Here at the beginning of the 21st century, it is regularly said that we are on the threshold of a new era: that of the ‘society of knowledge’ – an era in which the wealth of a nation is not measured by petroleum or minerals extracted from the ground, but by the quality of ideas that come from the brains of its inhabitants. In this new era – the digital era – the deposits of this wealth are found in universities, innovation centres, and in the digitalisation of knowledge through technology networks. In the digital era, inequality, the same as the difference between winners and losers, is defined by the access to these networks, such as the capability to use them for productive purposes. In the ‘society of knowledge’, digital inclusion has become imperative for those countries that wish to achieve equality and prosperity.
Telmex has been driving digital inclusion for 22 years through various initiatives in order to eliminate the digital divide in Mexico. It is seeking full digital inclusion, in other words, so that more and more Mexicans of any socioeconomic level, any educational level, and any age, are able to have access to knowledge which, without a doubt, will contribute to improving their quality of life.
From its origins, Telmex has been a company committed to the development of Mexico. It now operates the largest, safest and broadest telecommunications network in Mexico, which covers more than 92 percent of the population and is the main promoter of broadband in the country thanks to the state-of-the-art technology it uses.
The main goal of Telmex’s initiatives and educational programmes is to encourage the acquisition of knowledge through broadband services across the country. This is made possible thanks to the strategic investment of more than $34bn; an investment which allowed the company to deploy the largest fibre optic network in Mexico – more than 172,000 kilometres – which is monitored at all times through network supervision centres. Telmex boasts a team of over 40,000 technicians and engineers who provide customers with their experience and skills.
Telmex continues to develop ambitious digital inclusion programmes with the goal of providing Mexicans with the tools and resources to fully develop in the society of knowledge through infrastructure, connectivity support, training of education agents, and the public in general, as well as developing educational platforms, virtual spaces and collaboration projects.
Tech innovation and digital culture
Telmex, as the main promoter of broadband in Mexico, has a solid commitment to the country’s development. In addition to educational initiatives, Telmex has carried out strategies to foster broadband service penetration nationwide. Thanks to these strategies, today more than 40 million Mexicans connect to the internet through 8.7 million Telmex Infinitum broadband access points. The number of connections has maintained an annual growth rate of higher than 73 percent from 2003 to 2011, which places Mexico in the top three of the OECD’s regions for broadband growth rate.
In addition to the broadband services that Telmex provides, it also installs and manages over 5,500 public Wi-Fi hot spots in parks, airports, restaurants and other places across the country, in collaboration with state and municipal governments.
A fundamental part of Telmex’s Driving Technological Innovation programme is ‘Aldea Digital’, the 2013 edition of which was awarded the Guinness World Record for the largest digital inclusion event in the world. Over the 10 days of Aldea Digital – installed in Mexico City’s Zocalo (the city’s main square) – over 152,000 people were able to acquire basic knowledge in the use of technology, as well as taking specialised courses on programming languages, creation of digital design and businesses and using computers with a very high-speed connection to the internet, free of charge. Also, those who attended Aldea Digital had access to conferences with world leaders in the fields of technological innovation and network businesses.
Telmex has been driving digital inclusion for 22 years through various initiatives in order to eliminate the digital divide in Mexico
Telmex’s Digital Culture and Education programme consists of four initiatives. One of them is the operation of Telmex Digital Libraries, which is an educational project that demonstrates Telmex’s commitment to the education of Mexican youth. Telmex Digital Libraries are mainly installed in public schools, libraries, and local culture centres for students, teachers and parents, where they are able to access computers with an internet connection that they can use in the library or take it home as a loan, as well as enhanced education programmes for all ages and educational levels, which provide integrated development.
In all of these spaces the enhanced educational programme is applied, with the main goal of encouraging teachers and educational institutions to participate in the improvement of teaching quality and promoting digital culture through formative actions in the use of information technology.
Another initiative that is part of the Digital Culture and Education programme is Digital Scholarships. These scholarships are granted to outstanding Mexican students from elementary school to PhD levels. To date, more than 355,000 students have benefited from these scholarships. They are given financial support, and college students are provided with computers and a free internet connection.
The Scholarship programme has been operating since 1996 through Fundacion Telmex. Since then, thousands of outstanding students from the largest and most important educational institutions of the country, such as the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico and the Instituto Politecnico Nacional, and many more private and public universities, have been granted scholarships. This programme provides BA, Masters and PhD students with financial support to help them successfully complete their studies, in addition to a computer and internet access. In order to enhance these students’ human, technological and cultural development, they are provided with extracurricular activities in these fields.
The Académica platform was created for higher education institutions to have a virtual space for educational collaboration, which is vital for the development of professionals and entrepreneurs in this era. Académica is a digital community of knowledge in Spanish that encourages the collaboration and integration of college students and research centres with the purpose of creating and sharing free-to-access knowledge. Through this system, members of the community can access information that is contributed to by more than 350 higher education institutions.
Académica contributes to the formation of new generations with fairness by providing access to resources, documents, materials, and free courses developed by the best research centres and educational institutions, both foreign and domestic. Additionally, it offers interactive digital resources to contribute to the education of the individual beneficiaries. To provide this service, alliances have been formed with educational institutions such as Khan Academy, whose founder created a video library with over 3,400 videos of various subjects, themes, and knowledge areas, both in English and Spanish. An agreement was also established with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2000 in order to provide access to MIT’s open courses for millions of Mexicans and Spanish-speaking people.
The TelmexHub community
In order to complete students’ formative cycles and prepare them to become digital entrepreneurs, TelmexHub was created, a meeting point where active collaboration from the community generates technological projects. TelmexHub is both a physical and digital place for young people where collaboration is the main goal and where they are able to find workshops, courses, lectures and conferences promoted by TelmexHub’s community in order to begin productive projects and promote technological development. An important characteristic of TelmexHub is the tours that take place in several places with the objective of replicating that experience and extending digital knowledge to all the states in Mexico.
In addition, through Telmex’s Technological Institute for Information Technologies, free access to education is offered to international certification and formation programmes, as well as graduate and Master’s degree students, utilising Telmex’s experience and knowledge of the industry. This is innovation-oriented education, in which business and technological visions converge to develop strategies.
In this manner, Telmex has taken it upon itself to become the precursor of change in Mexico. Through digital inclusion and collaboration with governments and educational institutions across the world, it aims to provide all people – of any age or socioeconomic standing – with an education, as well as access not only to an internet connection and a computer, but also to the knowledge required to gain a competitive advantage in education, work access, health services and recreation, while at the same time enhancing development opportunities to improve communities’ quality of life.