In what it calls the first-ever study to size the Internet market in Central America and the Caribbean, IDC, an information technology market intelligence and advisory firm in Framingham, Mass., predicts e-commerce spending of $140 million in the region before yearend. The study estimates 1.6 million people will be using the Internet in this region, growing to more than 4 million by 2004. Those users will spend as much as $1.7 billion online. "Although each individual country in the study represents a small opportunity, together they are a market as large as Argentina," says Andrew Newman, emerging markets manager, IDC Latin America, Miami. While these markets represent great potential, they are not without their pitfalls. "Telecommunications infrastructure continues to be an issue," says Newman. "This will be the greatest obstacle to Internet penetration over the next few years. Still, there are a number of countries that already are very advanced, such as Panama and Puerto Rico." IDC notes Peru also benefits from high Internet penetration. This is due mainly to the success of Red CientÍfica Peruana, a local ISP and portal that has provided inexpensive access to the Internet through kiosks.