domingo, 26 de noviembre de 2006

Peru: Der andere Weg ins Internet

Uwe Afemann Universität Osnabrück (Dezember 1998)

Peru ist ein Land mit ca. 25 Millionen Einwohnern. Das Bruttosozialprodukt pro Einwohner beträgt in diesem Andenstaat nur 3.939 Dollar und ca. die Hälfte aller Menschen lebt dort unterhalb der Armutsgrenze. Nicht zuletzt deshalb ging es wohl seinen eigenen Weg, um sich ans Internet anzuschließen.

Lateinamerikas Weg auf dem Datenhighway ins dritte Jahrtausend: Der Run auf das virtuelle Eldorado

Lateinamerikas Weg auf dem Datenhighway ins dritte Jahrtausend: Der Run auf das virtuelle Eldorado

Der Autor des folgenden Artikels, Dr. Joachim Gartz, ist Lateinamerikahistoriker an der Universität zu Köln und Autor des deutschsprachigen Internet-Führers zu dieser Region: ,Lateinamerika Online: Theorie und Praxis effizienter Internet Recherchen im virtuellen Eldorado".

The Internet, development, and democratization

Latin America On-line: The Internet, development, and democratization
Human Organization
Winter 1998


Authors: Margaret Everett

Volume: 57

Issue: 4

Start Page: 385

ISSN: 00187259

Copyright Society of Applied Anthropology Winter 1998

Full Text:

Increasingly, aid agencies are turning to information technology as a key
to promoting development and political reform. Internet proponents view
information as critical to solving such problems of environmental destruction,
disease, and authoritarianism. While the Internet poses intriguing possibilities
for enhancing economic competitiveness and political pluralism, it is also
creating new forms of exclusion and may lead to the neglect of other basic
development issues. Moreover, the proponents of the Internet expansion
in the Americas risk exacerbating rather than diminishing the dependency
and uneven growth of previous development schemes. This article explores
the current state of the Internet in Latin America and identifies some
of the contradictions which are apparent in the discussion and use of this
new technology in the region.

Key words: Internet, development, democracy; Latin America

The idea that information is the key to renewed economic growth, as well
as new forms of political participation and community has become ubiquitous
in American popular culture. Recent advertising campaigns, for example,
stress the anonymity and freedom of expression provided by the Internet.'
In contrast to previous Orwellian visions of the homogenizing and controlling
tendencies of technology, some now argue that technology can contribute
to the creation of "hybrid cultures" and to "autonomous social expression"
(Escobar 1995:410). Such claims exemplify what William Birdsall (1996)
calls the "ideology of information technology" - the assumption that information
and communication are the key not only to development and economic growth,
but to new forms of democracy and freedom. A wide array of disparate groups
are promoting the expansion of the Internet in Latin America. Businesses
argue that the Internet is crucial to achieving competitiveness in global
markets, governments tout the new technology as the road to modernization
and national development, and activists argue that the Internet allows
social movements to transcend borders and resist global political and economic

Latin America is one of the fastest areas of growth for the Internet in
the world. The number of "servers," or host computers, in Latin America
now tops 45,000 (Cura 1996:46). Another sign of growth: the computer market
in Latin America grew by twenty-one percent in 1995 (Cura 1996:48). Brazil
has one of the most extensive Internet infrastructures in the region, and
boasts satellite access from the Amazon. In Brazil, the Internet market
grew a staggering 2,333 percent between January 1995 and January 1996 (Belejack
1996:14). Commercial sites in Brazil grew 1,073% between January 1996 and
October 1996 (Marinho 1997). All Spanish-speaking countries and Brazil
now have Internet connections, and 19961997 figures indicate that the number
of hosts computers doubles every 12-15 months in the region (Molloy 1998).

Internet enthusiasm is infectious, and even skeptics of the euphoria are
dazzled by the capabilities of the "information super-highway." An April
1998 search of the Web using the keyword "Colombia," for example, yielded
over 85,000 sites with information on travel, business, politics, and current
events. Bogota's major newspapers, El Espectador and El Tempo, now have
Web sites where people around the world can get the day's top stories and
access the papers' on-line archives. Anyone who can connect to the World
Wide Web can check the current world price of coffee, and even access the
entire Bogota phone book. Through the homepage of the Red Cientifica Peruana
(RCP), Web surfers can access a wide variety of information related to
Peru, much of it available in English, Spanish, and Quechua. We can also
read Subcomandante Marcos's e-mail communiques from Chiapas, following
the romantic life of a rebel in the jungle through his manifestos, prose,
and poetry. A growing number of Web sites, posted in both Latin America
and the United States, provide an overwhelming amount of information about
cultural, political, and economic life in the region.

What will this new information technology, the "voyage into the permanently
ephemeral" as Michael Benedikt (1991) calls the cyberspace era, mean for
Latin America? How will it alter relations between North and South? What
will it really mean, after all the enthusiasm and promises of progress
and equality, for democracy and development in Latin America? As we begin
to explore these issues, it is just as important to avoid a romantic view
of technology as destroying the "culturally authentic," as to avoid the
equally romantic notion that technology inevitably and uniformly leads
to progress. In the remainder of this article, I will delineate a number
of the issues raised by the Internet for development and democratization
in Latin America. These are issues of some urgency since Latin American
governments, as well as multinational agencies and NGOs, are currently
making policy decisions of critical importance for the decades to come.

