New technologies

Half of social media users in Latin America have gone hungry in last year

New study reveals soaring popularity of Facebook and WhatsApp despite persistent poverty

Some 57% of people in Latin America who use social media did not have enough to eat either “occasionally or often” during the last 12 months, a new study conducted for EL PAÍS in conjunction with the Institute for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean of the Inter-American Development Bank has revealed.

Many social media users in Latin America hope the technology will bring health benefits.
Many social media users in Latin America hope the technology will bring health benefits.JOE RAEDLE / AFP

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In addition, 51% of users of social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube did not have running water in their homes, the study of the technological habits of more than 20,000 people in 18 countries in Latin America shows.

Latin America has experienced an economic bonanza in the last decade, with the high prices of natural resources driving growth, and this has led to a slight reduction in poverty. However, 28% of people in the region still live in extreme poverty according to the latest figures from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

But during the same period, the number of people using the internet jumped from 17% in 2005 to 53% in 2015.

Facebook and WhatsApp are currently the most popular networks in Latin America

The profile of the average internet user in Latin America is in line with international trends: 81% of people aged under 24 use Facebook while just 10% of people aged over 65 do so. In the case of Twitter and Instagram those figures are even lower for over-65s at 2% and 1%, respectively.

A total of 35% of people in Latin America don’t use online social networks at all.

Facebook (54% of users) and WhatsApp (52%) are the most popular social networks in Latin America, while YouTube is accessed by 30% of users. Meanwhile, some 14% are Instagram users and 13% visit Twitter.

In a surprise result, Paraguay was found to have the highest penetration rate for social media use in Latin America at 83%. Despite registering the largest drop in poverty in recent years – from 49% to 40% – it remains one of the least-developed nations in the region. Costa Rica ranked second with 78% of people in the country using social media, while that figure was 74% in Uruguay.

Paraguay was found to have the highest penetration rate for social media use in Latin America

Chile, Colombia and Brazil – three of the wealthiest countries in the region – had far lower rates at 69%, 68% and 63%, respectively.

The study also shows Latin America’s social media users are slightly more favorable to economic integration with 81% of this group supporting measures including a lowering of trade barriers and more integrated labor and economic standards compared to 70% of non-users.

Meanwhile, 48% of people in Latin America hope new technologies will bring health benefits while 45% said they wanted these technologies to assist in the fight against climate change and bring about jobs growth.

English version by George Mills.

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