Saturday, 15 January 2011

Internet, media and Venezuela

Venezuela's military regime boasts about the great progress on Internet coverage in Venezuela. It often says before Chávez came to power coverage was very limited, very slow and so on. Chávez's apologists (like in German the Amerika 21 site) often repeat the same story.

What the regime does not say, though, is that the Internet, even if it was a rather old idea, only started to catch up after 1995, for several technical and commercial reasons that have nothing to do with Venezuela.

Here you see the world internet host growth since 1981:

Based on the users' estimates plus population estimates, we can get the map you see below (shades are wrong according to my percentages). I simply reused the Wikipedia map and drew on it the latest percentages for internet coverage for South America. Venezuela is in military green.

As you can see, Colombia, Surinam, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile have a greater coverage than Venezuela. Venezuela's GDP per capita is clearly higher than that of Colombia thanks to the huge amounts of oil under Venezuelan's soil, if nothing more.

About two thirds of Venezuela's population do not have Internet access yet. Most of those without Internet access cannot watch channels or listen to radio stations critical of the Venezuelan government, in spite of what US Mark Weisbrot, a staunch defendant of the Venezuelan military government, writes. You get out of the main urban centres and it is mostly Chávez media for you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. What Mr Weisbrot calls "independent private media" broadcasts mostly Colombian music, soap operas or baseball games.

Newspapers? Oh, just check out the national coverage of critical newspapers and just reading habits of the average Venezuelan.

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