Lacnic’s 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award

23/11/2012

Ten personalities honored as Latin American and Caribbean Internet leaders

For the first time in the history of the award, ten leaders of the Latin American and Caribbean Internet community were honored for their sustained and significant contributions in benefit of the development of the Information Society in the region.

The Internet Address Registry for Latin America and Caribbean, Lacnic, honored ten personalities who during the past decade have contributed to the development of the Internet in the region, presenting them with the 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award.

The honorees belong to different areas and represent every region of the continent: Valeria Betancourt (Ecuador), Luis Furlán (Guatemala), Marcos Galperín (Argentina), Demi Getschko (Brazil), Anthony Harris (Argentina), Bernadette Lewis (Trinidad and Tobago), Ben Petrazzini (Argentina), Loretta Simon (Grenada), José Soriano (Peru) and Edmundo Vitale (Venezuela).

Lacnic’s Board of Directors believes it is important to distinguish these ten individuals for their longstanding, dedicated efforts towards the development of the Internet and the example they set to the rest of the community.

The honorees have distinguished themselves through their contributions to private endeavors, their work with civil society, the promotion of public Internet policies, research and academic papers related to the Information Society, community building, infrastructure development, and technical advances.

The following words were obtained from the winners after they received their award during an emotional ceremony held in Montevideo as part of the celebrations for the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Regional Internet Registry Latin America and the Caribbean, Lacnic.

Marcos Galperín (Argentina)

Founder and CEO of MercadoLibre.com, one of the most successful private endeavors in Latin America and the Caribbean.

How does it feel to receive the 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award?

Receiving awards is always gratifying. They definitely encourage us to continue striving and working as we have so far.

During the Lacnic meeting we heard about the organization’s achievements during its first ten years of existence. In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing the future development of the Internet in our region?

There are many challenges ahead, a major one of which has to do with the technological development of our platform. We recently announced the opening of our APIs, which will allow thousands of developers across the region to create solutions that will improve our business. By opening the platform, we are allowing other companies to build their business on our ecosystem. Internet growth will also come hand in hand with mobile phones, for which access and connectivity will increase exponentially throughout the region. In our case, we are prepared for this trend as we already offer mobile applications for all operating systems and look forward to an increase in the number of transactions from these devices.

Anthony Harris (Argentina)

Executive Director of the Argentine Internet Chamber (CABASE) and the Latin American and Caribbean Federation for Internet and Electronic Commerce.

How does it feel to receive the 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award? How did you celebrate the news?

I was very honored by the distinction. Unfortunately, because I was recovering from an injury, I was unable to travel to Uruguay to attend the ceremony. I was obviously very pleased to have been singled out for such an important award.

During the Lacnic meeting we heard about the organization’s achievements during its first ten years of existence. In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing the future development of the Internet in our region?

I think that the penetration of the legacy version of the Internet (i.e., access from PCs, laptops, cybercafés or telecenters) in our region has been significant, and we have even produced numerous innovators in e-commerce, content, services and connectivity. In my opinion, the main challenges facing the future development of the Internet in our region are investing in laying optical fiber to improve connectivity in each country; following the successful experience of NAPs in various countries, interconnecting NAPs at regional level; deploying 4G mobile infrastructure to accompany the explosive demand for mobile Internet access, which is undoubtedly where Internet usage will grow the most in the immediate future; increasing efforts to achieve greater social inclusion to accompany the process we mentioned and avoid further deepening the digital divide; supporting and preserving the multistakeholder model, both ICANN’s as well as Lacnic’s.

Loretta Simon (Grenada)

ICT Director of the Government of Grenada. She plays an important role in Information Society and ICT and Education issues in the Caribbean.

How does it feel to receive the Outstanding Achievement Award on this very special night, Lacnic’s tenth anniversary?

I must say I was pleasantly surprised when two weeks ago I received an e-mail from Raul [Echeberría] congratulating me on the award. I came here without even knowing if I was the right person… I think this was simply out of this world, I felt so proud. I accepted the award not for myself but on behalf of my country and the rest of the Caribbean. In the Caribbean we work together, collaborate on different projects and join our efforts towards Internet growth in the region, so it was really humbling and at the same a great honor to have been presented with the award.

What are the main challenges for the next ten years?

From what I’ve seen, Lacnic has done a great job. They have had an impact on Internet development within the region. As I see it, we don’t know where the Internet will lead us in the next ten years, it is so dynamic and fast-moving that it is truly difficult to say. I hope that Lacnic can keep this momentum and continue the work they are doing. Keeping up with new technologies and making sure that Latin America and the Caribbean remain up to date is a challenge, as some countries continue to be lag behind and there are many places in our country where there is very little or no access at all. I think it is our job and our challenge to ensure that, within the next ten years, Latin America and the Caribbean are at the same level as the rest of the developed world.

