Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for development of small and medium-sized exporters in Latin America: Argentina
Ernesto M. Rodríguez Rodríguez
Despite the most recent economic crisis, Argentina continues to see an increase in the number of individuals going online, and there is optimism about the numerous entrepreneurial opportunities available. In 2002 (the peak of the crisis), the number of persons going online in the country was more than 14% higher than in the previous year. Available figures indicate that good ideas and entrepreneurial spirit are in ample supply. Local costs for information technology (IT) personnel are lower than in other countries, while well-trained IT developers are available to participate in multinational projects. Many Argentines are using the Internet for online banking and some Argentines living abroad access local supermarket websites to purchase food for their impoverished relatives in Argentina. The country has a high level of connectivity in the region, estimated for the end of 2004 at more than six million users, amounting to 18% of the population. While an increasing number of people are logging on, there is a continual effort to bridge the digital divide: only 5% of individuals outside the country's capital of Buenos Aires have access to the Internet. There is strong demand for information on the part of Argentines, and this has generated a demand for technology. However, the government-supported educational systems (national, provincial, municipal) cannot adequately address this demand. Thus, though individuals are informed of the existing technology in the course of their education, they are unable to access it, creating an "abyss" between those who can afford training in tandem with their formal education and those who cannot. Loans from multilateral institutions provide for several plans to make substantial improvements in the two areas most important for reducing the digital divide: the educational system and the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Surprisingly, the most important barrier to eliminating this divide arises from the lack of trust on the part of social groups regarding the long-term sustainability of government efforts and the lack of access to such measures. This sentiment is the result of the constant changes and habitual corruption typically associated with state subsidies.