In Nancagua, O’Higgins Region, Deputy Agriculture Minister Reinaldo Ruiz inauguratedeight wireless networks that will provide broadband connections to rural communities in Chile located between the Valparaíso y La Araucanía Regions.
The initiative was developed by the Chilean Agriculture Ministry via the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA) and it received financing from the Innovation for Competitiveness Fund, with a total investment of 1 billion Chilean pesos (around US$ 2 million).
According to Ruiz, the project is aimed at strengthening rural areas, which generally have less Internet access. These are policies that “tend to eliminate the digital gap in rural sectors and to generalize the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) as an instrument for competitiveness and innovation in agricultural activity,” the authority stated.
The eight new networks, located specifically in the communities of Petorca, Catemu– Panquehue, Peumo–Pichidegua, Nancagua–Placilla, Molina–Río Claro, Maule Sur, Ñuble and Pocoyán, will provide immediate benefits to 1,000 farmers, with an estimated growth potential of 3,000 people. In the case of Nancagua alone, it is estimated that the number of users could reach 1,200 people.
The deputy minister also highlighted that “this program will benefit highly rural communities with low incomes and a shortage of services, where the population’s main activity is agriculture. They present a potential demand for the Internet from diverse sectors of the population, but at the same time there are serious limitations to financing a commercial service.”
It is currently estimated that only 38% of small farmers have access to computers. Of them, 25% use the Internet and 9% have home-based access. In the case of medium-size producers, the number increases to 63% with access to the web. The new conditions are aimed at changing this complex scenario.
“Local wireless networks, implemented with the support of the FIA, provide an experience that not only involves a technical and economic solution to connectivity, but they also have broader organizational and community implications. They operate with local wills,” said FIA Director Rodrigo Vega.