On Sunday the Venezuelan government added 24 public internet or “info-centres” to its current 644 and president Hugo Chavez turned over 15 of the centres to communal council control.
On his show ‘Hello President,’ broadcast from the National Library in Caracas Sunday, Chavez inaugurated one of the info-centres, which includes a special area for disabled people and trained attendees to assist them, along with the standard free computer and internet access.
Added to the 23 other new info-centres in 10 different states across the country, the government approved BsF 50 million (US$ 11.6 million ) to be spent on 200 new info-centres this year.
“The Bolivarian revolution is inclusive, socialism is inclusive, capitalism is exclusive. These [info-centres] would be impossible under capitalism, unless people paid a fortune,” Chavez said.
In 2000 there were over 800,000 internet users and at the start of last year there were 7,552,570 users, an increase of over 900%, Chavez said. Thirty-eight percent, or nearly three million people use the info-centres, and 30% of those use the centres daily.
Also, according to Chavez, 53% of the total population have access to the internet, the highest figure in Latin America, and well above Latin America’s average of 35%, according to a 2008 Latinobarometro report.
This has been made possible by CANTV (the state owned telecommunications company) expanding its fibre optic network and installing satellite technology and 2,000 antennas in hard to reach rural areas, along with the info-centres.
“No one reports this, instead they spread the false news around the world that we’re going to …restrict [internet] services, but our main strategy is to transfer power to the people and the most important type of power is knowledge,” Chavez said.
Last week, after Chavez publically criticised one website for falsely reporting the assassination of a government official, private national and mainstream international media accused the Venezuelan government of wanting to censor the internet.
Chavez also read out an act of management transfer, where a list of 15 info-centres were handed over from the state or its institutions to some of the strongest and well organised communal councils.
These communities will be able to collectively control the centres, will also need to maintain the centres and promote activities carried out there, will promote links between the centre and other community organisations, will authorise use of the centre for community work, and will complete quarterly reports to the government on activities carried out.
“The info-centre project should have as its main aim, strengthening popular power … in order to accelerate the construction of socialism through the use and appropriation of information and communication technology,” Chavez said.
“The info-centres have helped communities to elaborate their own … news, promote events, and use community media,” he added.
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This post was written by Tamara Pearson