Internet, Openness and the future of the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean

01/02/2013

Fernando Perini[1]

In the last ten years, the internet has emerged as central issue for development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The internet and other network technologies have shown their potential to increase productivity and competitiveness in the economy, create new ways to deliver education and health services, and as driving forces for the modernization of the provision of public services. Despite the many challenges that the region still faces, what was initially disparate use of internet in education, governance, health and in the productive sector has increasingly permeated national public policy and ongoing regional dialogues. As shown in the increased investments in broadband infrastructure in the region, there is a growing consensus that human development and economic growth rely largely on adequate access and effective use of new information and communication technologies.

At the same time, the regional agenda is also reaching an tipping point. There is little doubt that the internet will continue to catalyse significant changes in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, as digital technologies affect new dimensions of economic, social and political life in countries in the region, the debate about the potential of the internet and development is also more diverse (and disperse). As we think about the future of the Information Society in the region, there are still many unanswered questions in relation to the internet and its contribution to the development of the region.

Will the internet remain open over the next ten years? Will online surveillance increasingly challenge individual privacy?  Will open data, social media and new forms of participation improve democracy in the region? Will we be able to harness the collaborative potential of the internet to create more socially meaningful and sustainable economies? Will digital education, science and creativity flourish in Latin America and the Caribbean, reflecting the diversity and culture of its people? These are some of the emerging issues that will be central to determining whether or not the internet will effectively contribute to a more open and developed society in our corner of the world.

Despite the many unknowns, one thing is clear: we know that the decisions that we take now will determine how “open” or “closed” our societies will become in the future. The current debates spurring throughout the region highlight the transformations brought about by the internet are increasing complex, profound and widespread. Many countries in the region are increasing reforming legislation and institutions to adapt to the digital age. Issues such as copyright, net neutrality, data protection, access to information or freedom of expression are increasingly important to political agendas in many countries of the region. However, we have seen that the changes in the region have not been necessarily easy or positive. There is a growing demand for a deeper understanding of the implications of these changes. At the same time, new connections among a wide range of actors are critical for effectively enabling new models of collaboration, reinforcing the rights of citizens and promoting  more inclusive and open development.

[1] Fernando Perini is a Senior Programme Officer at the International Development Research Centre. The debate highlighted will be part of a regional dialogue discussing the future research agenda for the information society in Latin America and the Caribbean. More info at http://www.info25.org .

FRIDA 2013: More Funds for Inclusive Projects

This year the Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean (FRIDA) will be issuing three major calls for proposals aimed at providing support for regional projects and initiatives.

Known as the FRIDA Awards, the first call for proposals will seek to recognize five outstanding projects in the field of information and communication technology (ICT), with an emphasis on social inclusion. In addition, this year small Project Extension funds will be awarded to organizations presenting specific proposals. This call for proposals will be launched towards the end of February.

The second call for proposals will seek to provide small grants for research projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. The goal of these small grants is to supplement funding obtained from other sources and they are non-reimbursable. This call for proposals will open in April.

The third call for proposals is known as “Project Extension” and its goal is to strengthen successful initiatives presented for the 2010-2012 FRIDA Awards s well as projects that received small grants in any prior edition. This third call for proposals will be launched in mid-2013.

FRIDA is part of the Seed Alliance, a joint initiative with its sister programs FIRE (AfriNIC) and ISIF (APNIC), and receives financial support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC of Canada), the Internet Society, the Swiss International Cooperation Agency (SIDA), and the contribution of the three Regional Internet Registries to which the programs belong.

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