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Brazil sees growth in Internet use in rural areas

But access to fiber-optic connections and PCs is still lacking.
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

The proportion of Internet users in rural areas grew in Brazil compared to the period before the pandemic, but fast connections and computers are still lacking, according to a new survey published by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br).

Conducted by the Regional Center for Studies for the Development of the Information Society (Cetic.br) of the Information and Coordination Center of Ponto BR (NIC.br), the survey presents the latest indicators on the access and use of information technologies and communication (ICT) in the country. According to the research, the use of the Internet in remote locations in Brazil grew from 53% of individuals aged 10 years and over in 2019 to 73% in 2021.

The research estimates that, in 2021, 81% of the population aged 10 and over used the Internet in the last three months -- which corresponds to 148 million individuals. There was also a significant increase in the proportion of network users in the North (83%), South (83%), and Northeast (78%) regions compared to 2019. 

Households in rural Brazilian areas are also more connected to the Internet, according to the survey. Between 2019 (the pre-pandemic period) and 2021, there was an increase of 20 percentage points in the proportion of households with access to the network in these regions, from 51% to 71%.

Among connected households, the presence of cable or optical fiber as the primary type of connection to the network occurs in 61% of households. The penetration of cable or fiber-optic connections is lower in the North region (53%) and Northeast of the country (54%). In the North, the percentage of households that have mobile networks as the primary type of connection is also higher (33%).

"The survey confirms the relevance of Internet access in the context provided by the COVID-19 emergency, especially with the advancement of remote work and study activities. Compared to the period before the health crisis, there was an increase in the presence of the Internet in households and in its use by individuals, especially in rural areas," said Alexandre Barbosa, manager at Cetic.br.

The presence of Internet connection in households increased in all strata analyzed in relation to the data collected in 2019. The growth was more noticeable across the poorest segments of the population (61%, an increase of 11 percentage points). From a connectivity standpoint, the disparity between the wealthiest and poorest households has been decreasing in recent years, with the difference between these strata increasing from 85 percentage points in 2015 to 39 points in 2021.

Also according to the research, the presence of computers in households remained at 39%, a level similar to that observed in 2019. While there was a scenario of stability in higher-class households, where computers are already more present (99% in the wealthiest households and 83% in upper middle class households), the proportion of households with a computer in the poorest households decreased from 14% in 2019 to 10% in 2021. In rural areas, the presence of a computer in households is lower (20%) compared to households in urban locations (42%).

A separate study, also published by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee, has found that most Brazilians only access the web via smartphones. According to research, published in August 2021, the majority of the country's connected population does not own a PC and has limited access to activities such as remote learning.

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