The Internet’s Impact on Central America and the Caribbean

The Internet’s Impact on Central America and the Caribbean

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Although many media professionals know that the Internet has gained lots of ground in Central America and in the Caribbean, it’s not readily obvious. In fact, if you tried to look for studies and stats with regard to Internet in the region, you may have a hard time finding them. However, when you search country by country, a clear picture emerges that shows exactly how well connected the countries of Central America and the Caribbean truly are.

Online’s Bottom Line
Before breaking down connectivity statistics by country, it’s important to highlight the main opportunities this connectivity offers advertisers, including:

Reach. With an online pan regional ad campaign in Central America, you can reach a total audience of more than 8.5 million Internet users. When you add the online audiences of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the audience swells to 14.5 million.

Common ground. Given the strong penetration of social media in these markets, a campaign on a popular social media site like Facebook has the potential of delivering excellent results.

Options. The surge of mobile devices in the region allows advertisers to reach consumers with new, compelling ad formats.

As you review the information we’ve compiled as far as Internet penetration, mobile penetration, social media use and other online aspects of Central America and the Caribbean, the opportunities we highlighted should emerge quickly. In addition, this may be the first compilation of its kind for this region, so we’re glad to share it with our fellow digital marketing and media professionals who work with the Central American and Caribbean online markets.

The Digital Portrait, Country by Country

COSTA RICA
• Internet penetration: It’s at 43.7% according to Internet WorldStats, which estimates that there are 2 million Internet users in Costa Rica. According to telecommunications firm Claro, the amount of Internet users in Costa Rica grew by 23% in 2011.
• Mobile penetration: it’s at 101%, with 4.4 million active celular lines compared to a population of 4.3 million.
• Smartphone penetration: 10%, but it’s projected to reach 34% by 2015
• Fixed broadband: Costa Rica has 440,000 subscribers to fixed broadband service, #2 in Latin America after Guatemala, which has 458,000.
• Social media: Around 41% of Costa Ricans visited social media sites in 2011, according to Pulso Consumidor. In 2012 Socialbakers, a research firm, indicated that Costa Rica had 1.6 million Facebook users, which gives Facebook a penetration rate of 84% in the country.
• E-commerce: In Costa Rica, e-commerce sales totaled US$3.8 million in 2011, which is a 41% increase compared to 2010.

EL SALVADOR
• Internet penetration: It’s at 20% as per Internet WorldStats, which estimates that there are 1.2 million Internet users in El Salvador. It’s important to note that telecommunications firm Claro recently published a study that noted that Internet service subscriptions in El Salvador went up by 28.2% in 2011.
• Mobile penetration: According to research firm Pyramid Research, mobile penetration in El Salvador was at 127% in 2010 and is projected to reach 136% by 2015.
• Fixed broadband: Subscription level is at 16.3%, according to the study done by Claro.
• Social media: According to Pulso Consumidor, 50% of Salvadoran Internet users visited social media sites in 2011. Facebook is the most popular social site in the country. There are more than 1.2 million Salvadorans registered on Facebook. This figure could indicate that there’s 100% Facebook penetration among Salvadoran Internet users. However, it could also be that Salvadorans who live outside the country identify El Salvador as their country of origin, thus affecting the numbers.

GUATEMALA
• Internet penetration: According to a Dattabrands study published in June 2012, Internet penetration in Guatemala is at 25.9%. For its part, Internet WorldStats reports that Internet penetration is at 16.5% in Guatemala and estimates that there are 2.2 million Internet users in Guatemala.
• Mobile penetration: According to Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones de Guatemala, the country’s national telecommunications agency, there were 20.7 million mobile phone users in Guatemala in December 2011. There were only 3 million mobile phone users in 2004, which suggests that the mobile market in Guatemala has grown by 553% since that time. Given that the country’s population is 14 million, these figures suggest that Guatemala has a mobile penetration rate of 142%.
• Fixed broadband: According to a 2012 report from the InterAmerican Development Bank, there are less than 5 broadband lines per 100 inhabitants in Guatemala and a mobile broadband penetration rate of less than 10%. These figures jibe with those of Claro, a telecommunications firm, which notes that there are 458,000 broadband subscribers in Guatemala, whose population (as noted earlier) is 14 million.
• Social media: According to Pulso Consumidor, 37% of Guatemala Internet users visited social media sites in 2011. According to iLifebelt, there are 1.7 million Facebook users in Guatemala, which is the largest amount in all of Central America.
• E-commerce: According to Jorge Gómez, general manager of Transexpress, during the first 7 months of 2012, there have been 250,000 online transactions in Guatemala. This is an increase of 10% compared to 2011.

