Seminars on public policies and regulations explain how to close the digital gap and how to exploit the ICT’s in favor of education
Cartagena, Colombia. Increasing connectivity thru the installation of telecom infrastructure is the main goal of Promotel (i.e. of Mexico’s telecom investment’s promoter). They do so via projects such as “Red Compartida” (the Shared Network) and via the policy of renting federal government infrastructure.
During the seminar, “broadband for all in Mexico: projects to push for universal access”, at the 5th Latin American Telecommunications’ Congress, where Mexico was the honored guest country at the CLT 2017, there was a presentation on the Digital Connectivity Program, as part of the digital inclusion policy generated by the constitutional reform of 2013 on matters of telecommunications and radiobroadcasting.
The ten projects of the Program are the Transition to Digital Land-Based Television, Shared Network, the State’s Passive Infrastructure Projects, Backbone Network, Mexican Satellite System – Mexsat, Satellite Policy, Mexico Connected – Internet in public places, Mexico’s Connected Hotspots, National Network for Scientific, Technological and Educational Research (Nicté) and the National Radio Spectrum Program.
Mr. Fernando Borjón, CEO of Promtel, explained that the two objectives of the agency are to guarantee the installation of the Shared Network and promote investment for the development of telecommunications infrastructure. In addition, the agency seeks greater cost efficiency, thus facilitating the deployment of infrastructure and promoting more services. Promtel will monitor compliance with the Shared Network contract, as well as network deployment and social coverage commitments. It will consider a fine of 4 million pesos per month for any breach of coverage.
Mr. Mauricio Desdier, director of North Latin America Solutions and Operators for Nokia (one of the two developers who will install the Shared Network along with Huawei), explained that the Shared Network will be a mobile wholesale operator who will provide existing operators with capacity in a non-discriminatory manner. Nokia will design a disaggregated infrastructure network that will minimize the bit per second in as much as possible.
ICT’s should improve educational processes
Although Latin America invests 4.7% of its GDP in education (close to 5.6% of the average of OECD countries), there is no productive use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by students, teachers and Administrators of the education sector.
The “Education for the 21st Century: Education and Connectivity in the Education System” seminar, moderated by Mr. Mauricio Agudelo, senior specialist of Telecom for CAF – Latin American Development Bank, in the framework of the 5th Latin American Telecommunication Congress, explored how ICT’s could contribute to improving in-classroom educational processes.
Ms. Cecilia LLambí, CAF Education Specialist, explained that ICT’s should contribute to improving education, developing skills and computational thinking, changing pedagogical practices, as well as training teachers and managers in the use of ICT’s for educational purposes.
Ms. Bibiam Díaz, also a CAF Education Specialist, explained that ICT’s should generate the impact of better learning, develop new skills, professionalize teachers, implement good teaching and assessment practices and help build the didactic knowledge of contents.
Mr. Enrique Hinestroza, director of the IT Education in classroom at Universidad de La Frontera, claimed that schools are access spaces for the Internet, but there is inequality between rural and urban areas. Schools have narrowed the Internet access gap, but the speed of connectivity needs to be improved. In order to develop the digital ecosystem, it is necessary for such an ecosystem to start being experienced in the classroom, but Mr. Hinestroza warned that “in Latin America there is an inability to make effective use of technology in education”.
Ms. Martha Castellanos, manager of the 2016-2025 Decennial National Plan for Education of the Colombian Education Office, acknowledged that students are not using ICT’s to improve their learning processes. A question was raised regarding which educational model is needed for a digital economy based on automation, constant connectivity and labor flexibility.
Ms. Castellanos listed the eight elements of all ICT policies in education: the desired purpose to be achieved, strengthening of disciplinary competencies, adjustment of pedagogical practices, curriculum adaptation, initial and continuous teacher training with incentives, implementation of new tools, support for the use of ICT’s In the classroom, monitoring and evaluation of the initial purpose.
Regulatory frameworks that encourage investments
Adapting regulatory frameworks to convergence, eliminating barriers to infrastructure installation, and fiscal reforms towards the reduction of the digital gap were the themes of the GSMA Latin America seminar, “Redefining regulatory frameworks for digital inclusion” within the framework of the 5th Latin American Telecommunications Congress.
A modern and convergent regulatory framework must recognize that the digital ecosystem is dynamic, generates a multi-sectoral impact and brings about multiple effects on network operators.
Mr. Serafino Abate, Economic Competition Director at GSMA, stated that the digital ecosystem forcibly leads to modify and update regulations based on the functionality of services and the dynamism of the market. Convergence, capital intensive investment, the quality of networks and services, and a more efficient use of the spectrum are factors that require an upgrade of the regulations in different countries in order to reduce the digital gap.
To close the digital gap, regulatory frameworks are required to encourage investment, claimed Mr. Genaro Cruz, a specialist in infrastructure regulation and economics at GSMA. Studies carried out by this corporation have identified that bringing 3G technologies to the 10% of the population that is still unconnected (as they are located in hard-to-reach areas) requires huge investments, but there are no economic incentives to do so. However, the specialist warned that strengthening infrastructure is the first step towards digital inclusion.
A regulatory framework that leads to network expansion requires voluntary infrastructure sharing; efficient spectrum management for non-tax purposes; local administrative efficiency for municipalities to facilitate the installation of passive telecommunications infrastructure; intersectoral regulation through a single window and, lastly, segregation of roles between authorities as well as regulator independence.
A total number of 257 million people live in areas with coverage, but fail to access the mobile service due to lack of affordability, absence of digital capabilities or lack of relevant content. Consumption taxes on the service affect the affordability of services and compromise the closure of the digital gap.
Mr. Pau Castells, director of the GSMA’s Economic Strategy, explained that, from entire set of taxes, rates and fiscal charges imposed onto the sector, VAT-specific excise taxes have a very relevant weight in terms of service costs and do not conform to the best practices established, among others, by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “The affordability of telecommunications services is a barrier to connect the disconnected,” Mr. Castells concluded.
Finally, telecommunications specialist Allan Ruiz introduced CE-Digital, free telecommunication courses for regulators and public policymakers in the region.
The CE-Digital program’s main goal is to offer training opportunities to officers of the regulatory agencies and to those in charge of formulating public policies in information and communications’ Technologies (ICT’s) in Latin American countries. For more information on the CE-Digital program please refer to: https://www.cedigital.org/.