Public Access ICT in Argentina

Public Access ICT in Argentina

Adrián Rozengardt (University of Washington, USA) and Susana Finquelievich (University of Washington, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-771-5.ch011
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Executive Summary

Argentina is one of 25 countries participating in this international study that was designed both to assess the ability of the public to access information and communication venues, and also to review the role of ICTs across the overall economic, political, and regulatory framework. The study assessed how the venues function, how they serve user needs, how they meet operational constraints, and how they realize successes. The study placed an emphasis on public and popular libraries, private information venues (cybercafés and parlors), and social information venues (government and community-associated public information venues). The primary intent was to examine the information needs of underserved communities, public access to information and communication venues, and the role of ICTs in Argentina.

The principal venues that provide public access to information and ICTs formed a key aspect of the study, and the research team conducted literature reviews, surveys, interviews, and focus groups to gain a thorough understanding of the information and communication landscape. The report describes the access venues selected and studied, the physical infrastructure and equipment, the use dynamics found during the fieldwork process, salient findings, strengths and weaknesses among the public venues, and key recommendations.

The researchers surveyed the processes of communication and knowledge production at the selected venues, as well as the various controlling factors, such as governmental policies, geography, ethnic and idiomatic differences, and social and economic inequities. The research guidelines were structured to identify the inequalities and inequities that affect general living conditions, and identify the role that access to information plays within those conditions. As a result, two types of inequalities were defined: socio-economic inequalities and territorial inequalities. The socio-economic inequalities relate primarily to the external processes affecting individuals and families, including poverty and indigence, income distribution, employment, the labor situation, gender, ethnic factors, and others. The territorial inequalities are a function of regional and local dynamics, particularly the contrast between urban and rural communities and groups.

The guidelines also led to an examination of the conditions that control information accessibility and an identification of the public’s physical access to information. Of primary importance were the 2,186 facilities in the Popular and Public Libraries network. Of that total, 1,995 are popular libraries, and 231 are public and national libraries. The people in Argentina also have public access to information at more than 18,500 private venues, cybercafés, and parlors. Additionally, there are 491 social venues, 99 of which are directly managed by NGOs, and the remaining 302 exist as the result of governmental initiatives implemented mainly in association with community social organizations (SCOs).

In general, the Argentine public places a high value on its capacity to incorporate technology into daily life. An increasing number of people use, or are interested in using, ICT services to fulfill their information and communication needs, although this opinion was more commonly expressed by urban populations. Argentina appeared to the researchers to be an extremely favorable landscape for developing and implementing policies and strategies to increase the public access to information, and to the create and disseminate content with both local and national interest.

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