Francisco Sagasti's notion of a "global fractured order" is a useful starting
point for a critical assessment of the implications of the Internet for
Latin America. The current age, according to Sagasti, is characterized

an order that is global but not integrated; an order that puts most of
the world's people in contact with one another, but simultaneously maintains
deep fissures between different groups of countries and between peoples
within countries; an order that segregates a large portion of the world's
population and prevents it from sharing the benefits provided by scientific
advances and technological progress (1995:592).

Information does not always ensure progress, and integration does not ensure
equality. The latter point was argued by dependency theorists of the 1960s
and exemplified by many of the development debacles of the 1970s aimed
at "integration."2 Sometimes "integration" simply ties people to new forms
of oppression and dependency. While many agree that information technology
is leading to new forms of dependency, there is less agreement about what
to do about it. Ultimately, Sagasti and others argue that aggressive development
of technological infrastructure, training, and research in developing countries
is the only way to combat technological dependence. Yet even as the Internet
grows quickly throughout Latin America, we can see several limitations
to its broad use and accessibility. This is especially true for those who
have been traditionally excluded from other forms of democratic participation
and the benefits of economic growth. The very people that advocates argue
will benefit from the Internet -- those who live in rural areas and smaller
cities outside the capitals, participate in, social movements, or receive
assistance through development programs - are the most marginal to this
process of social change. With the rapid commercialization of the Internet,
occurring at an accelerating pace in Latin America, we can expect that
this new technology will exacerbate the conditions of marginality and dependency
for much of the population.

The Internet Expansion in Latin America

The enthusiasm for information technology and the Internet in particular
has resulted in a rapid growth in computer sales and Internet connectivity
in Latin America. Networks providing connections to the Internet are in
place and under construction in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Peru,Argentina,
Brazil, and elsewhere. Many Latin Americans are singing the praises of
the Internet as the key to the future and as a marker of modernity. The
Red Cientifica Peruana (RCP) tells potential subscribers that, "The information
explosion, globalization and constant change are today the keys to success
for any professional" (1996a:1). With similar enthusiasm, Hispanic magazine
emphasizes the Internet's ability to create "virtual communities," explaining
that, "It can build communities, not of brick, mortar, and concrete, but
of bits, bytes, and electrons" (Gonzalez 1996:26).

The RCP is one of the most successful networks in Latin America, providing
access to the Internet and the World Wide Web to individuals and organizations
throughout Peru. Founded in 1991, the RCP funds its operations with foreign
grants and subscribers fees. In August 1995, the RCP had approximately
9,000 users and by December 1996 it reported 60,000 individual users (La
Industria, 30 August 1995; Belejack 1996). The RCP cites a common development
theme in its mission statement: national development and integration. The
network will help connect the provinces to the capital, and Peru to the
world, thus aiding to break the country from its traditional political
and economic centralization. A clear attraction of the Internet in Latin
America is as a symbol of modernization and progress. The Peruvian press
coverage of the RCP has been overwhelmingly positive, touting the network
as a development milestone. One journal even suggests that Lima's street
vendors will be able to showcase their products to the world using the
new technology (Medio de Cambio, September 1995). Such claims seem especially
exaggerated given the limited access to the Internet in Latin America (see
below)especially given all the other constraints of capital and licensing
needed to start an export business which would still exclude street vendors
from such an endeavor.3

Another important goal of promoting the Internet in Latin America is that
of self-representation. As the Director of the RCP states, the service
hopes "to be a window through which the world can look into Peru rather
than the reverse" (Soriano 1996:4). The home page of the RCP is a sophisticated
example of such self-representation. At center screen, an ancient gold
mask blinks its blue eyes at the viewer, while a banner flashes the latest
headlines (which, in the last year have included the rescue of the hostages
from the Japanese embassy and the devastation wrought by El Nino). The
home page also contains links to other sites with information on tourism,
government, education, and business in Peru.

At stake is the ability of Latin Americans and Latin American nations to
represent themselves to the world, rather than being defined primarily
by foreign governments, agencies, and media. Much of this representation
amounts to cybertourism, such as the RCP's photo and music archive. Such
sites do little to address the social problems of Latin America or the
concerns of many Latin Americans about their image abroad. There are examples
of sites that include less superficial efforts at selfrepresentation. One
posting, for example, criticized the United States for the recent "decertification"
of Colombia, a move which disqualified the country from many forms of foreign
aid (LatinoNet 1996). In this case the net allowed Colombians (though it
is unclear who exactly is responsible for the site) to present their perspective
on international relations without intermediaries.' Latinos in the United
States appear to be turning to the Internet for similar purposes of self-representation.
In a report on Hispanics and the Intemet, Hispanic magazine said of the
new medium,

It can be a way for Latinos to reach out, a media tool to tell the world
about ourselves the way we see ourselves. At the same time, we could leave
behind the intermediaries, such as mainstream newspapers and Hollywood,
which some believe have distorted our image (Gonzalez 1996:30).

