This report was presented at the Third Ministerial Conference on the Information Society of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is being held in Lima, Peru, from 21 to 23 November and attended by ministerial authorities and representatives of international agencies and civil society.
Between 2000 and 2010, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have steadily increased the number of Internet users and their spending on incorporating new technologies. In 2010, the region accounts for 8% of world users and 7.8% of global expenditure, according to the ECLAC data announced today in the Peruvian capital.
According to ECLAC, despite such digital advances, there remain gaps in relation to developed countries in areas such as infrastructure (access and quality of broadband), additional assets (lack of human resources, business management and research and development) and institutional assets (policymaking, programme implementation, stakeholder coordination and availability of resources).
During the Ministerial Conference, countries will adopt a new regional plan of action called eLAC2015, which views ICTs as a means of achieving development with more innovation and equality.
As pointed out by the main document for the meeting, in the wake of the recent international financial crisis, the region's countries will only be able to grow more and better if they renew their development strategies with equality and generate higher levels of social inclusion based on ICTs.
The recent experience of more advanced countries shows that the intensive use of ICTs has positive impacts on the productivity and competitiveness of economies, promotes innovation in business and improves the efficiency of public services.
"Following the crisis, we now have a major window of opportunity for the region's countries to play a greater role in the information society (...) In this sense, access to broadband Internet must be considered a right of the citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is a global public good with universal access, which must be guaranteed by the State", said Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC.
Another ECLAC document presented at the Conference is Speeding Up the Digital Revolution: Broadband for Latin America and the Caribbean. Broadband, which is defined as a high-speed Internet connection, has become a basic infrastructure for economic and social development, as were railway, road and electricity networks in the past. In 2009, fixed broadband penetration in countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stood at 27% of the population, while in Latin America and the Caribbean the figure was just 6%. Meanwhile, mobile broadband penetration was 47% and 4%, respectively.
The document states that, besides the level of penetration, the main gap that is widening is the quality of broadband speed, which in some cases is 70 times faster in developed countries than in this region.
What is proposed is thus a more active State role in the implementation of measures for the mass use of broadband.
The document Monitoring of the eLAC2010 Plan: Advances and challenges of the information society in Latin America and the Caribbean presents the advances made by countries towards achieving the targets of the Plan adopted at the Second Ministerial Conference on the Information Society, held in San Salvador in 2008.
According to Alicia Bárcena, "Each of the three publications being presented at the Conference has a complementary focus and a solid foundation of information that reflects ECLAC's efforts to contribute to establishing a more egalitarian information society".
Strategies and public policies
According to ECLAC, it is time for the region's countries to renew their strategies and policies for the information society, which must be more systemic in the economic and social spheres. For their implementation, it is vital to increase institutional development and devise new management models and mechanisms for public-private partnership.
The State must reclaim an active role so that it can support the rebuilding of capacities that will make it possible to overcome development challenges.
The public policies introduced to implement these strategies must have a wide impact on society, and include at least the three following priorities: development of broadband for growth and equality; incorporation and development of ICTs to increase productivity and innovation in the production sector; and improvement of public services through e-government and the use of ICTs for education and health.
The media are invited to take part in this conference, which will be held at the Hotel Sheraton in Lima.
For more information, visit the website of the Conference.
For the webcast of sessions, click on the following link.
For queries and to arrange interviews, your contact in Lima is firstname.lastname@example.org, from the ECLAC Public Information and Web Services Section: mobile (56 9) 88390576, or email@example.com. In Santiago, Chile, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org; telephone: (56 2) 210 2040.