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Latin America, Caribbean at different digital speeds—Eclac

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Montevideo, Uruguay—Speaking at the opening of the Fourth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean, Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac) said: “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 per cent 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 five per cent. According to Uruguay President José Mujica, who officially opened the meeting: “The new digital civilisation 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 presented at the Ministerial Conference, 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. 


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