The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean must intensify their public policies to develop digital connectivity in the rural areas of our countries. This is one of the conclusions of the participants of the second panel of the VII Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean, within the framework of the ELAC2020, chaired by Ecuador.
The Vice Minister of Communications of Peru, Virginia Nakagawa, highlighted the impact and importance of rural connectivity, after revealing the sacrifices that low-income Peruvian households must make, which demands an average monthly expense of $ 100, only in internet access according to a recent study.
Therein lies the importance and urgency of applying inclusive public policies by the States to overcome the digital divide and confront social inequity. In addition, he highlighted the importance of having a leading Ministry of the sector, as in the case of Ecuador, which has its Ministry.
Ángel Melguizo, president of the Inter-American Association of Telecommunications Companies, highlighted that 3 out of 10 Latin Americans do not have internet at all. The situation is exacerbated in poor households. Hence, one of the challenges is to provide quality connectivity to meet the demand in urgent matters, such as education.
He stressed that another challenge for the region is to improve the quality of public and private investment and that there should be an intelligent regulation of universal service funds, especially for targeted sites that serve the most vulnerable. He proposed that operators use the funds to manage connectivity in rural areas of the countries of the region.
Yacine Khelladi, coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Alliance for Affordable (Internet Alliance for Affordable Internet), highlighted the importance of affordability, that is, it is important to guarantee citizens’ ability to pay for connectivity. The digital divide amplifies the social divide, and greater connectivity will generate more equity.
He highlighted what he called “meaningful connectivity”, a new concept for States to include: more speed, access to devices, unlimited data and daily use. This represents going from the current 42% of connectivity under these characteristics, to 90%; This technological transition would cost Latin America $ 40 billion, which is why the sector requires new incentives.
Rodrigo de la Parra, vice president for Latin America of the Internet Corporation for the Assignment of Names and Numbers, proposed working on the infrastructure of a comprehensive digital agenda, which includes the social appropriation of new technologies.
He added that the past infrastructure has suddenly not been fully optimized. In the new reality, people produce and have opportunities if they are connected; the one that doesn’t, is isolated. The pandemic put a stress test on all sectors, especially the technological sector that endured massive use.
Emiliano Calderón, coordinator of the National Digital Strategy of Mexico, highlighted that ICTs are a factor of inclusion and resilience, especially of the forgotten. “More than effort, it is an obligation of the State to give access and coverage to citizens.”
He highlighted that in Mexico, over an area of 2 million km2, some 40 million have no connection or coverage, so the Government has the challenge of covering its national territory with internet access. He noted that of the 300,000 localities in the country, 180,000 are isolated and expect to cover 160,000 in the remainder of 2020 and 2021.
Also participating in the forum were James Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas; Lidia Brito, director of the UNESCO Office of Sciences for Latin America and the Caribbean; Pamela Gidi, Undersecretary of Telecommunications of Chile; Mischa Dohler, Professor at King’s College London; Lucas Gallito, Director for Latin America, Association of Mobile Operators (GSMA), and Patricia Falconí, Undersecretary of Telecommunications of Ecuador and representative of the Presidency of the Board of Directors of eLAC.
At the same time, the panel “Towards policy coherence and digital integration in Latin America and the Caribbean” was developed, in which the National Director of Public Data Registry of Ecuador, Lorena Naranjo, participated. Information security and personal data protection were discussed at the meeting.
The participants agreed to generate applicable and compatible data protection policies in a regional manner, taking as a reference the European models, where there is a single digital market.
Naranjo mentioned that the Government is working on a proposal for a Law on Protection of Personal Data, understanding that the digital safeguard must integrate applicable solutions in a context where digital borders do not exist. (I)