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South America: Trends and challenges for development

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are driving powerful changes in the way people work, relax, learn, and understand the world they live in. The possibilities that these technologies offer are encouraging more investments. We are following them as weak signals conforming future trends. Acknowledging the new challenges that these technologies bring are the common thread of this issue of Agenda: Suramérica.

The first article reviews what options South American countries have to implement successful egovernment strategies. Despite the progress, these reforms are only happening in specific areas, but they are certainly paving the way towards broader reforms. There is a focus on generating edocumentation processes to improve the management and communication with citizens, but they need to become more aligned with overall administrative simplification. At the end, these reforms should not be an end in itself. Otherwise, without a clear direction for improving government services, e-government and e-documentation reforms will only generate a false sense of modernity in the public administration and not more government effectiveness. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are an opportunity to access to top-notch educational contents from all over the world at a low cost.

Nevertheless, the region is still in the phase of consuming contents rather than generating the capacities to provide their own online contents. This is changing rapidly since government and international organizations are spotting a huge opportunity to reduce the productivity gap of South American workers compared to the developed world. Nevertheless, more attention is needed to generate adequate contents to our regional reality, languages and disciplines needed to improve productivity. ICTs are helping native communities to strength their identity and capacities to preserve their own cultures.

In culturally diverse countries, this could change the situation of indifference that most governments have traditionally had towards indigenous minorities. What is changing is that these communities’ new generations are learning fast to utilize ICTs to revalue their own culture and promote their identity. Our examples show how this is possible, but their impact could be much more effective if public policies accompany these initiatives.

Finally, we present a case study about the perception about big data in the region. Our conclusion: we are still in the wow! phase, although issues about confidentiality and the use of private information will start to shape the debate about big data in the region sooner rather than later.