What the situation like in Grenada, such a small country, in terms of Internet access?

As ICT director, during the past year we provided access points in most of the country’s rural areas. We have computer labs with Internet access in schools, but other than that children have no access and neither do the poorer communities. We are developing an e-government platform, but in order for people to be able to use these services they need access. If it is not possible for them to have access in their homes, then we must make sure that they can use these points of access.

Ben Petrazzini (Argentina)

Coordinator of the Inclusive Growth Program at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.

How does it feel to receive the 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award?

The award comes at a very special time –it is my tenth year in Uruguay, my tenth year at the IDRC, my tenth year leading an initiative in the field of connectivity in the Americas. In a way, it closes a cycle in the region, where we tried to contribute with projects and activities that turned out to be seminal for many later developments in the field of new technologies for development, so to me the award was very touching. If it had come at another stage of the process I might have felt differently, but at this particular time there is a general feeling of closure and the prize is the perfect end to what we tried to do. It is also a way to acknowledge all the people who worked with me at IDRC, nothing I did would have been possible without my team and the unconditional support I received from Canada to implement projects that sometimes sounded a bit crazy, a bit risky, a bit unintelligible, as when we started funding projects for managing electronic waste, six years ago, when there was no electronic waste to speak of. There were other very innovative activities, among others, new business models in the field of ​​music. The award is very important, not only for me but also for the organization.

What are the main challenges that will need to be faced in the upcoming years?

In our region, new technologies have significantly penetrated the private sector –private education, private health care– and have also had high levels of adoption by major companies. The challenge is to bring a similar level of adoption and benefits to the public sector and at a smaller scale. At the level of the Internet itself, I think the challenges have to do with the fact that the Internet has deeply transformed and opened social, economic and political structures. Today the economy is much more transparent, as are justice systems. What was once handled in dark rooms is today available for everyone to see, and this has huge advantages but also presents huge challenges that have to do with privacy, the vulnerability of children, the safety of groups that are vulnerable to the impact of the most powerful… The Internet empowers many but also makes them more vulnerable. I think the challenge is to find a balance where there is no abuse of power while those who have traditionally been in a weaker position can have the voice and the strength they once lacked.

José Soriano (Peru)

Peruvian Internet Pioneer. Promoter of the Peruvian Scientific Network, which made the Internet available to the masses in that country.

What does this award mean within the framework of Lacnic’s tenth anniversary?

It is not a personal recognition but a recognition of the dozens or hundreds of individuals who worked with us so we could achieve what we did. It also means that many of the things that we thought were impossible, such as having an Internet Hub, working side by side, recovering the money obtained from names and numbers and keeping it in our region, have been achieved… it was an intense struggle. All we did were things small or large in support of the Internet, and these were later embodied in Lacnic. We are delighted. Personally, I am very thankful. I don’t believe I deserve so much.

What are the main challenges for the next ten years?

There are still many challenges to be met, for example, interconnecting the different countries so that we don’t have to go all the way to the United States, or sharing communication costs, i.e. paying for only half of the communication path. Latin America is the only continent still paying the paths’ full price. We must also remember that countries are not made up only by corporations, they are made up by majorities, and majorities are poor, so we must do things to integrate them as well… more inclusion, more openness, we must achieve what we lack in infrastructure and continue to educate.

Demi Getschko (Brazil)

Director of NIC.br, the organization responsible for domain name management in Brazil.

What does receiving this award mean to you?

It is an unexpected honor. It is also very gratifying to see everyone who participated in the initiative since the very beginning gathered here today. A mixture of pride and honor for receiving the award, the feeling of not deserving it, and the joy of seeing everyone here. Our ten or twenty years of effort are paying off. The Internet is now a reality supported by all of Latin America and the Caribbean and, in my opinion, it greatly benefits society as a whole. It is very satisfying to know that we participated in something that has brought benefits to the entire Latin American and Caribbean community.

Today we are celebrating ten years’ worth of achievements. In your opinion, what are the major challenges for the coming decade?

In the beginning, knowledge of the Internet was very limited. First it was limited to academia, the third sector, then to governments, the regulatory sector, telecommunications, companies … Today everyone knows that the Internet is the direction in which the economic and social model is moving, so there is great tension about what will happen in the future. I think it is more useful for all of us to strive for the Internet not to lose its positive features, and to evolve, of course, but maintaining its open nature and bottom-up processes and allowing the community to continue supporting the network itself so that in the coming years it will not suffer negative changes.

Luis Furlán (Guatemala)

Guatemalan Internet Pioneer. Former President of the Board of Directors of RedCLARA, the Latin American Cooperation of Advanced Networks.

What does receiving this recognition, part of Lacnic’s tenth anniversary celebrations, mean to you?

