Is the Colombian plan to connect rural schools back on track?

Is the Colombian plan to connect rural schools back on track?

The Colombian ICT minister, Karen Abudinen, has announced the resumption of the installation of digital centres, or connection points, in rural areas of the country, a project that temporarily halted in 2020.

The digital centres project, which aims to connect more than 14,700 schools in remote areas of the country, will now be developed by ETB NET Colombia Conectada, a temporary entity made up of two companies: ETB and its subsidiary Skynet.

The ICT minister said the government cancelled the initial contract awarded to the Union Temporal Centros Poblados (UTCP) consortium after it failed to offer sufficient guarantees and that it would be working to recover the amounts already paid to the bidder.

About $588 million has been allocated to the plan which aims to provide internet access to schools in rural areas of 16 Colombian departments until at least 2031.

The digital centres project came about from goals set out in the country’s 2018-2022 Development Plan Pact for Equity. The project itself began in 2019.

The hold-ups have been blamed on corrupt contractors. Legal steps are apparently being taken to recover any damages.

However, a few weeks ago members of Colombia’s opposition parties demanded the resignation of the ICT minister over the alleged embezzlement of funds by government contractors. The minister has refused to go, insisting that she will dedicate herself even more diligently to ensuring that the money is recovered and that the connectivity goal is achieved.

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