A gap in digital culture, not digital access

The FCC and USAID just sent a massive email announcing an initiative called the Broadband Partnership of the Americas. The point is that while a lot of people have mobiles phones, not everyone has access to broadband internet communications. We’d love a map of this, because when I’m in rural Nicaragua, we get 3.5G in many places, which is better than what I have in Kendall Square at MIT.

A majority of the places we go to, have broadband internet through cyber cafe’s and other retail outlets. The bigger challenge is a gap in the culture of Internet access. This is the same reason your grandmother may often prefer to send you a postcard over the mail instead of an e-mail. Sometimes, this is generational and we can only assume it’s going to take time. My sense is that it’s social cultural. E-mail and other forms of Internet communications are often seen and used in a more formal sense than is what is efficient.

The digital pipes to reach many parts of the developing world, Latin America included, are out there. It’s not the piping alone, it’s the training, the private incentives, and the gap in a digital culture. Assuming that if you build it they will come is not enough. When we deployed MEDIKits in Ocotal, Nicaragua, we made some fantastic advertising on the web. We also combined with some old school voice advertising on trucks.

If you work in the developing world, run this experiment:

Make up a question: “What’s the price of an inhaler in your local pharmacy?”

Reach out to 3 people in the a rural area in Latin America.

    1. E-mail them
    2. Send them a text message
    3. Call them
Record response times. Let me know what you get.

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