting of the role that new technologies can play in improving national education levels. However, we should keep one thing in mind, namely that providing schools with computers and tablets is only useful if there is a robust strategy behind it to train teachers and provide them with effective tools to actually improve education. In this context, one of the program's lasting achievements is greater public awareness of the potential of new technologies. As a result, we are effectively boosting innovation in the education sector.

How is the policy of subsidizing studies on new technologies structured in Colombia?

The most important consideration to our thinking is to develop talent among our large young population, clearly our nation's greatest advantage. We try to bring together both things and make sure the country has a deep pool of talent in the IT sector. We run a national program in which students receive programming training at 350 high schools, and where we provide loans to pursue IT-related careers.