The Future of the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean

In April, nearly 60 specialists and members of civil society gathered in Montevideo, Uruguay, to discuss the future of the information society in Latin America and The Caribbean.

In both meetings, which took place April 1-2, attendees from all over the region discussed issues such as privacy, new collaborative business models and copyright.

The first meeting, “Open Development: Exploring the Future of Information Society in Latin America and The Caribbean (ALC),” was announced by different civil society organizations led by the Comunica Foundation (Fundación Comunica) and its project, 25 years of Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The concept of the “information society” refers to a society “in which technologies allow creation distribution and manipulation of the information that play a key role in social, cultural and economical activities.” It is somehow seen as “the inheritor of industrial society.” Edgar Uriel Domínguez Espinoza shares a more complete definition on his blog En corto Circuito.

The aims of the meeting were “to discuss the future of the information society, explore the new opportunities and challenges and debate policies that need to be established, insuring that technology contributes to the development of open societies and more dynamic economies in the region. For this purpose, the meeting was organized in five themes: Openness, Copyright, New Models of Collaborative Business, Participation and Democracy and Privacy.

Desarrollo Abierto: Explorando el futuro de la sociedad de la información en América Latina y el Caribe

Speakers at opening session. Image shared on Twitter by @Info25uy.

Working groups and lectures in the program provide an accurate idea of the issues tackled. For instance, one session analyzed “Digital Citizenship.” Another asked: Is privacy dead? Additionally, sessions broached topics such as Internet openness and also presented the book called Banda Ancha en América Latina: más allá de la conectividad [Broadband in Latin America: beyond connectivity.]

Videos of all sessions, as well as the following activities, are available on the website Info25.

The organizers also filmed some brief videos with speakers and attendees, who spoke during the last part of the event, “Voices of the Region.” In the following video, Carolina Botero, from Colombia's Fundación Karisma and Creative Commons, comments on policies that would ensure useres free access to the scientific publications in the region:

In this video, Katitza Rodriguez, a Global Voices Advocacy contributor and staff member of the US-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, calls on governments in the region to be concerned about privacy and freedom of speech in internet:

Eduardo Rojas, from Fundación Redes para el Desarrollo Sostenible [Networks for Sustainable Development Foundation] explains the importance of having qualified people in internet leadership.

The Mexican media communicator Ximena Arrieta attended to the event and she reports on panelists’ discussion of four possible scenarios for the Internet in the future, from best to worst. These scenarios were surmised by the Internet Society, the international Internet governance organization, in a debate about the proposed topic: “The Internet in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) will be free, public and open.”

1) Canasta comunitaria (internet como una red global de procesos colaborativos y participativos).
2) Jardines porosos (el acceso es global a los contenidos acertados, se potencian empresas como Google o Facebook).
3) Telecomunicaciones monopólicas (redes cerradas)
4) Redes boutique (muchas redes, sin articulación y resolución universal).

 1) Community Basket (Internet as a global network with a cooperative and participative process).

2) Permeable Gardens (in which users have global access to accurate content, and companies such as Google or Facebook are strengthened)

3) Monopolized telecommunications (closed networks where access is controlled)

4) Boutique networks (many networks, without articulation or universal resolution)

Ximena also includes notable recommendations from the panel, which were provided by Sandro Jimenez from Kolaboracción, regarding digital citizenship. Some of them include:

- Superar el énfasis de los programas de alfabetización sobre la herramienta. La alfabetización digital como el nuevo melting pot donde desaparecen los usos diferenciados en la medida que pareciera sólo interesar la igualdad por vía de la competencia técnica.
– Los estándares técnicos (banda ancha) genera asimetría [sic] que privilegian el consumo y no la construcción de contenidos contextualizados y adaptados.
– Si la democracia se piensa interactiva, el Estado debe plantearse como plataforma abierta de interacción y definición colectiva de las políticas públicas y no sólo un aparato regulador.

- Increase emphasis on literacy program tools. Digital literacy as the new melting pot, in which different uses disappear when interest in equality through technical qualifications is the only aspect that seems to matter.

- Technical standards (broadband) trigger differences that prioritize consumption over the construction of adapted and contextualized content.

- If democracy is considered to be interactive, the state should not only be recognized as a controlling tool, but also as an open platform for interaction and providing a collective definition of the public policies.

Additionally, the economist Alfredo Velazco in his post for Internet Users in Ecuador, comments on his impressions regarding the debate on entrepreneurship and business online, which took place in the second session:

Una lluvia de ideas bastante interesante comenzando por el concepto de moneda social, pasando a negocios colaborativos, observaciones o apoyos de los gobiernos sobre la temática, plataformas de colaboración, medición del impacto y opción de que estas plataformas sirvan para brindar información ordenada para un open gov. Lastimosamente coincidimos en la existencia de restricciones gubernamentales a la moneda social (desde la no formalización hasta su impedimento de uso) principalmente por no pago de impuestos en las transacciones logradas con esa moneda; adicionalmente la ausencia de políticas en apoyo a negocios colaborativos, desde crowdfunding hasta plataformas verticales.

 An interesting brainstorm which starts with the concept of social currency, touching on collaborative business models, government support on these issues, platforms for collaboration, measuring the impact and an option for this platform regarding providing organized information for an open gov[ernment]. Unfortunately, we agree on the fact that there are governmental restrictions for social currency (from a lack of formal processes to deliberate limitations on use), which is mainly due to unpaid taxes in the transactions with that currency. In addition to this, the lack of policies supporting collaborative business, which ranges from crowd funding to vertical platforms.

Finally, organizers made a last call in a latter post:

Aunque el evento ha terminado, el Desarrollo Abierto continúa. Estamos preparando una publicación y estaremos recibiendo con gusto contribuciones adicionales en la forma de comentarios y respuestas a los temas del evento, realizados por los participantes en el evento Desarrollo Abierto, la Conferencia Ministerial y el público interesado, a través del sitio web y del email info25@comunica.org. Las contribuciones son bienvenidas en cualquier idioma de la región.

Although the event has finished, Open Development continues. We are preparing a publication and we would gladly receive additional contributions and comments on the topics of the event from Open Development attendees, the Ministry Conference, and the interested public. This can be seen in both website and the email info25@comunica.org. Contributions are all welcomed in any language from this region.

We will return in the second meeting in Montevideo.

This post was originally published in Spanish on the blog Globalizado.

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