Broadband Adoption and Poverty: Evidence and New Research Directions from Latin America

Development luminaries like Jeffrey Sachs and Muhammad Yunus espouse the importance of broadband networks for promoting development. But where's the evidence to support the theory?

Despite a strong national and regional push to expand broadband networks in developing countries, there is little evidence that they have an impact on poverty reduction. There is heated debate between those who argue that these networks should be seen as vital national infrastructure and those who question expending limited resources on an "infrastructure" that has yet to demonstrate significant payoffs, even in developed countries.

The lack of evidence is due, in part, to the difficulty of gathering appropriate data to answer questions about impact. Existing studies often use data sets that are too small, fail to test for other explanations, fail to validate results from local case studies, and have trouble identifying causal effects.

Researchers will examine the effect of broadband on social and economic development in Latin America, making two significant contributions. The first will be a series of rigorous studies evaluating the impact of broadband investments and adoption on key development outcomes in selected Latin American countries, such as income growth, employment generation, and educational achievement. The second will be an exploratory study to better understand how the poor use information and communication resources in their daily lives in three low-income communities in Mexico.

The project seeks to inform broadband policy and to enrich the debate over the impact of broadband adoption on poverty reduction. It will explore new theories and develop new indicators for understanding how broadband can improve the lives of the poor. It will also stimulate high quality research about the development impact of new technologies in Latin America.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Sunday, April 1, 2012

End Date

Friday, September 27, 2013


15 months

IDRC Officer

Smith, Matthew

Total funding

CA$ 266,384


North and Central America, South America, Mexico


Networked Economies

Project Leader

Roxana Barrantes


Instituto de Estudios Peruanos

Institution Country


Institution Website