A Wired Nation

In terms of telecommunications and IT infrastructure, Chile is widely recognized as Latin America's most connected country. In its 2002 E-readiness Ranking, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Chile ahead of other countries in the region, putting it in 28th place, out of 60 countries surveyed. In the nineties Chile's fixed-line telephone penetration more than tripled, and in 2002 it reached 23 lines per 100 inhabitants, up from 6.5 in 1990. In the same year, Chile had 5.7 million mobile telephone subscribers, a rate of 42 per hundred inhabitants. Computer penetration, on the other hand, was 11.9 per hundred, and internet penetration, 20.1 users per hundred.

The government is also actively fostering the development of an e-business culture by enacting "smart" Internet legislation. The government has appointed a Chief Information Officer (CIO), and is currently enacting an ambitious, four-year Digital Agenda A first priority is the fine-tuning of Chile's regulatory framework to favour the spread of new low-cost digital telecommunication technologies and mass access to broadband services. A national network of 6000 public Internet centers and digital libraries that will not only provide access, but also provide an increasing array of government services and educational content is being set up. ICT training and education is another priority. A computer literacy campaign targeting half a million Chileans that use the public Internet centers has been initiated.

A third priority is the further development of e-government, an area in which much progress has already taken place ( a recent Brown University study ranked Chile fifth in e-government in a total of 198 countries). This involves not only making more information available, but also allowing citizens and businesses to undertake some one hundred different types of transactions online. Many official documents-including, for example, birth certificates-can now be obtained on-line; social security payments can be made electronically; and applications for housing subsidies or student loans can also be filed online. Through a government portal (www.tramitefacil.cl) Chile's citizens have access to information about 1300 different services, provided by 88 government offices, and do many transactions online

The pioneer in Chile's push towards e-government was the Internal Revenue Service (www.sii.cl). In an early initiative that earned international recognition, the IRS developed a system that allows taxpayers to file returns and pay their taxes online. In 2002, over 1.1 million tax returns, or 54% of the total, were submitted online.

Finally, Chile is also actively promoting the development of the country's ICT industry, focusing on the development of software and digital services, which target not only Chile, but also the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.