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INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES (ICT): THE ADMINISTRATION OF A POSITIVE SOCIAL IMPACT

Author:
Luis German Rodriguez - Mistica Coordination
Publication date:
02/1999

Contents
Fundamental Considerations
Thematic Axes
Education
Health
Democracy, Gouvernance and Civic Participation
Economy and Productivity
Language and Culture

Keywords:
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Fundamental Considerations

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Nowadays, few people dare to question if the computer science, the telecommunications, the multimedia worlds and the one that conforms in that area a bit imprecise where these three are fusing, are impacting in more and more aspects of the life of the inhabitants of the planet.

The knowledge is admitted as a key piece in the socioeconomic relations established by the societies, the organizations and the countries. The knowledge of the technologies of information and communication (ICT) is specially important because it refers to an area of the knowledge generated by the man and that has been produced to make viable some exchange forms and of relations; they are a fundamental support of the process of the current globalization that leads the society of the knowledge to which some authors refer.

The development and the use of the ICT is mentioned explicitly or implicitly in the plans and projects of most of the international and multilateral agencies of cooperation and financing, in those of the central or sectoral offices of planning of diverse countries of the world or in those of the biggest transnational corporations. The expansion of the ICT responds to the necessity of the society to answer to its own globalization plans.

The dominant role that the developping countries have played till now in relation with the social production of technology is the one of consumers, and this in order to adapt themselves to the economic, political and social outlines that are dictated in the advanced economies countries.

The ICT represent a group of technologies that gives the opportunity to opt for a different way that have been historically chosen by the developing countries, because it is evident that it is not required to follow the same steps or stages than the others. The multimedias - interaction with texts, graphics, images, sounds, animations, videos -, the non sequential handling of the multimedia documents, empowered thanks to the possibilities of the telecommunications – the Internet being their most emblematic product - are not yet totally understood and taken in advantage in the whole extension of their potentialities. They represent a rupture in the paradigms of conception, organization, distribution and execution of activities used by the man. For those who want to be in the most advanced stadiums of the development, dominating the reaches of this rupture is still a fundamental goal.

So, the dilemma is similar in the North and in the South with the particularity that the North is the main generator of ICT and therefore it possesses mature capacities to produce answers to its necessities. For the South the challenge is different, it deals with the social appropriation of the ICT and with making them work for their own development plans. Their handling, their production, their implementation and in the uses to make them work in producing solutions to their own problems must be innovative.

One of the ways of favouring the construction of a solidary and responsible society is to allow the North and the South to take advantage of the ICT under fair and balanced conditions. This is, without the big imbalances and disproportions that exist nowadays in so decisive aspects as the access facility to these resources for population's wide sectors that are socially excluded of the process. Of course, this environment condition goes beyond an investment problem and it won't be solved from one day to another.

Nevertheless the South has improved itself in appropriating the ICT to produce solutions to its most urgent problems that it faces in its development process. It is also necessary to admit that those advances have not been sufficient neither quantitatively neither qualitatively.

In Latin America and the Caribbean we can distinguish a group of conditions that are traversely marking the efforts of development of the region and that can be tried to overcome with the employment of solutions based on the ICT. Such is the case of the gender question: political, economic, social and cultural diferenciation between women and men. It is important to impel a better distribution of the benefits of the development that will necessarily imply a better social, political and economical justness between the actors and actresses of the process. They are also other socially discriminated groups, as the indigenous population or disabled people that could also have the opportunity to combat their current disadvantage situation with innovative applications of the ICT.

We can not lose sight of another perspective, that is trying to surpass the traditional environments of popularization that the projects of employment of the ICT have, and particularly the Internet, to produce social impact. They are usually known in the context of the NGO, in the academic sectors but rarely in the sectors specialized in technology. The diffusion of the successful experiences and of those that have not been it so much are basic to stimulate the advance in this field.

Linked to the previous topic, in the continent there are a plurality of languages and, if their existence is not recognized, much more isolated compartments would be being built in the region. Besides the multiple indigenous languages that cohabit in Latin America and the Caribbean, there are four languages: Spanish, English, Portuguese and French. This is a challenge for those who advance projects or look for information about assimilable initiatives in their respective countries because they should overcome the limitations associated to the use of a single language in a multilinguistical continent.

