Colombia’s Ministry of Information Technology and Communications (MinTIC) has launched a programme with the Ministry of Housing, Cities and Territory (MVCT) to subsidise internet access for the country’s poorest people. The project will see the government spend COP300 billion (USD165.5 million) per annum over the next two years on purchasing computers and subsidising internet access for families in the lowest two ‘strata’ – Colombia operates a system that gives areas a designation between one and six depending on its level of poverty or wealth, strata one being the poorest areas and strata six the most affluent. Under the scheme 100,000 families that will receive free housing from the government will also receive computers and free internet access. Further, families in strata one and two that purchase broadband access from the beginning of August will not be charged VAT on the service.
ICT Minister Diego Molano Vega said in a statement: ‘It has been proven that internet access and good use is reflected in improved rates of economic growth and job creation.’ Vega added that one of the largest barriers to increasing broadband penetration was the comparatively high price of computers, and called on manufacturers to create strategies to improve accessibility to the disadvantaged population. The minister added: ‘If we want a prosperous Colombia and greater opportunities for all, we must work together to provide the families of strata one and two the opportunity to grow through the use of the internet.’