7 August 2017
Libraries at the Heart of Internet Governance Discussions in Latin America
The Regional Latin American and Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum (LACIGF) took place in Panama City, on 2-4 August. This event marked the tenth edition of a process that started in 2008 in Montevideo, Uruguay. LACIGF provides a space for multisectoral dialogue, where private sector, government, technical community, academia and civil society representatives discuss their points of view on the Internet Governance agenda for the region.
At the session Towards Internet Access: Beyond connectivity, what we need to connect more users?, panelists spoke about the challenges in connecting a greater number of users to the Internet in the Latin American región.
Among these is the high cost of Internet access, due to a lack of competitiveness, not enough operators and poor infrastructure. Interestingly, and perhaps hopefully, it is worth noting that numbers of mobile connections have increased considerably in the region but numbers of fixed connections have remained stable. Public Access in libraries remains vitally important for ensuring that everyone can get online, regardless of resources.
Another highlight from the meeting was the session "Integrating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Internet Governance" with participants from UNESCO, the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, Google, the Internet Society and the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). Panellists underlined the importance of ICTs in achieving the SDGs.
The IFLA representative, International Leaders Programme Associate Jonathan Hernandez-Perez, took the floor to highlight the role of libraries in delivering access to information. He drew attention to the work IFLA is doing, such as the Development and Access to Information report. The UNESCO representative echoed his words, complimenting the focus and content of the report.
The need to incorporate local content, in local languages was a consistent priority. Latin American Internet users can struggle to find websites and materials relevant to them, making the Web less relevant for them. This is partly due to large companies not producing local content, but also partly due to a lack of encouragement from governments. Libraries can play an important role in the production of local content, as highlighted in the Principles on Public Access in Libraries co-drafted by IFLA.
Other topics raise are also ripe for library engagement, such as Gender and Access, Public Access to the Internet, Fake News and digital literacy.
Finally, the event offered a great opoprtunity to share experiences and possible projects with people Working on Igovernance, including Internet Society chapters from Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras, as well as YouthLACIGF, IPANDETEC and APC.