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(3 April 2013) Speaking today at the opening of the Fourth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean (which was also attended by Uruguayan President, José Mujica, and Director of the European Commission's DG CONNECT.E, Mario Campolargo), Alicia Bárcena, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) stated "The region must advance towards a digital economy in the interests of structural change and equality".
The components of the digital economy are the telecommunications infrastructure - particularly broadband networks, information and communications technologies (ICTs) (software, apps, hardware and ICT services) and the level of digital numeracy of users. According to preliminary measurements carried out by ECLAC using 2008 data, the digital economy represents an average of 3.2% of the economy of four of the region's countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico). This is a significant figure if we compare the European Union average of 5%.
According to President José Mujica, who officially opened the meeting, "The new digital civilization has to ensure that everyone can choose their niche, their diversity. I defend politics in the highest sense because unbridled technology is not concerned with equality. Participants at this meeting have a historic responsibility to fight for a better world".
Mario Campolargo stated that Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe must explore new ways of collaborating and will benefit enormously if they regulate their digital economies in a similar and efficient way. He called on participants to seek a common solution to the many challenges involved in expanding the digital economy.
According to the document Digital economy for structural change and equality that ECLAC will present at the Ministerial Conference being held from today to Friday in the Uruguayan capital, Latin America and the Caribbean is progressing at two very different technological speeds.
According to ECLAC, in some countries, information and communications technologies (ICTs) are having a positive impact on economic growth, technological investment, production structure and business/consumer behaviour, while in other countries progress is slower (hence the need to strengthen institutions and public policies with a long-term strategic vision).
The ECLAC Executive Secretary cited the asymmetrical development of critical infrastructure with mobile broadband penetration in the region: the three most advanced countries have 15 times as much development than the ones lagging the furthest behind. Furthermore, the digital divide between Latin America and countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in terms of mobile broadband is getting wider (11% versus 55% penetration in 2011).
Ms. Bárcena referred to the need to promote the digital economy to drive growth, which requires combining new industrial and technological policy strategies and consolidating an integrated ICT market involving all countries, production sectors and social groups. She stated "the digital economy is a crucial force for boosting structural change, making progress to reduce inequality and strengthening the social inclusion that our countries need so desperately".
At the Conference opening, Alicia Bárcena also thanked the European Commission for its 10 years of support for the region's digital development through the @LIS Programme. She declared "this programme has enabled us to proceed with such important initiatives as the Regional Dialogue on Broadband, in which the commitment of its 10 member countries has brought down service tariffs by 67% in two years".
According to the ECLAC publication on the digital economy "State intervention is essential for ensuring equal access and use of ICTs. In particularly, they need to be considered as a service of public interest as they facilitate the delivery of social services such as health, education and e-government".
The Ministerial Conference in Montevideo will examine the regional achievements and challenges in terms of the information society, in accordance with the targets of the Regional Plan of Action for the Information Society, eLAC2015, which aims to universalize broadband, achieve transactional and participatory e-government, provide access to ICTs for all micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and universalize access and expansion of new technologies to the health and education sectors.
The Fourth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society is being organized by ECLAC through the ECLAC @LIS2 project - jointly financed by the European Commission - and the Government of Uruguay, through the Agency for Electronic Government and the Information Society (AGESIC).
- Programme for the Fourth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Speech by ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena
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