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GOVERNMENT INAUGURATES FIRST PHASE OF E-MEXICO COMPUTER PROJECT.

President Vicente Fox's administration took another step in implementing its ambitious E-Mexico plan, which seeks to connect all communities in the country via the Internet. In a ceremony in Mexico City in early June, Fox launched the first phase of the satellite-based project, which will link 3,200 regional centers throughout the country. The project ultimately seeks to connect 10,000 communities in Mexico to the World Wide Web by 2006 (see SourceMex, 2002-06-05).

The government gave a concession to Grupo IUSA, the parent of cellular telephone Iusacell. IUSA's subsidiary Interdec is planning to spend 93 million pesos (US$8.75 million) to develop the network.

The project, which primarily intends to help bring information resources to remote communities, will have four gateways providing information on education, health, government, and economics.

The education gateway will offer connections to online libraries, while the health gateway will allow users to connect with medical professionals. The government gateway provides an employment data base and expedites paperwork on applications for drivers licenses and other documents. The economics gateway gives users access to assistance in such areas as developing small businesses and sources of financing.

"With the E-Mexico system, we incorporate our country into the information society and reduce the digital gap," Fox told reporters.

The government plans to launch the second phase of the project during the fourth quarter of this year, and the third and final stage in the second half of 2004, said Jorge Alvarez Hoth, a deputy secretary at the Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT).

Alvarez Roth emphasized that the network will be operated by the private concessions and not by the government. "This is a concession operated by a private entity, which received economic assistance from the government," said the official.

Technology experts and analysts praised the intent of the E-Mexico project, but said the Fox government was exaggerating the impact of the plan.

Researcher Ernesto Piedras of the Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economica (CIDE) said he was skeptical about the president's promise that the project would significantly narrow the computer gap in Mexico because the president was not devoting equal resources to training, education, and other related factors.

"We will not fix our technological lag by simply providing computers and bandwidth," said Piedras. "Our situation is very much tied to illiteracy and other related factors like a lack of electricity and inadequate education and nutrition." [Note: Peso-dollar conversions in this article are based on the Interbank rate in effect on June 11, reported at 10.62 pesos per US$1.00] (Sources: Notimex, 05/15/03; Agencia de noticias Proceso, Associated Press, 06/05/03; La Cronica de Hoy, El Financiero, El Informador, Reforma, El Sol de Mexico, El Universal, 06/06/03)
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Publication:SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico
Date:Jun 11, 2003
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