|Guidelines for the Formulation of a Strategic Plan for the IT and Communications Sector in Argentina
|Luis Alberto Perazo
|Argentine Republic Chamber of Informatics and Communications (CICOMRA)
Now, more than ever, ICTs can contribute to the solution of some of Argentina’s problems. The proposed guidelines can have an important impact on the development of the economy, employment creation, investment, social action, governmental transparency, and the digital divide. The guidelines propose a series of tasks designed to contribute Argentina’s development by increasing ICT exports, improving the ICT regulatory framework, boosting ICT sector demand, increasing investment in the sector, advancing e-government facilitating public access to ICTs and strengthening social programs.
The Information Technology and Communications (ITC) sector in Argentina has reached a high degree of development during the past 12 years. The country has a state-of-the-art infrastructure and its indicators, in most cases, have reached levels similar to those of more advanced countries with more developed services. In 2002, there were more than 8 million fixed lines in the country. Argentina’s fixed line density exceeded 21 subscribers per 100 population and cellular telephony density of reached 17 subscribers per 100 inhabitants. Argentina also had 3.8 million personal computers in use, or 10.4 PCs per 100 people. The Internet was in use by 4.1 million Argentineans, or 11.2 percent of the population. CICOMRA represents the IT and Telecommunications Sector in Argentina. Its associated companies represent a very significant part of the sector, have different profiles and cover all the services within the value chain. The companies that comprise CICOMRA have played a significant part in the growth. It groups together IT and Telecommunications companies. CICOMRA includes small enterprises and large international and national companies, the producers and suppliers of equipment, services and software, product and service integrators and software developers. Argentina’s incumbent telecommunications operators, the new competitive operators and the operators of mobile and satellite services are also participants in CICOMRA. CICOMRA is recognized as a point of reference by private and official institutions, which consult it or consider its proposals. Despite Argentina’s growth and development, CICOMRA is well aware of the slowing of the principal activity and growth indicators since 2000 (Figure 1) caused, to a great extent, by the erratic effects of the new policies delineated by the Secretariat of Communications (SECOM). In 2001, the ITC sector could not escape the country’s generalized crisis – the increase in poverty and unemployment, the fall of the internal gross product, the deterioration of purchasing power, and the retraction in investments (Figure 2). The ITC market, since then, has been facing a traumatic process of crisis and consolidation. Some companies have had to withdraw from the market, others are now facing serious financial problems, and all of them have, in general, had negative financial results. We know that our country will start to grow again, but that some economic sectors are better prepared than others to compete in the world. We believe that the telecommunications and IT technologies are key elements, indispensable for the development of all the economic sectors. b>Our Proposal Based on the understanding that the companies of the ITC sector have of this scenario, CICOMRA defined a vision for the future of the sector and constructed a model to be followed to align the sector with the needs of Argentina’s population and help society on the road to a prosperous future. Guidelines for a strategic plan were developed based upon these pillars and a document produced outlining the contribution that ICTs can offer to the general development of the economy. Of course, the development of our sector isolated from the general growth of the country’s economy cannot be imagined. The above considerations were used as the basis for the elaboration of the guidelines. The strategic objectives addressed the issues of: strengthening the economic framework, the sector’s development, and the sector’s contribution to the transparency of Government management and the social development. Finally, goals and tasks were established to achieve the aforementioned objectives. The result of this concerted effort by the industry and CICOMRA is presented below. We are working now to obtain a consensus that will allow this plan to be adopted as policy by the Argentine Government. Goals and Tasks for the Argentine ITC Sector Goals for the Argentine Information Technology and Communications Sectors -Contributions to the Country’s Development: 1. To work with the Chancellery and with the sectorial chambers of other industries to develop a program that fosters the exportation of ICTs, 2. To get a suitable and modern legislative framework approved for the implementation of digital signatures, the use of electronic invoices, and to establish the legal, probatory, value of electronic documentation. 3. To develop a program that fosters SME and micro enterprise access to state of the art technologies. 4. To intensify the use of ICTs in security networks. To Increase ICT Product and Service exports: 5. To pass and regulate a software law to promote the development of this sector. 6. To take advantage of the availability of resources and relative costs for the development of Software and creation of Contents in Spanish. 7. To encourage the integration of national value added by means of specific Telecommunications and IT policies. 8. To define a special Settlement Regime for IT companies in a context of regional integration. 9. To create a special Import Duties and Reimbursements Regime for the Sector. To Develop a Predictable Regulatory Framework that Enables the Development of the Sector: 10. To create legislation that puts a ceiling on the tax burden (including taxes, fees and duties). 11. To promote a law that regulates the Sector and assigns to it the importance it has within the chosen “”model of country.”” 12. To guard against the imposition of any technological platform in the sector. 13. To professionalise the regulatory agency and industry “”watchdogs,”” setting goals and plans that reach them, and create a body of specialists to give assistance to the political sector. 14. To limit license awards and spectrum allocation to those companies with greater commitments to invest. To Boost ICT Sector Demand: 15. To generate mechanisms that allow the establishment of profitable and equitable tariffs for those telecommunications services whose tariffs are regulated. 16. To create differential strategies to facilitate the recovery of service providers (subs) that had to cancel their services due to the economic crisis. 17. To diminish the tax burden and stimulate the use of part of the savings in this cost of the service to new investments and to help restore the profitability of the companies. 18. To carry on the initiatives of implantation of e-government systems in general and technological systems applied to social aid in particular. To Increase Sector Investments to a Great Extent: 19. To modify existing legislation to allow tax deductions for investments in technological capital assets. 20. To facilitate access to credit, at competitive international rate levels, for investments in technological capital assets. 21. To ensure, within a suitable legal framework, the continuity of contracts to provide suitable legal and regulatory conditions for a return on investment (guarantees that the State will respect contracts between individuals and the contracts of individuals with the State.) 22. To provide fiscal incentives for the establishment of new enterprises, bearing in mind a suitable balance with respect to competition and the demand to be satisfied. To Contribute to the Transparency of the Public Sector by the Implementation of e-Government Systems at National, Provincial and Municipal level: 23. To elaborate and implement a national plan for e-Government, with the participation of the academic sector, business sectors and specialized organisms. 24. To identify and apply un-used lines of credit from multilateral organisations, that have been set aside for the modernization of the state. 25. To develop a law that specifies and standardizes the type of information governmental organisms must provide for citizens on the Web. 26. To identify the e- initiatives of other countries who have successfully improved public administration and citizen participation. 27. To actively participate in international forums dedicated to e-government. To Build a System that Enables Greater Public Access to Communications and Information Technologies: 28. To establish, after ample debate, a universal service system. 29. To create and implement, with academic, enterprise and governmental participation, a strategic plan for the use of the Internet, including Internet II, in education and the increased use of broadband. 30. To concentrate on the several existing initiatives for the creation of Community Technology Centres for Information Access (CTCs, CTCE, etc.). 31. To create the means for lower cost Internet access, interconnection and transport adapted to the Argentine geography. To strengthen Social Programs through the Incorporation of Information and Communications Technologies: 32. To create a group with multi-sectorial participation, including NGOs, to analyse and define the technology plan for social aid programs. 33. To design and implement a plan to interconnect all NGOs working with social aid. 34. To identify the successful programs in other countries of technology applied to social aid programs. 35. To create a national program for the use of ICTs in the health sector.”