When making the business case for connecting underserved communities, we tend to focus on hard numbers like return on investment or percent increase of production. Yet as the rural community of Mesetas in Colombia shows, these effects are just the beginning.
An alliance of private companies, nonprofits and governmental agencies is tackling the digital divide in this dispersed pocket of coffee growers—and, in addition to helping farmers produce more and better beans, they are helping strengthen families, improve community health and even preserve peace.
Take, for example, Oveida Quinceno. Her farm, which she began cultivating with coffee after her first husband was killed by paramilitary fighters, was one of five recently connected to high-speed broadband via TV White Space (TVWS) technology, which leverages unused TV channels. Before, she had to wait to send and receive WhatsApp messages to agriculture experts or her coffee buyer representatives until she traveled two hours away to the closest Wi-Fi hotspot. Now she has instant access to online trainings on coffee cultivation, data on market demands and an open line of communication with experts who can help her troubleshoot cultivation problems.
“We didn’t use to have internet access, but now we can depend on it,” Quinceno says. “We’ve all benefited from it.”