This article originally appeared in
June 4, 1995  - Metro G1
Peru finds wealth of information on internet
The computer network is helping the South American country catch up with the rest of the world
By ERIC J. LYMAN
Special to The Sentinel
LIMA, Peru -- After spending 10 hours behind the wheel of his cab, driving the narrow, crowded streets of the city, Rubin Garcia
found himself behind a keyboard, preparing to navigate the Internet.

The cabbie had never operated a computer before this seminar, but soon he was hooked. After the 35 other novices had left, he stayed
behind, his callused hands quickly learning to make the information he wanted dance across the screen.

"Un dia," he said, smiling. "Un dia."

One day, one day.

Carlos Saldariaga, one of two instructors at the seminar - open to the public and hosted by Red Cientifico Peruana, the Peruvian
Scientific Network - said stories such as Garcia's are common.

"When you first see the scope of this kind of thing, it's like magic," he said. "Every week, there are many, many reminders of the power
the Internet has to really capture people."

That power is one of the reasons that, despite an average per capita income that is growing but still less than one-twentieth that of the
United States, Peru's Internet growth was among the fastest in the world last year.

The economy's good health may yet ensure that Garcia's day will come. But for a surprising number of Peruvians, theirs has already
arrived.

By the end of the year, Peru will likely have more Internet users than any other country of South America.

Red Cientifico Peruana - or RCP - is the nation's only Internet provider.

At the beginning of 1994, the company had only 800 subscribers. Now it has more than 10,000 and expects a total of 60,000 within a
year.

"The people are very, very hungry for this kind of thing," said Jose Soriano, founder of RCP.

"People here are beginning to understand that information is a form of wealth, and the Internet represents information. It's a way to
catch up with the rest of the world."

Despite everything the Internet has to offer, the rapid growth would not have been possible without Soriano. A Peruvian by birth, he
returned home after more than 28 years working as a journalist in Argentina and France to found RCP in 1990. Since then, he has
been the movement's driving force.

Money is the biggest hindrance to RCP's development. The $37 per month for a basic individual account, plus cost of a computer and
telephone service, still make it too expensive for Peruvians like Garcia - who earned only $14 in his 10-hour shift.

The more than 10,000 RCP users are connected through only 550 computers, most of which are at universities or large corporations.
The American luxury of the home computer is many years away in Peru.

There are several other road blocks to continued Internet growth, according to Soriano. Among them, a telephone infrastructure that's
below standards, an absence of public funding for RCP and the fact that the Internet exists mostly in English.

That last is something RCP is working hard to remedy.

"There's a need for information in Spanish," said Saldariaga. "We are providing that kind of information.

Already we have magazines, books, newspapers, lectures, essays, all available in Spanish on the Internet."

That fact is one of the reasons that Soriano considers RCP a service not only to Peru but to all of South America and even beyond.

"This information is available to anyone in the world with Internet access," he said. "That's more than 40 million people. Right now, if
people want South American information on the Internet in Spanish, we're it."

Soriano says other South American countries would experience the same growth if they had networks like RCP easing access
problems and promoting the Internet as RCP does with advertising and the conferences like the one Garcia attended, which attract
between 20 to 50 people each weekday.

Additionally, RCP's headquarters are open to the public free of charge at first

and then for $15 per month if they don't have access to a computer elsewhere. The center has about 35 computers available for public
use.

"We're trying very hard to make this available to people who want to learn about RCP and the Internet," Soriano said. "This is coming to
Peru and to South America eventually. We're just trying to make it sooner and not later."

Red Cientifico Peruana has a home page on the World Wide Web at the following address: http://www.rcp.net.pe

For more information, send e-mail to operador@rcp.net.pe SEQN: 51560281

Eric J. Lyman is a free-lance writer who lives in Peru.
© 1995 Orlando Sentinel Communications