Ways of Internet Access in Latin America

(photo credit: Roland Soong)

There are many different sources of estimates of the number of Internet users in Latin America.  What is striking is how different they can be about what is seemingly the same group of people.  So is it the five million figure offered by one source? or the 24 million from another source?  

A large part of the problem in the disparity of size estimates has to do with differences in how 'Internet users in Latin America' are defined.  Generally speaking, before we evaluate any source, we would like to know ---

The purpose of this note is to discuss the different ways of accessing the Internet in Latin America.  We will refer to some survey data from the TGI Latina study.  This is a large consumer survey of 46,244 persons between the ages of 12 and 65 conducted during 1999-2000 in seven Latin American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela).  The measured universe consisted primarily of urban areas in these countries.  Within this sample, a total of 8,284 persons said that they have used the Internet, which is projected to a total of 15,617,000 persons in the measured universe.

These Internet users were then asked where they had accessed the Internet ---

The sum of the above adds to more than 100% because people can access the Internet from more than one place.  The following table shows the inter-penetration of these different methods of access.  For example, among home users, 24% use the Internet at work, and so on.

  % use at home % use at work % use at school % use elsewhere
Home user 100% 24% 10%   1%
Work user 27% 100%   6%   2%
School user 16%   8% 100%   4%
Other place user   3%   5%   8% 100%

(source:  TGI Latina 1999-2000)

This table shows that there is some duplication between home and work users, but the other two groups are more isolated.  

Why should we care about how people access the Internet?  There are a number of reasons.

First of all, this knowledge is useful to gauge the potential and actual market of access services.  These are completely different markets including these two large ones:

People who use the Internet through these different means have different characteristics.  The following table shows their average age and sex compositions.  As might be expected, the school users are significantly younger.  The 'other place' users are also young.

  Home users Work users School users Other place users
% Male 59% 65% 57% 60%
Average age (in years) 30.4 33.4 20.7 22.5

(source:  TGI Latina 1999-2000)

The next table shows the recency and volume of usage for these different users.  The home user, who is most likely paying to have an Internet access account, is the heaviest user of the Internet.  The 'other place' users are the lightest users, since they either have to pay hourly rental fees or face limitations on their use (e.g. 30 minutes maximum at a public kiosk).

  Home users Work users School users Other place users
% used in last 7 days  86% 83% 59% 43%
Hours spent in last 30 days 13.7 hours 12.3 hours 8.8 hours 5.2 hours

(source:  TGI Latina 1999-2000)

The last table shows a short list of activities that these people have engaged in during the past 30 days.  These users have vastly different needs from each other.

  Home users Work users School users Other place users
E-mail 69% 63% 46% 37%
Read news 33% 33% 21% 16%
Visit a chat room  31% 16% 28% 31%
Did shopping for business   4%   7%    1%   1%

(source:  TGI Latina 1999-2000)


(posted by Roland Soong on 8/24/00)

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