Colombia - Infrastructure, power, and communications

For many decades Colombia suffered from a weak and even non-existent infrastructure that made national market integration difficult. The 3 mountain chains that cut through the most populated areas rendered road and railroad construction very costly. After the 1930s important programs of public investment in infrastructure began, and in recent decades the situation has somewhat improved, though infrastructure still does not meet general needs. Colombia has 115,543 kilometers (71,811 miles) of roads, of which only 13,866 kilometers (8,618 miles) are paved. The rail system is small and outdated, with only about 3,379 kilometers (2,100 miles) in the whole country.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Colombia 46 581 217 16.7 49 4.8 27.9 7.51 664
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Brazil 40 444 316 16.3 47 3.1 30.1 18.45 3,500
Ecuador 70 419 293 11.7 25 N/A 18.5 1.42 35
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

Colombia has a network of 1,101 airports, of which only 90 have paved runways. There are 10 international airports, with heavy traffic in Bogotá, Cali, Barranquilla, Medellín, and Cartagena. The most important airport is "El Dorado," located in the capital city. The difficulties in land communication and transport have made aviation profitable, so for many years Colombia was far ahead of its neighbors in this area. The airports are served by 9 large and medium airlines and also a group of small airlines. In addition, Colombia has 18,136 kilometers (11,272 miles) of waterways navigable by river boats and a number of important ports and harbors, mostly related to tourism.

Electrical power capacity in Colombia falls short of current and projected needs. Electricity production was 45.02 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 1998, with 69 percent of production coming from hydroelectric sources, 30.11 percent from fossil fuel, and the rest from other sources. According to World Bank sources, electricity use decreased from 904 kWh per capita in 1996 to 885 kWh per person in 1998. It is also very decentralized, with 37 companies providing power. Among these firms are Interconexion Electrica ISA, Generadora Union, Codensa, Transelca, Genercauca, Centrales Electricos del Norte de Santander, Electrocost, Electromag, Conelca, and EEPP.

Electricity became a lagging sector during the 1990s. Programmed cuts during the mid-1990s ran for several hours a day in the main cities for as long as 2 years. As a result, by 1999 imports of electricity jumped to 94 million kWh. These shortcomings, however, have not affected exploitation of new natural resources such as oil and coal, since investment in those areas usually involve their own infrastructure requirements, like pipelines, integrated camps, and airfields.

Colombia has a relatively modern telephone system represented by a nation-wide relay system, a domestic satellite system with 41 earth stations, and a fiber optic network linking 50 cities. The telecommunications business in Colombia is experiencing a major boom: there were 75 telephone lines per 1,000 people in 1990, doubling in 1998 to 173 lines per 1,000 persons. Cellular subscribers have also increased substantially. In 1990 cell phones were nonexistent, while in 1998 there were 49 subscribers per 1,000 people. Among the many telecommunications companies are Globalnet Telecom, Energia Integral Andina, Skytel, Intelsa, Americatel, Metrotel, Andicel, Cetell ISP, and Colomsat.

According to the CIA World Factbook 2000, Colombia had 5,433,565 telephones main lines in use by 1997 and 1,800,229 cellular telephones in 1998. By 1999 Colombia had 13 Internet service providers. Thus Colombia is moving towards greater connectivity, higher density in mass media, and dynamism in the telecommunications sector.

Also read article about Colombia from Wikipedia

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