Authorities, experts and representatives from Chilean farmer organizations met today at the headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile to discuss policies aimed at overcoming inequalities in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in rural areas of Chile and Latin America and the Caribbean, especially among women and young people.
The seminar ICT in the Rural World: A New Way of Innovating for Women and Young People was organized by ECLAC and Chile’s Foundation for Agricultural Innovation (FIA). Participants in the inauguration included Juan Eduardo Faúndez, Undersecretary of Social Services at Chile’s Social Development Ministry; Héctor Echeverría, FIA’s Executive Director; Mario Castillo, Chief of ECLAC’s Innovation and New Technologies Unit; and Pamela Villalobos, Social Affairs Officer at ECLAC’s Division for Gender Affairs.
In Chile, statistics show that 53% of people under 29 years of age in urban areas connect to the Internet daily (3.5 hours on average), while in the countryside that percentage drops to 19%, said Juan Eduardo Faúndez. “The challenge we Chileans are facing as a society is to reduce gaps in every sphere,” especially in terms of gender equality but also among different age groups and geographical areas, he stressed.
Mario Castillo noted that for more than 10 years ECLAC has promoted the implementation of ICT policies in Latin America and the Caribbean because new technologies “are a core part of countries’ economic and social development strategies.”
The official advocated strengthening cooperation mechanisms in this area, where work is ongoing to formulate a new regional strategy on the information society—the digital agenda eLAC2018, which will replace the eLAC2015 plan—as well as on the mass use of broadband, the implementation of regional Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) and the creation of new submarine cables to connect the region with the world. These initiatives are led by the Regional Broadband Dialogue, which groups 12 countries.
Meanwhile, Pamela Villalobos of ECLAC’s Division for Gender Affairs said that rural women represent the group that works the most hours in Latin American countries (considering paid work plus non-paid work or care jobs), which hinders their access to services and to the use of new technologies. “This forces us to start a dialogue among multiple actors,” both in public and private sectors such as academia, the international system and social organizations, she added.
Another topic analyzed during the meeting was the role of rural women in the promotion of ICTs in the agricultural sector, and the way in which they can contribute to boosting their use among young people, generating more opportunities locally and avoiding rural-urban migration.