A recent article on CNN Money made the case for Colombia pushing to become the Silicon Valley of South America. According to the Colombian government, Colombia’s technology industry grew 177% from 2007 to 2012.
A number of big technology companies have recognized the technology industry growth in Colombia with Cisco, Facebook, Google and Microsoft all opening offices in Bogotá in recent years. Bogotá is not the only city gaining a reputation for technology in Colombia. In 2013, Medelín was ranked the most innovative city in the world by the Wall Street Journal and Citi. Also in 2012, Hewlett-Packard (HP) opened a Global Services Center in Medellín, recognizing Medellín for becoming a city of knowledge and innovation.
When CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, hosted Facebook’s first overseas town hall early this year, the company didn’t choose a major city like London, Singapore, Hong Kong or Beijing. Instead the company chose Bogotá for this event on January 15 plus at the same time launched a free Internet application in Colombia.
Colombia was the first country in Latin America and the fourth in the world to receive the new Internet.org service, in partnership with local mobile phone provider Tigo. The mobile app, aimed at rural and low income, offers many Internet tools without the user incurring any data charges. The app offers several tools via the Android operating system – such as Wikipedia, weather and health information, job listings, as well as Facebook’s social network and messaging service.
Colombia’s Booming Economy
In 2015, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects Colombia to triple the size of its economy from a decade ago. Colombia’s middle class also grew by about 50% over the past decade according to World Bank. Other economies in South America like Brazil and Argentina are expected to decline in 2015, but Colombia’s diversified economy is expect to post another growth year.
The telecommunications market in Colombia was liberalized in 1991 and has seen the second largest infrastructure investment (after the energy sector) in the country for many of the past years. The Colombian telecommunications market has continued to be a growth market with increasing adoption of smart phones, but it is also competitive, with several providers in each of the top cities.
The Bottom Line
With a booming technology market in Colombia as well as a rapidly growing telecommunications industry some are starting to make a case for the country pushing to become the Silicon Valley of South America. However, Santiago, Chile would likely debate this as the city has also made claims of being the Silicon Valley of South America.
But with all the technology and telecommunications investment in Colombia, the bottom line is the telecommunications infrastructure is fairly well developed in the largest cities in the country. You can find reliable triple play Internet/television/phone services in Colombia similar to what you would find in the U.S., but at lower costs.
For example, Claro in Colombia offers triple play services in several cities starting at about 119,000 pesos ($45) per month for 10 Mbps Internet, 140+ television channels plus a fixed line telephone service with unlimited calls to fixed line phones, which is available in many neighborhoods. Claro also offers higher Internet speeds of up to 100 Mbs.
Wireless phone services are readily available throughout Colombia and also can be inexpensive with three major providers competing heavily with each other. Claro, Movistar and Tigo all offer prepaid (prepago) and postpaid (postpago) options. A SIM for a cell phone in Colombia typically costs only about 5,000 pesos (less than $2). Providers in Colombia have also been busily rolling out 4G networks.