Digital Inclusion Programs in South America

Digital Inclusion Programs in South America

María Gladys Ceretta (University of the Republic, Uruguay) and Javier Canzani (University of the Republic, Uruguay)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8740-0.ch026
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Abstract

This chapter aims to provide an overview of digital inclusion in Mercosur countries. It is particularly focused on the description of the Plan Ceibal in Uruguay which is considered a national public policy. It promotes the integration of Uruguayan citizens in a digital context, contributing to equity and democratization of information and knowledge. This plan is based on the experience promoted by Negroponte OLPC. It was adapted to the peculiarities and needs of Uruguay. It was implemented in stages, beginning with a geographical area of the country that served as a pilot one. There were delivered more than 350,000 laptops for children in all primary schools of the whole country. Currently, the Plan also applies to secondary education level. It is presented data on assessments and studies about the implementation of the Plan.
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Introduction

The beginning of the new millennium consolidates the so called Society of Information and Knowledge which has its origins in mid 1970s. This Society positions humanity in a context of continuous changes and transformations, almost uncontrollable. One of its most relevant aspects is the importance given to information in its diverse dimensions before the strong presence of the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in all aspects of human lives. Castells (1999) states “what has changed in our societies are not the kind of activities in which humankind takes part, but their technological capacity to use as their productive force what differentiates our species as a biological rarity, that is to say, their capacity to process symbols.” (Castells, 1999)

Apart from the fact that the ICT are tools that provide for, facilitate the access and retrieval of information in unmanageable quantities, it can be stated that they have taken a privileged place in society. In this sense, they have become an object of interest and concern in all the countries around the world and because of them different state policies have been implemented in order to guarantee the digital inclusion of the society as a whole. Rivoir, Escuder and Baldizán (2010) state: “The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) are linked to deep in social, economic, political and cultural changes that have increased since the early 90s. They cross macrosocial processes such as their role in the consolidation of globalization process, the increase of the importance of information and knowledge in the production processes and the changes at a cultural and symbolic level, as well as changes in the daily lives of people. We can say that while on the one hand, these technologies represent a breakthrough for humanity, on the other hand it is a new factor of inequality that has been called digital gap. ” (Rivoir, Escuder & Badizán, 2010)

The countries in Latin America, especially those members of the MERCOSUR (Mercado Común del Sur): Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and recently Venezuela, have not remained aloof to the new trends of this global society, in which the information mediated by technologies has become a strategic element in human development. (Baica & Beguerie, 2012)

Digital inclusion has become not only a desired goal but a necessary one. The so called digital gap has deepened the differences between the rich and the poor, and ways need to be found to try to diminish this gap. Nowadays it is not only a question of economic matters, but also of the intensification of the possibilities that some people have to access technology while others cannot, which directly affects their becoming an active part of a new world that suffers constant vertiginous changes.

According to Rivoir (2012) it is possible to know a detailed and recent outlook of the strategies that the Latin American countries have been implementing to become part of the society of information and knowledge. The author analyses the Digital Agendas of eleven Latin American countries where their evolution and development have been appreciated throughout time as well as the different statements that sustain the state policies of digital inclusion and the plans and programs that sustain the decisions taken by each country in order to achieve the concrete goals that will gradually allow all citizens regardless of their position in society to become an active part in it.

Uruguay has not remained aloof to the new paradigms that have become part of the society, and even though the expression “globalization” is not always accepted, it is an indisputable reality, since all the countries in the world follow the same paths in order to achieve the same goals. Martín –Barbero (2000) states “globalization disconnects people, institutions and countries that do not correspond to what this hegemonic reason values, especially in Latin America.” (Martín-Barbero, 2000)

Key Terms in this Chapter

OLPC: One laptop per child. It was a project whose main goal is to give a low cost laptop to each school child in order to reduce digital gap.

Education and Technology: It implies the use of technology in education and particularly in the classroom.

Mercosur: It is an economic and political region formed for Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and recently Venezuela.

Digital inclusion: The possibility that all people have to access technology.

Uruguay: A country located in South America between Argentina and Brazil.

Society of Information and Knowledge: A society who main good is information. Information is the product that causes social inclusion.

Plan Ceibal: It is an OLPC project in Uruguay. It was installed in 2007 and it was given one laptop to each child that is going to public primary and secondary school.

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