Oh there is a revolution brewing down South in Meso-America. This revolution will not be televised. This revolution will be streamed!
Let me explain how this is going to happen. First a little background on telephone lines in Guatemala. Throughout its entire telephone history, Guatemala has barely managed to get a little over a half a million telephone land lines. In less than ten years, however, the cellular telephone companies have managed to get 6.5 or 7 million active mobile accounts. In a country with about 13 million people, that is a little over 50% or 60% or even more because children are included in the total population and of course, not all of them have cellular phones.
How is it possible that in less than a decade the cellular telephone industry accomplished what the regular telephone company could not do?
Simple the infrastructure to create a cellular telephone network is much cheaper since the signal travels through airwaves. If the cellular repeater towers are placed in strategic locations you can cover several municipios (counties) with one or two cellular towers.
Then, the cellular companies came up with an clever marketing plan. Let’s make pre-paid plans and give away the telephones dirt cheap or for free and we will recoup the investment in the users pre-paid usage. That’s how they were able to get 7 million cellular telephones lines installed; less than 5% of those are contract lines. In the process, the three main cellular companies were able to bring the air time prices down to a bare minimum and now it’s cheaper for Guatemalans to call the U.S. and Canada than the other way around; go figure!
Well, last year I shared with you the news about how the three main cellular companies, Tigo, Claro and Telefónica were upgrading their networks to the 3G or third generation of telecommunication standards and with it comes wireless Internet access. Since the telecommunication infrastructure is already in place, it will only be a matter of time before wireless Internet access is available in every corner of Guatemala.
Next, computer are getting cheaper and cheaper every time. You can get a nice working netbook for about $279 with Linux or $379 with Windows. Or the next generation of OLPC (one laptop per child) will be $75 when it becomes available.
So with the wireless infrastructure in place and inexpensive computers and mobile devices like iPod Touch or even intelligent telephones just around the corner, the only thing missing is computer classes and workshops. Well, why wait if the motto for Escuelas Abiertas; let’s provide computer workshops now for free on the weekends.
What do you think, am I hallucinating or there is real opportunity here the narrow the gap between the have and the have-nots?