This is a powerful argument, but the issue of who gets to represent such
groups as "Latinos" and "Colombians" is still one of class, power, and
access to technology. While the Internet may make self-representation possible
for a small elite, it has also made it more difficult for other voices
to be heard.

Another intriguing example of the use of the Web as a tool for self-identification
and advocacy is the Ashininka tribe's homepage (Comunidad Indigena Ashaninka
1998). This Peruvian Amazon group worked with the RCP to create a site
which includes information on the culture as well as discussions of contemporary
problems and threats facing the community, including land disputes with
colonos and the loss of their native language. Ironically, the site is
in Spanish only and is undoubtedly inaccessible to the majority of the
community. It does provide a powerful forum for the Ashaninka (again, the
question of who is representing them remains open) to voice their concerns
and demands.

Another important aspect of the Internet expansion throughout Latin America
is the connection that many in development and planning circles are making
between information technology and "sustainable development." The clearest
example of this thus far is the Sustainable Development Network Program,
coordinated and funded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The SDNP facilitates
the distribution and exchange of scientific information on the environment
throughout the world, allowing for greater access to discussion and debate
about issues of sustainable development. The program provides seed money
and equipment to developing countries, sometimes creating the first Internet
link in the country. In the program's 1996 on-line brochure, the UNDP claimed
a variety of early successes:

Already the results are remarkable and the creation of a "culture of information"
is beginning to emerge in more developing nations. For example, the SDNP
has positively impacted land-use planning in Bolivia; educated lobbyists
and government officials making environmental policy in Nicaragua; facilitated
the creation of the African Internet Forum, a consortium of development
partners whose goal is to provide Internet access to the continent; and
saved lives in Pakistan by locating supplies of rare blood types needed
for transfusions (UNDP 1996:2).

Stemming from the emphasis on global cooperation and sharing of scientific
data at the Rio Earth Summit, the SDNP operates on the conviction that
access to information will facilitate greater local participation in planning
and development and lead to more effective and sustainable resource management.
The Colombian "node" of the project, a committee made up of representatives
from government and nongovernmental agencies, echoes this theme in its
own project proposal:

It is evident that inequalities exist in the availability, quality, coherence
and accessibility of information between the so-called developed world
and the developing or underdeveloped worlds...This situation has become
a real threat to the ability of countries to make informed and objective
decisions about the environment. (SDNP Colombia 1996:2).

Many Internet proponents use appeals to "integration" and "sustainable
development" in order to justify the expansion of the Internet. The suggestion
that local peoples will have more say over decisions that affect their
environment is particularly misleading considering the limits of accessibility
which will be elaborated below. The suggestion that the Internet will primarily
benefit environmental protection and promote stewardship is also misleading.
There is no guarantee that widespread distribution of information will
lead to more equitable and responsible resource management. If agencies
lack clear policies about who will access the networks and how the information
is to be used, it could easily have the reverse effect. In examining the
role of information technology on environmental management, we have to
ask, Will information alone help save the environment? Or will it facilitate
new forms of exploitation? How will such information be used and who will
really have access to it? Once network connections are established throughout
the "developing world," how else will this technology be used and what
new forms of inequality and exclusion might arise? While the networks are
made up of NGOs and government agencies, will neighborhood committees,
rural villages, social movements, and native peoples be asked to participate
in the information exchange? These are questions that the UNDP has not

Technologies of Inclusion or Exclusion?

Aside from the proliferation of for-profit and not-for-profit servers forming
within Latin America, "cybernauts" can now access America-On-Line and Compuserve
from several Latin American countries. There are also a number of collaborative
efforts to establish regional "backbones"' throughout Latin America, such
as the Consortium of Andean Networks, which would alleviate the reliance
on the United States to send communications within Latin America. For example,
a message from Colombia to Bolivia still needs to go through the United
States before reaching Bolivia. Newly privatized telecommunications companies
are installing the necessary dedicated phone lines and other technical
support, but most countries still lack the adequate bandwidth for high
speed communications. Despite these developments, access to the Internet
in Latin America remains extremely limited, and reflects existing class,
gender, and regional inequalities.

Perhaps one of the greatest barriers to accessibility is the simple fact
that it still can take up to a year to get a phone line installed in many
countries, meaning that the growth of information technology in the region
is bound to be slow. Some have suggested that Internet connections could
be facilitated in the Third World by circumventing the phone system and
turning to packet radio, which can connect users to a central computer
via short-wave radio. While it may be possible to connect a Yanomami Indian
or an African bushman to the net, however, it is still unlikely. And even
if it were feasible, to whom would they talk, in what language, and with
what equipment? One survey reports that 97 percent of Latin American municipalities
do not have Internet access (Red Nacional de Investigacion 1998).

Another obstacle to the installation of essential Internet infrastructure
is the reliance on foreign funding and technology. While networks such
at the RCP, RedCetcol (Colombia), and Bolivia's Sustainable Development
Network are on their way to self-sufficiency through subscribers' fees,
most networks cannot get off the ground without foreign funding and costly
imported equipment. Once up and running, the networks continue to rely
on connections to U.S. based networks such as the NSF "backbone." LANIC
(Latin American Network Information Center), which is the primary gateway
to library catalogs, databases, and other sources of information on Latin
America, is housed at the University of Texas. In July 1995, the ratio
of Web sites in Latin America to Web sites in North America was still 1
to 160 (Cura 1996:10).

