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Colombia’s Explosive Digital Immersion

Colombia’s engagement with digital and mobile activity has increased exponentially over the course of the past decade. The nation boasts the third largest percentage of total population online in Latin America. According to GlobalCollect and Newzoo, Colombia had the third-largest Internet user base in Latin America last year, with 31.6 million, trailing only Brazil (118.6 million) and Mexico (56.1 million). While the sheer size of their populations will keep the two Latin American giants solidly in their positions, Colombia was well ahead of the other historical regional giant, Argentina (27.0 million).

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Mobile devices and applications are at the core of “Vive Digital Colombia,” a program overseen by Ministerio de Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones (MinTIC) that leverages mobile connectivity to achieve its four-year goal of “widespread adoption of internet and the development of a nationwide digital ecosystem.” under the Santos administration, the Colombian Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies launched a massive effort, “Vive Digital Colombia,” to achieve “widespread internet usage” by 2018. Colombians have been quick to adapt to their nation’s rapidly expanding digital infrastructure and economy despite initial obstacles the government faced in convincing the general public, especially the country’s rural population, of the internet’s practical usefulness in their everyday lives.

Colombia’s surging mobile activity is a viable indication of the program’s widespread success. Social media platforms account for the majority of the nation’s digital engagement. Upper and middle-class urban Colombians are getting increasingly hooked on Facebook.  In November 2015, there were more than 24 million active Colombian Facebook accounts, primarily of users between the ages of 15 and 35. According to statistics provided by the social media powerhouse, the average Colombian is on Facebook for 13 minutes a day.

As Colombian social media explodes, advertisers are presented with the opportunity to sink their teeth into a medium in which the average user has not yet mastered the art of ignoring advertisements with the proficiency of their American counterparts. Studies have shown that newer users are more likely to interact with ads. With hundreds of new accounts created every day, Colombians on Facebook and YouTube are ready to be reached in greater numbers than ever before.

Mobile businesses have also flourished as a direct result of Colombia’s digital upsurge. Mercadoni is a new on-demand local delivery app. It was launched in 2015 by Pedro Freire and Antonio Nunes, previous founders of Linio – Latin America’s leading e-commerce platform. Less than 6 months after their debut, they have raised $2M with Axon after showing tremendous growth. They were recently nominated to represent Colombia at the Mobile Premier Awards during MWC16. Mercadoni is an app where users can order groceries from local stores and get them delivered to their homes in less than one hour. Think of an Uber for groceries. Pedro Freire credits Colombia’s growing assimilation into the digital realm as a primary incentive for basing his company out of Bogota. He states, “One of the things we identified when starting is that Colombia was picking up mobile activity faster. Colombia is a bit more mature for e-commerce markets even though the market is smaller. People are less scared of doing online purchases. Even Uber had faster growth in Bogota than in Mexico City in their initial stage. This made us believe that it would take off faster here. The second determinant factor is that smartphone penetration in Bogota is much higher than in Mexico City so that’s a good indication that it could be a good market.”

Evidently, Zemoga has played a tremendous role in cultivating the nation’s digital success. VP of Finance, Carlos Pardo, cited Zemoga as a pivotal influence towards Colombia’s proliferating mobile and digital engagement stating, “When Zemoga started (as a pioneer) exporting digital services to the US market, we set the bar high. Initially, we didn’t serve local clientele because they hadn’t yet discovered the inherent value of digital immersion. Companies/brands in Colombia viewed digital services as technical mediums rather than strategic applications. They didn’t really understand why companies should invest in digital, they didn’t see the importance. When Zemoga started positioning itself as a top digital agency, and we were reached out to by large public and private entities in Colombia we explained our process, methodology and deliverables as a sort of educational channel for people in this country to understand the magnitude and importance of the digital ecosystem. Throughout this decade, we’ve seen how companies are willing to invest more in digital as a tool to sell, expose, market and even deliver their services and products and we believe we planted that seed and were part of that massive conceptual change.”

Colombia’s steadily increasing digital presence has enabled the growth of a fertile online marketplace. The widespread success of “Vive Digital Colombia” is evident through the numerous flourishing digital services that prosper as a direct result of Colombia’s high digital engagement rate. Latin America’s leading e-commerce platforms are based in Colombia and continue to grow exponentially. Zemoga’s engaging online expertise perpetuates Colombia’s digital involvement while ensuring the continued success of “Vive Digital Colombia.”

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