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Information and Societies in Latin America and the Caribbean

Development of Technologies and Technologies for Development

image of Information and Societies in Latin America and the Caribbean

The countries of the region have substantially progressed with large-scale application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to varied aspects of economic and social development: the installation of digital infrastructure, modernization of public administration, digitalization of economic processes to enhance productivity as well as the quality of education and health care, and natural disaster management. Rapid evolution turned ICTs into a real solution for the development agenda. In the effort to use ICT efficiently for development, it is important to bear in mind that these technologies are not an end in thsemselves. Should ICTs be the essential element in the approach applied by information societies to development, or should the different aspects of development rather guide the way this technological revolution is harnessed?

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Introduction and overview

The widespread expansion in the capacity to capture, communicate, compute and store information has led to a profound restructuring of economic and social organization (Webster, 1995). While this creates new opportunities for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, it also brings with it a multitude of new threats. The path to becoming an information society varies from country to country, depending on the initial conditions, the technological, economic, social and cultural dynamics, and the public policy strategies employed (ECLAC, 2003a). From a traditional ECLAC perspective, the last of these factors is the most important. Policy agendas are the result of processes that involve broadly opposing forces within a society. These agendas can be seen as a dynamic sequence involving the recognition of problems and opportunities, formulation of proposals, and political facts or events (Kingdon, 1995). The initial recognition of problems and opportunities involves selecting the issues that society recognizes as important. In this phase, citizens, civil society organizations and communications media work to raise interest in certain issues, and to create specific awareness and understanding of their nature. Policy formulation, which constitutes the second phase, involves redefining options for addressing the problems that have been identified. For a proposal to remain valid and to ultimately be considered, it must meet various criteria, including political acceptance, conformity with established values and current sentiment, and budgetary, technical and institutional feasibility. The third phase is one of political dynamics. While the search for solutions centres on analysis and persuasion, political consensus is achieved through negotiation involving different approaches to solving specific problems, based on the options identified.

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