The fact that there are now more Web sites outside of the U.S. than inside
suggests that this imbalance is beginning to change (Internet Society 1996:2).
While the Internet is available throughout Latin America, only a tiny minority
has access to it. A similar technology gap is already visible within the
United States, where, for instance, 52 percent of Latino students use computers
at school, while 62 percent of whites (non-Hispanic) students have access
to computers at school (Cura 1996:10).6 The Internet seems to be creating
a new class division between the "information poor" and the "information
rich:' As computer use grows throughout Latin America, the gap between
those who have access to new technology and those who do not is likely
to be much wider. Even the founders of the RCP acknowledge that in Lima,
Peru, only one household in three has a telephone, and only four percent
of households own a computer (Soriano 1996:3). Membership fees of US$40
and subscriber fees of US$20 per month are beyond the reach of most. The
RCP has installed public terminals (cabinas publicas) in Lima and Cuzco.
The RCP has made a commitment to provide service in smaller cities, such
as Trujillo which got public terminals in early 1998, but users still have
to pay access fees, and the terminals do little to bring the technology
closer to the provinces. Outside of the capital cities, the technology
lag is much greater. There have been some important attempts to bring free
Internet access to low-income areas. The Rede Cidadao, the first "freenet"
in Latin America, provides free Internet access in Recife, Brazil (Marinho
1997). Colnodo, a Colombian network of NGOs, began a program in 1998 with
funding from the Association for Progressive Communications to bring Internet
services and computer equipment to poor neighborhoods in Bogota (Colnodo
1998). Using existing popular organizations, the program provides training
in Windows 95, e-mail, and the Internet. These kinds of programs are encouraging,
yet it is difficult to imagine such small scale efforts (the Colnodo program
currently operates in only three barrios) keeping pace with the spread
of the Internet in middle and upper class areas. Moreover, the young, literate,
and more educated residents of these poor neighborhoods will undoubtedly
benefit disproportionately.

In Colombia, and other countries, where access to education is officially
universal but in practice often requires a political favor, schools in
low-income areas will not see computers any time soon. Meanwhile, students
at international schools, such as the Colegio Franklin D. Roosevelt, are
creating their own home pages and learning the benefits of global networking.
A similar gap exists between public and private universities, making upward
mobility through education even more difficult. In most countries, the
number of users is only in the thousands, though the total number of users
in Brazil has been estimated at a more impressive half-million (Marinho

Despite the impressive growth of the Internet throughout Latin America
and elsewhere in just a few short years, the reality remains that, "for
many people in the world most of Cyberia is a distant Siberia located well
above the global glass ceiling" (Hess 1996:224). Cyberspace operates within
pre-existing "social technologies of exclusion," and access to the net
will continue to be shaped by existing social structures (Hess 1995:224).
The access gap is further exacerbated by the fact that Latin American governments,
in an atmosphere of neoliberal reforms, lack policies aimed at democratizing
access to new technology (Soriano 1996:4). Pressure to commercialize the
Internet in Latin America, and the strength of telephone monopolies in
the region also threaten accessibility. The RCP charges that the national
phone company in Peru - Telefonica - is trying to put private networks
out of business and to monopolize the provision of Internet service. This
would, according to the RCP, raise fees and reduce accessibility in areas
with less potential for profit, namely areas other than the major cities.

One of the most significant barriers to Internet communication throughout
Latin America, as well as other regions, is the American origins and English-language
bias of much of the information technology. Out-of-date mail transport
programs that support only English characters are still a problem and many
systems cannot support multilingual communications, though the growing
use of Unicode offers solutions to some of these problems (see McKenna
1997). Most of the software needed to access the Web, and much of the software
available via the Web, are available only in English (Chaudiron and Cloutier
1996; Bourbonnais and Yergeau 1996). Finally, new technology terms originate
in English, forcing clumsy translations into other languages and such phenomena
as "Cyberspanglish." All of these factors place limits on multilingual
communication via the Internet and favor English speaking and bilingual
users over non-English speakers.

Cyberspanglish is a particularly significant consequence of the English
language origins of the net. It is a clear indication that the growth of
the Internet in Latin America takes place within the context of dependence
on foreign technology. It is also another factor limiting the possibilities
for broad accessibility. For example, English verbs are conjugated into
Spanish without significantly changing the spelling or pronunciation of
the root. Examples include, linkear (to link); cliquear (to click the mouse
- "clique aqui para mks links"); emailear (to e-mail); postear (to post).'
Some view this phenomenon as a creative adaptation to "English speaking
machines." For example, Yolanda Rivas argues that,

Latino users on-line unconsciously have revolted against their language's
old rules and traditions and have created a communal identity for the Information
Age. Thus, Cyberspanglish is not only a sign of the evolution of a language,
but of its people -- those who are bound through computer networks and
who create their own set of codes to communicate efficiently about the
new technology (Rivas 1996:50).

While this ability to creatively adapt to new circumstances should not
be overlooked, Cyberspanglish is also an indication of the growth of new
forms of dependence and exclusion. Cyberspanglish has become a status symbol
of an Internet savvy minority while most Spanish speakers are left out
of the Englishdominant "information revolution."s Despite hopes of bringing
the technology to the streets of Lima and the remote corners of the Amazon,
the actual users of the Internet in Latin America are urban, educated,
young, and male.9

Development and the Internet

Proponents of information technology as a tool for economic growth and
integration encourage developing countries, in particular, to pursue information
technology as a way to "leap frog obstacles to development" and compete
in a global economy. Nagy Hanna, for example, warns of a situation of "information
poverty" in both the public and private sectors in developing countries
and cautions that the technological change is likely to lead to increased
polarization among the industrializing world (1991:45,46). According to
Hanna, the answer is to "develop public policies and infrastructure," with
the assistance of aid agencies such as the World Bank, to try to narrow
this technology gap (1991:45). Advocates of the Internet in Latin America
echo this sentiment. For example, Soriano of the RCP argues that a national
network will facilitate "national integration" and help Peru overcome the
political centralization that has prevented broad participation in development
policies (1996:2). Others argue that computer-mediated communication can
help incorporate more meaningful "feedback and citizen participation in
development activities" (Fervoy et al.1996:1).

Even those who believe that technological changes exacerbate global inequalities
seem to agree that aggressive growth of technological infrastructure in
developing countries is the best way to confront the problem. The current
situation, these authors argue, is untenable. The overwhelming majority
of research and development is done in Europe, the United States, and Japan
(Smith 1993:188). As a result, "developing countries" are dependent on
foreign countries and firms for technological innovations, and must import
expensive machines and pay high licensing fees. According to Smith, this
perpetuates global inequalities, and also ensures that new technology will
suit the needs of the wealthy and powerful (1993:189). In order to break
free of this dependence on foreign technological expertise and development
resources, Smith argues that Third World countries need to focus on endogenous
research and development in order to create possibilities for more autonomous
technological change. Similarly, Castells and Laserna (1989) advocate technological
modernization and social reform to counteract the "new dependency" created
by technological change. Escobar (1995:416) finds such solutions unsatisfactory
because, "it amounts to the continuation of the post-World-War-II policies
of 'development' which have had for the most part deleterious effects on
the economies and cultures of the Third World."

Sagasti's answer to "the fractured global order" is "sustainable human
development." Sustainable human development, according to Sagasti, would
ensure "equal access to development opportunities," including technology
(1995:605). Despite acknowledging the deep divisions in the global economy
marked by technological inequality and dependence, Sagasti argues that
science and technology must be central to a vision of sustainable human
development. "In the last analysis," he argues, "without science and technology
there can be no belief in and commitment to the future, no means for dealing
with the multiple fractures of the emerging global order" (1995:607). In
order to make crucial development decisions, to raise productivity, to
compete at the international level, and to achieve greater human development,
all countries must strive for scientific and technological competence.

Sagasti's strategy leaves many unsettling questions. He himself points
to many of the inequalities that will likely be exacerbated by the spread
of information technology and other technologies. Sagasti advocates the
mobilization of science and technology to confront the growing inequalities
between nations, between the worlds richest and poorest, and between men
and women. Yet those gaps are already growing, as only a small minority
are able to take advantages of new technologies. Sagasti reports that "women
comprise two-thirds of the world's illiterate population" and yet he does
not explain how technology can narrow this gap (1995:597). Technology alone
cannot solve such problems, and indeed without the existence of other strategies
it will likely exacerbate them. Without widespread literacy programs, women's
education, greater economic opportunities for women, and policies to make
technology accessible and relevant to women, how can information technology
do anything but increase this gap?

A more positive view of the role of information technology in development
will not be possible without also confronting the growing commercialization
of the Internet, and the shift away from its origins in research and education.
Networks such as the Red Tecnologica Nacional in Mexico and the RCP in
Peru are too costly for the vast majority of Latin Americans, leaving commercial
interests and organizations as the primary consumers of information. How
can the Internet foster greater participation in development when most
citizens do not own a phone much less a computer?

Democracy: Empowerment and `Virtual Resistance'?

The claims by Internet proponents that information technology is rapidly
creating new forms of democracy has special relevance in Latin America,
especially considering the current period of democratization and decentralization.
Will the Internet allow for broader participation in political and developmental
processes? Will opposition parties, indigenous groups and social movements
share information that cannot be controlled by governments or by a few
media organizations? Will a new form of struggle, "virtual resistance,"
emerge that can link the causes of oppressed people across vast regions?
Can the transformative potential of the Internet be realized through progressive
public policy decisions?

The use of the Internet as a tool for resistance has created a troubling
paradox: The Internet affords the possibility to circumvent traditional
media and government censorship, to organize across borders, and to voice
political opposition in anonymity. Yet for the victims of repression to
benefit from this technology, they must typically rely on outsiders (in
other countries or in capital cities) who have access to computers in order
to make their resistance heard. This paradox results in romanticization
on the part of the well-meaning intermediaries who post letters of protest
or rebel communiques. It also indicates a lack of meaningful interaction
between oppressed groups and their allies in technology. This can be demonstrated
by looking at a few examples of the possibilities and limitations for "virtual
resistance" in Latin America.

