SAO PAULO: Affluent consumers are going online in increased numbers in Central and South America, according to Nielsen's latest annual data.

Computer ownership, internet penetration and pay-TV subscription rates are all rising rapidly in Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico - the four countries covered by the report.

Chileans internet penetration was found to have increased significantly, rising from 31% to 41% between 2007 and 2009.

In Brazil, online access rose to 31% in 2009 (from 17% in 2007), while Colombia saw an increase from 21% to 29% and Mexico an increase from 17% to 24%.

Brazil has been a star economic performer, with Warc's own forecasts suggesting that GDP growth will hit 7.1% in 2010.

Official figures released yesterday showed the country's economy grew at an annualised rate of 6.7% in Q3.

This stands in contrast to predicted growth for this year of 2.6% in the US and 3.2% in Germany, respectively the world's largest economy and Europe's largest economy.

"Brazil's economic growth is driving consumption across most sectors as consumers have more money to spend, so this [internet penetration] rise is not so surprising," said Roberto Vazquez Ferrero, managing director of the telecom practice at Nielsen Latin America.

But the report also highlighted much more varied trends for cable TV.

Colombia is an outlier with traditionally high subscription rates, which rose from 78% to 81% between 2007 and 2009.

In Mexico, subscriptions rose from 32% to 35% in 2008, before falling back to 33% last year.

Elsewhere, Chile saw an increase from 41% to 51% and Brazil a rise from 9% to 26%.

"The main barrier to cable penetration is the cost of service," Vazquez Ferrero said.

"In Mexico, there are many cable operators with differing services. As they package them in ways that combine TV and internet, such as the double and triple play packages, we could see greater penetration as competition leads to lower prices."

Data sourced from Nielsen/Warc/Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff