|Issue:||Latin America III 2000|
|Topic:||A Response by the Americas to the Challenges for the Future|
|Organisation:||Inter-American Telecommunication Commission, CITEL|
New, low-cost technologies and globalisation have changed the way we work, play, think and govern our nations. They have given developing countries unprecedented opportunities for rapid development, but also confronted them with a new world economy that is highly dynamic, very innovative, knowledge-intensive, competitive and global.
One of the great challenges of globalisation is to ensure that the global information infrastructure benefits the entire world. Developing countries need to use telecommunications to join the global economy and as a critical facilitator which will affect business efficiency and success. The Americas comprise the worlds largest regional market with more mobile telephones and Internet host computers than any other region. However big differences exist within the countries of the hemisphere. Recent statistics released by the ITU show that by December 1999 Internet penetration in the Region – the percentage of the population in each country that uses the Internet-range from 0.3% to 40.7%. “The international environment is complex, but we are starting to see the beginning of a transformation in the regions strategic approach.” The international environment is complex, but we are starting to see the beginning of a transformation in the regions strategic approach. Regional blocks are starting to develop in order to deal successfully with the challenges the region is facing. This is where the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission, CITEL, can be the most helpful. CITEL has become a forum where governments and the private sector meet to work together, raise awareness of essential issues in the sector – and about the cost of inaction – and form a consensus regarding regional objectives. Crucial issues addressed by CITEL are universal service, distance learning, tele-medicine , Internet and electronic commerce, regulations and new technologies. Universal Service in the Americas Tremendous gaps in telecommunications still remain in the developing world. There are great differences, for example, between the access to telecommunications in urban and rural access; the greatest differences are in the poorest countries. Demand for universal access to telecommunications is driven by the need for access to information so that rural and under-served areas can become competitive in the global economy. CITEL is facing this undeniable need by working together with the ITU and AHCIET. Together we have prepared a handbook, Universal Service in the Americas. The handbook that focuses on, and analyses, the strategies and programmes developed by the member countries to ensure universal telecommunication service coverage for all population groups on the continent. This handbook is intended to serve as a reference tool to help the countries of the Americas region to adopt essential policies and practices. The goal is to make universal service/ access available to all of the inhabitants of the region. CITELs Permanent Consultative Committee I, which deals with Public Telecommunications Services, is studying strategies to define the minimum telcommunications infrastructure needed and how to increase the penetration of telecommunication services in the Region. In addition, the Secretariat is developing a database that will be available on-line with the updated legislation and regulations relating to Universal Service/Access. Tele-education and tele-medicine The new information technologies will make major contributions in the decades to come in key areas such as education and health care. Tele-education is a vital tool for providing access to education for rural and remote areas in developing countries. CITEL is in an excellent position to make governments aware of the importance of developing and implementing Tele-education policies. We demonstrate to them how important the telecommunication infrastructure is to the social development of a country. “One of the important ways of demonstrating the advantages of technology to decision-makers in developing countries is by promoting the implementation of pilot projects.” One of the important ways of demonstrating the advantages of technology to decision-makers in developing countries is by promoting the implementation of pilot projects. The positive results of pilot projects, such as tele-education should encourage them, not only to promote tele-education policies at the national level but, to push for more far-reaching projects and programmes. The Permanent Consultative Committee I of CITEL, PCC.I, has developed a Theoretical Model for the Creation of a Distance Education System. Tele-educations infrastructure is similar to that needed for tele-medicine applications. Planning these applications to share a single infrastructure would result in a significant reduction in the overall cost. PCC.I is now preparing a directory that includes an inventory of the hardware and software available for tele-education and tele-medicine applications as well as a list of projects of this kind existing in the region. Electronic commerce and Internet connectivity The Internet is consolidating itself as a prime resource for information thanks to its great accessibility, simplicity and low cost. Although most of the countries of the region are fully connected to the Internet, only 2 percent of Latin America (11 million people) were on-line at the end of last year. “The Internet can reduce the time-to-market for goods and services and raise service levels…” CITEL is planning activities to foster the sustainable growth of public Internet access by establishing access points in libraries, educational institutions and public facilities, among others. Government systems can become more effective in their day-to-day operations by using these new technologies to put their information and operations on-line to simplify procedures. We also plan to promote the modernisation of legislation covering electronic data interchange by defining the legal regime for the use and authentication of electronic documents and improving security in the electronic transfer of information. As Internet technology advances and overcomes problems with reliability and speed, it provides exceptional opportunities making global markets a reality. The Internet can reduce the time-to-market for goods and services and raise service levels – a key to successful business-to-business and business-to-consumer trading. The Internet can also give many communities in rural and regional areas and small businesses the capability to develop new products and services and offer them widely and easily, in local, national and worldwide markets. “In the rest of the Americas the situation varies considerably but, none of the others have reached the same level of technological development as the United States and Canada.” Due to their information usage culture