SYMBOLIC DEVELOPMENT

Ecuador 2014 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Jaime Guerrero Ruiz, Minister of Telecommunications and Information Society, on the achievements of the ministry, and improving access to technology.

HE Jaime Guerrero Ruiz
BIOGRAPHY
Jaime Guerrero Ruiz has been the Minister of Telecommunications and Information Society since April 2010. He also presides over the National Council of Telecommunications, which oversees the telecommunications market. He is an electrical engineer specializing in electronics. He completed his graduate studies at Escuela Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL). He attended secondary school at Liceo Naval de Guayaquil. He holds a postgraduate degree in Administration of Telecommunications Systems and Services and has taken various courses in management.

What have been the main achievements of the Ministry since it was founded five years ago?

Our Ministry is rather young and has just 100 people working in it. The core reasons behind its establishment were the importance of new technologies and the information society in the development of Ecuador. Some of our top priorities back then were the modernization and upgrading of certain institutions linked to the sector, such as the Civil Register, which deals with the identification of Ecuadorean citizens, Correos del Ecuador (the national postal company of Ecuador), Corporación Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (the public telecommunications corporation of Ecuador), and the National Register of Public Data, among others. Therefore, we can proudly say that the Ministry has become rather iconic within public administration, having performed vital tasks in this sphere. We have updated services, boosted technology, and changed old patterns. In sum, I believe that we have achieved much over the past five years, leading key transformational processes for Ecuador through innovation and our flexibility as an organization.

How have these achievements impacted the economy?

According to available data, we have achieved significant change during a period of unprecedented growth for Ecuador. Internet penetration rose from 6% to almost 70% during this period when we went from being the bottom country in terms of broadband access to topping the table, according to US research. We currently have the fastest internet in the region at 3.6 Mb/s. Overall, our work has been constant and steady, as we had to create all the infrastructure and then provide services that today are available to Ecuadorean society. In another example, five years ago there was only 3,000 kilometers of fiber optic in the country, whereas today the figure has reached 35,000 kilometers.

What has been the Ministry's approach to improving access to technology in Ecuador, and what programs have you implemented to achieve this?

We have implemented many nationwide programs to democratize technology services such as internet access For example, we have created the so-called “Info Centers," spaces to provide training, equipment, and tools to democratize internet access in Ecuador. Today, we are nearing 2 million visits to these centers in a country of 14 million inhabitants. In this context, we have seen a boost in entrepreneurship among citizens of rural Ecuador thanks to these Info Centers, and they can now utilize the network to advertise and sell their products by leveraging the infrastructure that we have installed. Approximately 500 such centers have been established nationwide. Additionally, we have seven mobile classrooms, whose main aim is to reach remote areas of the country to provide internet training and access to people living in remoter areas, which tend to be those on the lowest income. This program received international recognition for its efforts to build an inclusive system for new technologies. Over 250,000 people have already benefited from this program. We have also established the School Connectivity Program, the aim of which is to interconnect all public schools across the country by setting up a special lab within the school with computers and internet access. Currently, 7,000 schools are connected, while at the beginning of our term there were none. Our goal is to reach 9,000 schools by the end of this government's term. Also, we have already started providing schools with Wi-Fi areas for students, staff, and even parents. So far, the eight largest public schools in the country already have Wi-Fi, and we aim to ensure that all public schools across the country become Wi-Fi spots. This project, alongside the two I mentioned before, impact as many as 5 million people in Ecuador.