We can already see indications of the Internet's potential to change the
nature of political participation in Latin America. Those with access to
the Web, for example, no longer have to rely on a few news sources, often
dominated by traditional parties, for information. Opposition parties are
taking advantage of the Web to voice their agendas, and the new medium
may help them circumvent the exclusions that traditional parties have previously
been able to maintain. Indigenous groups have also used electronic mail
and Web sites to voice their concerns about environmental degradation and
multinational corporations.

A letter from leaders of the Huaorani Indians in Ecuador to the CEO of
the Maxis Energy Corporation is one intriguing example. An environmental
group, Ecological Enterprises, posted the letter on its gopher and urged
people to write to the company to voice their support for the Indians'
rights. The letter itself stated: "We do not want foreign companies to
build roads, nor to damage the ecology-ecocultural [sic]...We are writing
this letter to you and also to the world. Our position will not change,
no one can represent us, nor speak in the name of the Huaoranis without
authorization" (Huamani Coba and Nihua 1992). Thus, the Internet can be
a powerful tool which can bring global attention to local disputes, and
pressure corporations to acknowledge native land claims. In this case,
the letter campaign suggests that the Huaoranis chose to circumvent the
Ecuadoran government, perhaps because they believed the government would
support the corporation. On the other hand, this example raises a number
of complex questions: Did the Huaoranis intend for their letter to end
up on the Internet? Who translated the letter? Are people with access to
the Internet presuming to speak for others? If the Huaoranis cannot participate
in the electronic exchanges regarding their land claims, their movement
could easily become coopted or dominated by foreigners, however well-intentioned,
and this is something that the Huaoranis themselves explicitly state that
they do not want.

Supporters of the U'wa people of Colombia, whose land and environment has
been threatened by oil exploration by Occidental and Shell oil companies,
have created dozens of Websites to denounce the policies of both the Colombian
government and the multinationals. The U'wa gained national attention and
the assistance of environmental organizations around the world, when their
leaders threatened to commit suicide in protest over the proposed drilling.
None of the Websites were created by the U'wa or their leaders, though
many of them reproduce statements released by U'wa leaders. It is a powerful
example of the power of the Internet as a tool for resistance, even for
a small and previously little-known community in the face of massively
powerful corporations, even if the struggle is being carried out by outsiders
in the name of the U'wa (see, for examples, Rainforest Action Network 1998;
U'wa InfoCenter 1997). Probably the most impressive use of the Internet
for creating networks of resistance and support is Abya Yala Net, a project
that supports information sharing among indigenous peoples throughout the

The Internet, to the extent that it is accessible to such groups, also
affords the possibilities to connect with other indigenous groups, from
Tierra del Fuego to the Yukon, and present a united front on issues of
broad concern to native peoples, such as land rights and political autonomy.
Social movements can build broad support, lobby governments, and raise
funds via the Internet, as well as share strategies and information with
other activists. NGO's have been particularly successful in networking
across borders, aided by such organizations as the Association for Progressive
Communication and the Website NGO Caf6. While disparaging the growing commercialization
of the Internet, one activist argues that "the Internet is a prime space
for civil society's organizations to build social strategies and practices"
(Afonso 1997). BECCNET, a network which links NGOs on both sides of the
Mexican-American border, is one example of such networking efforts. Other
transnational efforts include NativeWeb, with sources on indigenous peoples
throughout the Americas. The critical question here, as Escobar notes,
is "Will most social groups in the Third World be in a position even to
know about the possibilities afforded by the new technologies?" (1994:220).
In Latin America, visions of laptops and packet radios in the Amazon notwithstanding,
the answer is still no.'o

There is considerable evidence that the Web has become a tool for resistance
to state domination, racism, and other forms of discrimination. Scholars
in the U.S., for example, have identified activists who use the Internet
to "defend and empower minority groups" and to denounce racism (Beckles
1996). The most widely recognized example of such "virtual resistance"
in Latin America is the host of newsgroups and Web sites dedicated to the
Chiapas rebellion in southern Mexico. Chiapas rebels have a wide network
of "virtual supporters" who exchange information on the conflict, circulate
Subcomandante Marcos's communiques, and lobby the Mexican government to
respond to the rebel demands.

The use of computer communication via the Internet has been especially
important to the Zapatistas, activists argue, given the limited mass media
coverage of the conflict (Cleaver 1996:1). Subscribers to the Mexpaz and
Chiapas95 newsgroups receive regular bulletins on the movement and supporters
from around the world can mobilize letter, phone and fax campaigns and
respond quickly to new developments. A Dominican priest in Mexico posts
Mexpaz, while activists at the University of Texas post Chiapas95. Updates
on the situation in Chiapas can also be found on PeaceNet through the Institute
for Global Communications. These and other on-line groups organized quickly
after the 1994 rebellion and continue to provide a wealth of information
on the movement. There are also a number of Italian Websites in support
of the Chiapas rebels.nI

Without dismissing the genuine possibilities for anonymous or "hidden"
resistance, I argue that much of the "virtual resistance" on the net is
highly romanticized and has very little direct connection to the actual
victims of repression and inequality.'2 Internet supporters of the Chiapas
rebels, for example, paint an equally romantic picture of themselves (as
free-wheeling hackers fighting to liberate cyberspace from corporate and
government domination) as they do of the Zapatistas (as simple peasants
forced into a heroic struggle for land and dignity):

[J]ust as the campesinos of Morelia under the leadership of Zapata cut
barbed wire to liberate the land in 1910, electronic hackers have chopped
down electronic barriers and liberated information, creating a pirate underground
of free activity constantly slipping beyond corporate and state control.
So, too, have the colonists of cyberspace defended their own spaces against
monopolization in other ways, including public campaigns both legal and
political against big business and state control (Cleaver 1996:3).