Thematic axes

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The identification and the strenthening of the worklines that may produce a better social impact oriented to the improvement of the quality of life of the South residents has been a present restlessness in the investigations on the social domain of the ICT, carried out by organizations like FPH, VECAM, FUNREDES, ANAIS and others. A fundamental element that has been detected in that search is that if we want the results to be effective, it is indispensable that the South itself participates in the determination of its urgent problems as well as in the formulation and execution of the projects that are defined.

In this document, and being based on the knowledge of what has been carried out previously in this field, for the discussion it has been thought about some thematic axes that seem to reach some resonance in the moment when we have to look for consent on the high-priority work lines for the developing countries, and in which the use of the ICT should end up representing a valuable alternative to overcome the current situation. Each one is in itself a group of queries in search of answers.

Education

Nearly all the development projects are giving the first priority to the education. Reaching the universal primary education for the first years of the next millennium requires of the competition of multiple capacities to form students and to modernize the teachers, and several international organizations have agreed on this goal.

The education in itself, the process teaching - learning, is in constant revision in front of the advances of the ICT, and so a continuous renovation of the paradigms that are normalizing this process is necessary. The ICT has been for long time distinguished as tools supposed to play a singular role in this sense, and, breaking molds like that of the sequential reading and introducing the multimediatic option, they generate a platform of countless alternative to explore.

The quantity and quality of projects of application of the ICT in the educational area in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the world in general is not desestimable. However the magnitude of the coming task needs more and more and better and better applications in the field and especially those that solve the programmatic necessities characteristic of the region.

Health

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To assist to big population's sectors that, according to the same indicators of critical poverty mentioned previously, live in deficit feeding and health conditions and don't have access to appropriate services of health is one of the biggest challenges in the region. It is a reality that affects as well the inhabitant of the cities as the one of the rural areas.

The ICT can become a key tool to assist the multiple aspects of this problem. From facilitating the access to excellent information to assist particular cases until to establish nets of alert epidemic or to support telemedicine applications. From contributing to the personnel's updating that works in the health sector until empowering the administration and the services of the centers of attention to the public.

The coordination of national public politics in the health sector with regional strategies agreed in international organisms, as the Pan-American Organization of Health, is an environment of action especially important because the problems of health don't stop in the geopolitical frontiers of the countries.

Democracy, Gouvernance and Civic Participation

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The construction and the consolidation of stable democratic systems in societies plagued with serious structural imbalances, reflected in indicators as those of critical poverty, is one of the most urgent tasks in the region. The use of the ICT to create or to sustain organs of power and of civic participation in a democratic order represents an alternative to the old methods that are yet showing their exhaustion.

The production or the reinforcement of the efficiency and of the transparency of the administration of those in power, the organization of the local, regional communities, of the unions and of diverse social sectors are work fronts where the ICT can contribute interesting solution options.

The region must incorporate itself to the process of current globalization in the less traumatic and more constructive way, for its own interests. If these technologies, as it has been said, are conforming with the base of that process, it is indispensable to appropriate of them to conform in Latin America and the Caribbean social structures accordinng with an outline of solidary and responsible development.

Economy and Productivity

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The economic apparatuses of the region face the challenge of competing in more and more open markets, where the political protectives weaken quickly, while the productive practices have not transformed at the same rhythm as the changes imposed by the globalization processes and integration.

Most of the employment in Latin America and the Caribbean is located in the small and medium companies and this is a sector that traditionally has been seen as marginal and not very advanced, from the technological point of view. Such an attentive vision against the rupture required to activate the base of the economic system of these countries.

The ICT makes viable a redefinition in the way like the organizations have been structured to approach their respective business. They don't only open the opportunity to think again what has been made till now and to assume it with the new technological paradigm but also to create new opportunities of business. The previous statement is as applicable to the economies of the countries as to all forms of organization of smaller scale and indistinctly of the economic sector where it acts.

Language and Cultures

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Latin America and the Caribbean is a region where have converged and have fused multiple cultures and languages. They coexist nowadays next to those of the original inhabitants of the continent. The use of the ICT can give an important contribution to reinforce the cultural and linguistic identities of America as well as to energize its integration process.

The empowerement of the cultural and linguistic communities by means of the articulation of its members via the use of the ICT is an objective to be assumed and developed by the own actors that intervene in these environments. We need tools designed to overcome the barriers that separate and to cross the bridges that relate the cultures and the languages of America.

 


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