HONDURAS
• Internet penetration: It’s at 13% according to Internet WorldStats, which estimates that there are 1 million Internet users in Honduras. According to telecommunications firm Claro, the amount of Internet users in Honduras grew by 62% in 2011.
• Mobile penetration: According to the International Telecommunications Union, it’s at 103% in Honduras.
• Social media: According to Pulso Consumidor, 60 por ciento of Honduran Internet users visited social media sites in 2011. This is the largest percentage of all Central American Internet users. According to figures from iLifebelt, Facebook is the social media site that receives the largest amount of visitors from Honduras.

NICARAGUA
• Internet penetration: According to Internet WorldStats, it’s at 11.7%, with 663,000 Internet users in Nicaragua out of a total population of 5.6 million. That said, the study from telecommunications firm Claro—cited earlier—indicates that the amount of Internet users in Nicaragua went up by 113% in 2011, quite a favorable trend.
• Mobile penetration: According to Pyramid Research, it was at 53.9% in 2010 and is projected to reach 82% by 2015.
• Broadband: Although 15.3% of Nicaraguan Internet users have subscriptions to fixed broadband service, according to a report from the InterAmerican Development Bank, there are fewer than 5 fixed broadband lines per 100 inhabitants of the country.
• Social media: According to Pulso Consumidor, 42% of Internet users in Nicaragua visited social media sites in 2011.  According to iLifebelt, Facebook is the most popular social media site among Nicaraguan Internet users. For example, in January 2012 there were 180,000 visits to Facebook from Nicaragua, while the second most popular network—Windows Live Profile—only had 59,000 visits.

PANAMA
• Internet penetration: According to Internet WorldStats, it’s at 43.5% and there are 1.5 million Internet users in Panama.
Mobile penetration: According to la Autoridad Nacional de los Servicios Públicos (National Authority of Public Services), it’s at more than 200% in Panama. There are 7.2 million mobile pone lines in Panama and a population of 3.3 million.
• Fixed broadband: According to the International Union of Telecommunications, broadband penetration in Panama is at 7.9%, which is comparable to the world average (8.5%) and greater than the overall broadband penetration rate in Latin America (7.3%).
• Mobile broadband: The penetration is at 14.5% in Panama, slightly under the world average (15.7%).
• Social media: According to Pulso Consumidor, 41% of Internet users in Panama visited social media sites in 2011. According to iLifebelt, Facebook has a penetration of 24% with Panama’s Internet users. In fact, Panama is #2 in Central America in terms of its Facebook penetration, since 894,000 Panamanians have an account on the site.
• E-commerce: According to a recent study from Visa and América Economía magazine, the volumen of e-commerce sales in Panama have gone up by more than 156% in the past 4 years. In 2007 e-commerce sales in Panama totaled around US$100 million but in 2011 they reached US$274 million.

PUERTO RICO
• Internet penetration: According to the Asociación de Ejecutivos de Ventas y Mercadeo de Puerto Rico (Association of Sales and Marketing Executives), Internet penetration is at 50% in Puerto Rico. Given that the island’s population is 3.9 million, this means that there are 1.95 million Internet users in Puerto Rico. In addition, the study found that 57% of the Internet users in Puerto Rico connect to the Internet with a mobile device.
• Mobile penetration: In August 2011, it was at 86%.
• Fixed broadband: There’s an 86% availability of fixed broadband in Puerto Rico but only 31% of the homes on the island have this service. However, recently Luis Fortuño, governor of Puerto Rico, announced a plan to offer high speed Internet to 98% of the homes in Puerto Rico by 2015.
• Social media: Social media penetration in Puerto Rico is at 90%, as per comScore’s recent report, It’s a Social World. In addition, Internet users in Puerto Rico spend average of 5.9 hours per user on social media, which places the island among the world’s top 20 in terms of social media use.

REPÚBLICA DOMINICANA
• Internet penetration: According to Internet WorldStats it’s at 41%. There are an estimated 4 million Internet users in the Dominican Republic.
• Mobile penetration: In July 2012, in the telecommunications event Cumbre Conectar Las Américas 2012, Dr. Margarita Cedeño de Fernández—vice-president of the Dominican Republic—indicated that mobile penetration in the country was at 94%.
• Social media: According to Socialbakers, there are 2.7 million Facebook users in the Dominican Republic, a penetration rate of 92%.

If you want to find out more about how we can help you reach Internet users in Central America or the Caribbean, please contact us.

About Lionel Guillioli@US Media Consulting

Lionel Guillioli is the Regional Ad Sales Manager & Country Director for Central America & the Caribbean for US Media Consulting.

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