Cleaver also cites the importance of the Internet for forging international
coalitions against NAFTA. The importance of this new form of struggle is
that it has created "a new organizational form - a multiplicity of rhizomatically
linked autonomous groups -- connecting all kinds of struggles throughout
North America that have previously been disconnected and separate" (Cleaver
1994:2). The ability to participate fully in these "cyber-struggles," however,
still relies on access to technology. Given the inequality of such access,
as discussed above, these electronic struggles often result in the presumption
of speaking for others.

The romanticization of the EZLN's struggle via the Internet is most notable
with the "Zapnet" Web site ("The Net of Autonomy and Liberation").'2 The
site, created by students and faculty at the University of Texas, triumphantly
announces that, "The revolution will be digitized!" and "Cyberwar is coming!"'3
One wonders how, when, and if the people of Chiapas will have the opportunity
to participate in this "electronic struggle."

The UT activists clearly associate the relative anonymity of the Internet
(i.e., by calling the site a "Temporary Autonomous Zone" for exchanging
information and strategies) with the masked identity of the EZLN rebels.
Even if the people of Chiapas could view this flashy Website or participate
in the various newsgroups and on-line forums dedicated to the movement,
they could hardly be imagined to play an equal role in the "cyberwar,"
given the language barriers, the technology gap, and the dependence on
foreign networks. Through the Internet, U.S. supporters imagine the armed
rebels of Chiapas draped, "in the `bandera nacional' and the legacy of
Emiliano Zapata." Lacking an equal and truly interactive communication,
however, these "virtual warriors" have merely managed to reproduce the
familiar stereotypes and exoticized images of the Mexican bandido, and
then projected that image onto themselves as "cyber rebels."

The possibilities of autonomous expression and resistance are real and
should be nurtured, but claims of limitless freedom are premature. To be
sure, the contribution that Internet users have made to the Chiapas movement,
primarily by confounding the Mexican government's attempts to control information
on the conflict, are significant. Yet, commercial and military interests
continue to dominate the development of information technology, and in
Latin America as elsewhere, the Internet is likely to be disproportionately
beneficial to those who will have access to it: young, educated urban dwellers,
large corporations, governments, private organizations, and universities.'4
It is dangerous to assume that the relative anonymity afforded by the Internet
is limitless, or that subaltern groups will be the primary beneficiaries
of this "autonomous" medium. New technologies also afford governments and
militaries new powers of surveillance. There is every reason to believe
that new forms of control will evolve along with new possibilities for
autonomous communication. The possibilities for surveillance and control
are especially great in countries where telecommunications are under the
exclusive control of the government or private monopolies. In Guatemala,
where the military has played a large role in the state-run telephone company,
even privatization has not quelled fears that phone lines are tapped (Belejack

The advent of radio and television (and cable and public access television
in particular) brought similar hopes of empowerment and broad social change.
Scholars caution that the Internet is not so different from previous communications,
and that with the growth of government regulation and business interests,
the Internet is likely to prove disappointing to those who envision cyberspace
as a boundless frontier. Stevenson (1996), for example, traces how amateur
radio, inexpensive and easily accessible, came to be dominated by commercial
interests and government regulation by the 1930s. Stevenson cautions that
the trend toward censorship and commercialization is already apparent in
information technology:

To say that the "Internet regards censorship as a hardware problem and
just works around it," an oft-repeated sentence over the past few months,
ignores the reality of the Scientology harassment and lawsuits, the investigation
of CompuServe by the FBI, and the general chilling effect of the Communications
Decency Act (1996:4).'5

In Latin America, where free speech has fewer protections, censorship is
likely to be an even larger issue. It is clear that the Internet will not
bring about broad participation and autonomous expression without other

The Future of the Internet in Latin America

Policy makers in Latin America as well as those in development agencies
in the U.S. and elsewhere face a difficult dilemma: Should Latin American
countries pursue an aggressive approach to technological change, especially
in terms of information technology, in an effort to "catch up" and "keep
up" with technological developments elsewhere and to "leap frog" development
obstacles? The consensus seems to be that technological change is critical
to economic growth as well as democratization. Yet early evidence suggests
that such change is leading to the kind of "uneven development" which characterized
previous development efforts, from the Green Revolution to Import Substitution.
To accept uncritically the notion that the Internet is the next and only
frontier of development in Latin America would be to risk repeating previous

Based on the preliminary issues raised in this article, I argue that any
plan for technological change must proceed from a commitment to endogenous
research and development and broad accessibility. Research conducted in
Latin America will not only foster a sense of "technological self-esteem"
that many argue is lacking in the region (see Escobar 1994), but will also
lead to more appropriate applications that respond to local needs rather
than foreign models. Endogenous research will also promote the development
of bilingual and multilingual communications and resources that is so critical
to making the technology more broadly accessible. Access to the Internet
might be enhanced by free community networks and terminals in community
centers, schools, and churches.

