(Reuters) - Social networking sites in Venezuela are experiencing an exponential rise in popularity and moving the country’s polarized politics into cyberspace.
Below are some facts and figures about the use of the Internet, social networking sites and mobile phones in South America’s principal oil-producing country.
* There are an estimated 500,000 Twitter accounts in Venezuela, although just 200,000 are active. The 4,000 most active Twitterers send between 30,000 and 40,000 tweets a day.
* About 5.3 million Venezuelans have a Facebook account, making the OPEC member one of the top users in Latin America in per capita terms, along with Colombia and Costa Rica.
* Around 80 percent of Venezuelans own a mobile phone, and 1.2 million of them are smartphones, three times higher than the average smartphone penetration rate for Latin America.
* In Chavez’s 11 years in power, Internet access has shot up from 5.8 percent to 31 percent of the population.
* Around 68 percent of the 8.8 million users are from poor backgrounds, thanks largely to government sponsored Internet centers. In 2009, Project Canaima was launched that plans to provide every primary school student with their own computer.
* Seven of the top 10 Twitter accounts in Venezuela are critical of Chavez, while his most popular follower ranks 66 in Venezuela according to www.twitter-venezuela.com.
* The Facebook page “Let’s see if I can find a million people that hate Chavez” has almost 750,000 fans, while Chavez also has several pages that support him with tens of thousands of followers.
* In February, #freevenezuela, used by the opposition to criticize Chavez’s attacks on press freedoms, was the fourth most commented topic on Twitter worldwide, with over 60,000 entries.
Reporting by Enrique Andres Pretel, writing by Charlie Devereux; Editing by Kieran Murray and Paul Simao