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The New Digital Revolution
After more than a decade of policies to encourage greater access to and use of these technologies, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant progress in terms of access to telecommunications services and the use of applications and social networks, as well as the implementation of policies and programmes for e-education, e-health and e-government and the adoption of the relevant regulatory frameworks.
As digital technologies gradually permeate all activities in our societies, they have an ever stronger impact on patterns of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. After more than a decade of policies to encourage greater access to and use of these technologies, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have made significant progress in terms of access to telecommunications services and the use of applications and social networks, as well as the implementation of policies and programmes for e-education, e-health and e-government and the adoption of the relevant regulatory frameworks. However, the pace of progress varies greatly between the countries of the region and there remain large gaps, both between and also within countries, even as they continue to lag far behind the more developed economies.
A regional dialogue was launched in 2000 on the information and knowledge society in Latin America and the Caribbean, in which the countries affirmed their willingness to design and implement initiatives and programmes for access to and use of information and communications technologies (ICTs), which led to the Declaration of Florianopolis. This process continued in 2003 with the regional preparations for the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the Bávaro Declaration.
Two years later, with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) as secretariat, the Regional Preparatory Ministerial Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean for the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At that event, the first version of the Plan of Action for the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean (eLAC 2007) was adopted as a regional vision, which included a commitment to reduce the digital divide and promote access to and use of ICTs as development tools. This process continued with the eLAC 2010 and eLAC 2015 plans, adopted in San Salvador in 2008 and in Lima in 2010, respectively, on the occasion of the second and third ministerial conferences. In 2013, the fourth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean was convened in Montevideo, where eLAC 2015 was reaffirmed and a work plan was agreed upon for the period 2013-2015.
In August 2015, the fifth Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean will be held, organized by the Government of Mexico and ECLAC, in order to take stock of the agreements in place and resume the policy dialogue with a view to the post-2015 world. At the Conference, the regional dialogue, with the participation of stakeholders from the private sector and civil society, will be updated with a view to analysing the effects of the digital revolution and its impact on public policy, within the framework of a sustainable development agenda and its economic, social and environmental components.
The task is to update the regional commitments, identifying new challenges and priorities, and affording particular attention to the effects resulting from the ubiquity of the Internet, technological convergence, highspeed networks, the digital economy, open government and e-government, and the data revolution, without ignoring the need to continue expanding ICT access and use and close existing gaps. This regional agenda will, in turn, serve as an input for the global process of reviewing outcomes and preparing a new agreement in the framework of the World Summit on the Information Society, scheduled by the United Nations General Assembly for late 2015.
ECLAC has participated actively in all stages of this long-term process of regional technological cooperation and remains committed to continue providing close support to its member countries. The purpose of this document is to contribute to the debate and increase awareness in the region of the effects of the technological revolution under way, measure the progress made to date and identify the opportunities and policy areas where governments, businesses and civil society should focus their attention in order to advance towards the goal that was set over a decade ago: to harness the full potential of the digital economy with a view to instigating a shift in the region’s production structure towards more knowledge-intensive, higher-productivity sectors, in pursuit of greater equality.