Interview: Diego Molano Vega

What is the importance of the Vive Digital Plan?

DIEGO MOLANO VEGA: The Vive Digital Plan is boosting Colombia’s technological leap through the widespread use of the internet. Ultimately this initiative seeks to reduce poverty and create new jobs. To achieve this, the plan envisages the development of a national digital ecosystem, which consists of four key components: infrastructure, services, applications and users. Internet access has improved from 2.2m connections during the previous government to over 6.6m broadband connections in the first quarter of 2013. The goal for 2014 is to reach 8.8m connections. As such, the National Fibre-Optical Project is essential, as it will connect 753 of the 1122 municipalities in the country. To date, we have already connected 452 municipalities and provided free broadband to 1026 public institutions for a five-year period.

In what way are you bringing technology education to more remote areas of the country?

MOLANO: In 2014 we plan to improve accessibility through the installation of 1144 Vive Digital booths across the country. Additionally, we have carried out the largest distribution of computers and tablets in the history of Colombia, which has provided children with access to a total of 355,000 laptops and 82,000 tablets. In 2014 these figures will increase to 669,000 and 1.32m respectively.

How is the government’s commitment to digital services evidenced by its own provision?

MOLANO: Colombia is ranked second among Latin American and Caribbean countries in terms of usage of e-government services, as well as being ranked sixth worldwide for electronic media consumption. We have increased the opportunities for electronic interaction with the government, as seen by the number of people using e-government services in 2012, which stood at 50% of the population and 78% of companies in the country. Our target for 2014 is to improve these numbers to around 75% and 85%, respectively.

How will the recent auctions of 4G bandwidths impact competition and development?

MOLANO: The assignment of the 4G licences allowed us to evolve from having three operators to six. Greater competition will mean better quality at more competitive prices. Increased penetration of 4G bands will have a considerable social impact because it will help to connect all municipalities, ideally beginning at the end of 2013. The government will raise approximately 70% more funds than it initially estimated, and these resources will be allocated to social projects for mass use of the internet, bringing wireless access to some of the poorest neighbourhoods.

To what extent is ICT being promoted in the productive sector, particularly among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)?

MOLANO: More than 95% of the 1.6m companies that are registered in the country are SMEs and only a small percentage, about 7%, of these had used or were using the internet in 2010. The Vive Digital MiPyme programme, which received investment of COP3.3bn ($1.98m) through a Bancóldex fund, seeks to expand the use of the internet and promote useful applications for SMEs. In 2012 we reached a significant milestone of bringing a further 7% of SMEs online. Our objective is to connect an additional 30% by the end of 2013 and to expand this figure to 50% by 2014. The Ministry of ICT has also certified 150,000 companies as “Digital Companies” in order to ensure the introduction of technologies within their businesses.

Smartphones currently account for a quarter of online shopping in Colombia, how is online consumption being encouraged?

MOLANO: The initiative seeks to promote and strengthen the creation of ICT businesses in Colombia. To date, we have supported some 35,000 people who have developed digital content and applications to encourage more people to do their shopping online.