It was totally unexpected. For the longest time I have been meeting with the best of the best in Latin America, extremely high caliber professionals, so I assumed that the awards would be limited to them. It is a very great honor indeed.

What is the reality of Internet access in Guatemala?

There are many problems, among them the fact that we have high illiteracy rates so the Internet does not work for everyone. 10% of the population has Internet access. Unfortunately, this is mainly the case in our capital. Outside of Guatemala City things are more difficult, but I think connectivity is not really the problem. We have one of the highest rates in terms of mobile telephone penetration, more than one mobile phone per capita, so the issue is not technology, but that people can have access to education, that they can read and write and take advantage of these technologies.

Today we’ve heard of Lacnic’s achievements during its first decade. What do you think remains to be done? What are the main challenges ahead?

I think one of the major challenges is including disadvantaged populations. The situation is very similar in all countries – the capital or major cities have Internet connectivity but in other areas it is much harder. The other challenge is a technical one – the depletion of IP version four addresses. I feel that very little awareness has been raised in order for people to understand what the problem will be when those numbers are actually exhausted. I think that Lacnic will have a significant role in this.

Edmundo Vitale (Venezuela)

Founding Member and General Manager of EsLARed (Fundación Escuela Latinoamericana de Redes), General Coordinator of the Internet Workshops for Latin America and the Caribbean.

What does receiving this award mean to you?

We develop and organize an event for training human resource for all of Latin America, and we have been doing this for 20 years. Everything we can contribute, and all the support Lacnic provides us in terms of sponsorship, organizing our events and the participation of instructors and researchers who cooperate with our events, are completely and exclusively welcome. The close relationship between Lacnic and EsLARed is very important to us, and it is our desire that it will continue in the future and increase the ability to converge with all the other activities we are developing.

What is the reality of Internet access in Venezuela?

It is currently being upgraded. In a way, the situation is similar to what we are observing in Latin America in terms of quantity and quality of services. It is not, obviously, better than in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina or Chile, but I would say that after these countries we are starting to offer pretty good quality services.

What is the most important challenge for the years to come?

Training human resources has, is and will always be a necessity. Technology is advancing at breakneck speed, which means that knowledge and the training of human resources must also advance at that speed. We are sure many people will be interested in participating, we will offer workshops more focused on technological realities, trying to solve these problems, especially in the countries that are demanding it the most.

Bernadette Lewis (Trinidad y Tobago)

Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), regional Caribbean intergovernmental cooperation organization.

How does it feel to receive this recognition?

I am at a loss for words. It has been a tremendous honor. I feel that I am being rewarded for something that I really enjoy doing. I believe that the Internet and information and communication technologies [ICT] can transform lives and promote development. Being honored by Lacnic, an organization that I have seen grow over the years, is enlightening. I am very grateful.

Much has been said about the achievements of these first ten years. What do you think are the main challenges for the ten years ahead?

The challenge is to resist any forces seeking to deviate us from the current path. From a Caribbean perspective, Lacnic has done a tremendous amount of work and we would like to see them continue to do so, helping mobilize the Caribbean community to increase its participation in Lacnic. I believe that this will also be a major challenge.

The Caribbean community is made up of islands but, thanks to the Internet, they are now interconnected and it is as though they are no longer islands. Given this peculiar geography, is the impact of connectivity any different?

This presents its particular challenges, but our view is that we are perfectly integrated, the Internet and information and communication technologies allow this kind of integration. Now up to us to capitalize on the opportunities offered by the Internet and ICT to truly allow our countries to be fully integrated on many levels.

Valeria Betancourt (Ecuador)

Director of the Information and Communications Policies Program at the Association for Progressive Communications.

How does it feel to receive the 2012 Outstanding Achievement Award? Did you celebrate it with your colleagues in Ecuador?

The news made ​​me very happy. This award, which fills me with honor and satisfaction, is a recognition not of my work but of a collective effort – that of my colleagues at the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and of many people around the region with whom we share common goals. The Outstanding Achievement Award initiative encourages and commits us to continue with our current and future work. A recognition as important as this reaffirms my commitment and that of the group with whom I share the desire to democratize open and free Internet access for everyone. This recognition reinforces the challenge of achieving conditions such that development opportunities and the exercise of online human rights are guaranteed with fairness and social justice. We celebrated the award with my APC colleagues in Baku [where the latest Internet Governance Forum was held] as an encouragement to continue and intensify our work.

During the Lacnic meeting we heard about the achievements obtained during its first ten years of existence. What do you think are the main challenges for the future?

LACNIC has been a key player, among other things, for encouraging and supporting multistakeholder dialogues on ICT policies and Internet governance in the region. One of the biggest challenges is to consolidate these dialogues and ensure that they will translate into multisectoral actions. Another key challenge for the future is preserving an open and free Internet. Lacnic has a major role to play in this regard, and I am convinced that their work in defense of online human rights will be fruitful.

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