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Technology

Online, an Unequal Mexico

According to the Study on the habits of Internet users in Mexico, conducted in 2018 by the Mexican Internet Association, in the country 79.1 million people aged 6 and over are Internet users, which translates into 67% penetration. This is almost three times more than a decade ago, when the total number of Internet users in the territory was 27.6 million people. 

When they are online, there is a series of activities that Mexicans tend to do more frequently: access social networks; send and receive mails; send and receive instant messages; find information and consult maps. Activities such as buying online, listening to music and doing government procedures are gaining more and more ground.

According to this study, the main devices to connect to the internet are smart phones, laptops, desktop computers and tablets. In fact, the most common technology of a Mexican home, after the television (92%), is the cell phone, which can not be missing in 74% of cases, according to the Encuesta Nacional de Consumo de Contenidos Audiovisuales of 2017 Through these devices, Mexicans spend an average of 8 hours a day with 12 minutes a day. 

Although these numbers show the daily use of the Internet and information technologies, the country has not managed to overcome the so-called digital divide, that is, the lack of access to ICT and telecommunication services among the most disadvantaged sectors of the economy and society.

An article published by academics from the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), explains that Mexico is in a situation of stagnation in terms of equitable access to technology and the Internet, so "it remains a country that has not managed to link its large economic size with its appropriation and the use of ICT by the population." 

Part of the root of this gap is the lack of application of public policies that guarantee the improvement of access, use and infrastructure of telecommunications.

The Neoliberal Strategy 

According to information compiled by the newspaper El Universal, Mexico is the country with the most concentrated telecommunications sector in the world. This happens despite the implementation of a constitutional reform in the matter applied during the first years of the administration of former President Enrique Peña Nieto. 

In the country America Movil, whose owner is the tycoon Carlos Slim, is the company with the largest participation contracted by the federal government, with 45%; followed by Televisa, with 23%; Axtel, with 16%; AT & T, with 12%, and Grupo Salinas and Microsoft with 2%, according to the specialized portal merca20.com, in an article published in 2018.

During the presidential terms of Miguel de la Madrid (1982-1988) and Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) the application of the neoliberal strategy that sold and privatized state-owned companies began, among them, Teléfonos de México (today Telmex), a parastatal company that had been consolidated as a government monopoly since 1972. Slim bought it in 1990 with the commitment to invest in infrastructure and modernize the network. In return, managed to maintain for several years without competitors in the sector, maneuver that tried to stop the telecommunications reform of 2014.

Failed Regulation?

After an essentially technical debate that left out the discussion about what kind of communication model the Mexican society wanter a new Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law was created, published in the Official Gazette of the Federation on July 14, 2014 With it the government of Enrique Peña Nieto intended, according to his public speech, to guarantee effective competition in these sectors. 

After almost five years of the Law's entry into force, telecommunications operators in Mexico admit some progress, but they have not missed the opportunity to point out the failures in the sector that, essentially, has failed to guarantee effective competition.

During the 39th “Convención Nacional de la Industria Electrónica de Telecomunicaciones y Tecnologias de la información” (Canieti), directors of AT&T, Axtel, Telefónica, Altán and Qualcomm, pointed out Salma Jalife Villalón who would later become Under Secretary of Communications and Technological Development, that the constraints after the reform continue with regard to investment and lack of competition with América Móvil as a preponderant operator.

The reform has not only been insufficient to promote fair competition in the telecommunications and radio broadcasting sectors, but also left aside important issues such as the right to information and the freedom of expression of Mexicans. This has been expressed by several experts on the subject, such as the academic Tania Arroyo Ramírez, for whom the communications model promoted in the country oversizes the role and participation of private companies. This has led to the invisibility of other sectors that could guarantee a true media development, such as public, alternative and community media.

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