and the existence of a suitable and constantly updated telecommunications infrastructure, the United States and Canada are the only nations where e-Commerce is already in widespread, day-to-day use. In the rest of the Americas the situation varies considerably; but none of the others have reached the same level of technological development as the United States and Canada. It is through co-operation between the countries of the region that e-Commerce will spread throughout the continent. CITEL member countries are now making efforts to take advantage of their existing legal framework to develop new national legislation to facilitate and guide the growth of electronic commerce. Programmes for Internet connectivity in the Americas are a priority item at CITEL. As a consequence of the mandate issued by the Second Summit of the Americas, concrete actions that break down barriers and facilitate Internet access are already being adopted by the Administrations in the region. Particularly worthwhile of mention are: · the creation of community access centres; · the establishment of programmes to inform potential users about the resources required to access the Internet; · the development by regional governments of new telecommunications and information technology legislation and regulations; · the increase in the training programmes for small and medium companies as well as action to foster the participation of these companies in electronic commerce. · CITEL will continue to promote Internet development in the Hemisphere 1110and focus on information, communication and knowledge. Regulations and new technologies In December 1999, CITEL endorsed the Inter-American Mutual Recognition Agreement for Assessing the Conformity of Telecommunications Equipment, MRA, with the aim of facilitating trade by promoting market access and by reducing non-tariff trade barriers. The MRA will allow products to be shipped directly to foreign countries without further requirements for testing and certification, reducing burdens for industry and the time for manufacturers to introduce their products into the importing countries. “The Inter-American MRA info-structure is essential for the sustainable development and integration of the Americas.” All countries of the Region can benefit from the Inter-American MRA. Its adoption will undoubtedly expedite the deployment of new telecommunications equipment and thus, the expansion of the regional information infrastructure. This info-structure is essential, for the sustainable development and integration of the Americas. The Permanent Consultative Committee I, PCC.I, is now considering what actions are required to speed up the implementation of the MRA. “To attract private investment, developing countries need to develop coherent telecommunications and information policies…” The telecommunications sector in the Americas region which once consisted only of government owned monopolies, has been largely privatised and competition introduced. As a result, it has become one of the largest, most competitive and dynamic markets in the world, full of investment opportunities. To attract private investment, developing countries need to develop coherent telecommunications and information policies in order to create an investment-friendly environment. CITEL and the ITU sponsored the preparation in 1999, of a new version of the reference Blue Book: Telecommunication Policies for the Americas. This new version provides a description of recent regulatory challenges. It emphasises the importance of a well-conceived telecommunication policy and a sound regulatory framework, but it is also mindful of the specific characteristics of each country and attentive to the advancement of technology. The new version includes chapters on Internet and IP services and the trade of telecommunications equipment and services. “It is clear that IP telephony offers a multitude of benefits but, there are also issues to be resolved such as reliability, quality, ease of use, limited connectivity, regulations and standards.” It is clear that IP telephony offers a multitude of benefits but, there are also issues to be resolved such as reliability, quality, and ease of use, limited connectivity, regulations and standards. The implied cost savings coupled with the potential for service offerings constitute a sufficiently rewarding proposition for users, operators and vendors to ensure that IP telephony will secure a position, in the future, on the telecommunications stage. A working group of PCC.I is now analysing the implications for the Americas of the use of technologies based upon IP protocol. The Group will draw up recommendations for adopting broad and flexible common measures in the Americas. The Group wishes to foster the development of telecommunications over IP in an expeditious manner in harmony with the existing telecommunications networks and services. The extraordinary growth of mobile systems and the Internet have clearly indicated customers needs: interactive, asymmetrical, multimedia services, in addition to voice, anywhere – anytime. The International MobileTelecommu-nications-2000 (IMT-2000) standard will provide high quality, worldwide roaming capability using a small terminal. The terminal will provide for multimedia applications such as Internet browsing, e-Commerce, e-Mail, video conferencing and access to any information stored on their desktop PC at work or at home. The Permanent Consultative Committee III, responsible for radio-communications (PCC.III), is developing recommendations to harmonise spectrum usage. They will prepare guidelines regarding the use and sharing of radio frequency, including channelling frequency arrangements. “To facilitate the transition to the new telecommunications environment, all countries need highly developed human resources as well as advanced policies, regulations, management and technologies.” To facilitate the transition to the new telecommunications environment, all countries need highly developed human resources as well as advanced policies, regulations, management and technologies. In order to develop and strengthen the capabilities to generate this expertise in developing countries around the world, the Centres of Excellence concept was established by the ITU. CITEL has approved the approach to the structure and operation of the Centre of Excellence for the Americas and is collaborating with the ITU for the establishment of specific programmes and projects to be implemented in the short-term, basically for distance-learning platforms. Conclusion This is an exciting period in modern history; the change will not slow down. The implementation of new information technologies in developing countries will provoke significant leaps in learning and knowledge over the decades to come. Working in close collaboration with other regional and international organisations, CITEL can play an advisory and best practice role in this new environment acting as a facilitator and catalyst for change.