While it is important to pursue the possible social benefits of technology
change, it is equally important to resist the notion that everything of
social value, cultural relevance, and economic utility can be channeled
through the Internet. While new technology may provide access to uncensored
information, this should not distract us from more significant indicators
of democracy and democratization, such as freedom of association, political
pluralism, judicial reforms, and the tolerance of social movements. As
others have argued, technology is not neutral: The Internet may allow for
uncensored exchanges (as in Zapnet's assertion that "information wants
to be free") but it may just as easily create new possibilities for surveillance
and sabotage (as in the CIA's current development of "information warfare").
The Internet is far from being the free and open exchange that the advertisers
and other enthusiasts claim. In terms of both content and accessibility
it reflects the same inequalities of race, class, gender, and the global
order which exist in the "real world."

Technology alone cannot transform social relations, cannot solve our problems
of environmental degradation, authoritarianism, and inequality. Indeed,
it seems just as likely of exacerbating them. The paradox of the Internet
is that it creates opportunities for global resistance to power at the
same time that it hastens economic and political globalization and exclusion.
A street vendor's life chances cannot be transformed by new technology
if she has no license to operate, no formal education, no telephone in
her home, few services in her neighborhood; the expansion of the Internet
in the `fractured global order' is making us more integrated, but it is
doing little to narrow existing inequalities.




'For example, Network MCI's recent TV ad exclaims that, "There are no races.
There are no genders. There is no age. There are no infirmities. There
are only minds. Utopia?" someone asks. "No, the Internet."

2The best examples of development schemes based on the ideology of integration
are the World Bank efforts at Integrated Rural Development and Integrated
Urban Development of the early 1970s.

3Adams (1996:4) argues that marketing via the Web will become increasingly
dominated by large companies because of the high cost of building and maintaining
effective Web sites.

`This points to one of the intriguing problems of the World Wide Web, especially
for those who wish to conduct a critical "Web-astext" reading. While the
Internet may allow for underprivileged groups to voice their resistance
in an autonomous, and therefore safer, form, it also allows people to publish
documents as "Colombians" or "Latinos," thereby claiming to speak for many
while they may only be voicing the perspective of a few. Many of the sites
linked by LatinoNet are unattributable to a specific source, and therefore
difficult to evaluate in terms of interests, class perspective, and so

'A "backbone" is a high speed data highway that allows networks to connect
to other networks around the world.

6Similar evidence is provided by a study at the Tomas Rivera Center, cited
in the March 1996 issue of Hispanic magazine, which reported that, "Only
18 percent of middle-income Hispanics had computers compared with 27.4
percent of non-Hispanics" (p. 30).

'For a list of Internet terms in several languages, see World Wide Language
Institute 1996.

8The consequences for native languages are even more troubling. This was
recently demonstrated by the RCP's attempt to provide some of its on-line
information in Quechua. What resulted was a confusing

mix of Quechua, Spanish, and English vocabulary and syntax. For example,
one icon had the caption, "Clickta kaypi iit'iy Peru Home Pageman Kutinay
Kipah" ("Click here to return to Peru Home Page").

9Belejack (1996:15) cites a study of the RCP which found that the typical
RCP individual member is "male, university-educated, 20 years old and resides
in the high-income district of Lima."

10Many authors have stressed the importance of social movements as indicators
of broadening political participation and informal democracy.

"For a more complete list of Chiapas-related sites, see Cleaver's "Zapatistas
in Cyberspace" (1997).

2I am indebted to Rae Anne Lafrenz, a student in my Latin American Cultures
course (fall 1996), whose excellent paper on Zapnet alerted me to the Web

'3This call to arms was inspired by a Rand Corporation article of the same
name (Arquilla and Ronfeldt 1993). "Age is another important factor in
the access gap. Again, this is already apparent in the Unites States, where,
"Six percent of Americans who are 18 to 29 years old access the World Wide
Web, compared to only one percent of those over 50" (Adams 1996:1). "EOn
censorship and the Internet, see also Adams 1996:6.

Margaret Everett is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Portland State
University. The author wishes to thank Ray Sadler, Shawn Smallman, and
the anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier drafts of the article.
The author also wishes to thank Marc Edelman and Gary Elbow for their insights
and suggestions on sources as this project began.

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.
Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

=============================== End of Document ================================

Margaret Everett
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
Portland State University
Portland, OR 97207-0751
(503) 725-3319




13 de agosto de 1998

Hotel El Salvador, San Salvador, El Salvador


Los Infocentros Comunitarios, conocidos también como "Telecentros" o "Cabinas Públicas", han surgido durante los últimos años en muchos países en desarrollo como alternativa de acceso compartido a la comunicación y servicios de información, sobre todo en municipios y áreas rurales. En la práctica, demuestran cómo el acceso oportuno a información relevante para la actividad productiva y social puede reducir los costos de transacción, mejorar la competitividad, fortalecer las comunicaciones con el mundo externo, y elevar los niveles de educación y bienestar de la población local.

El Infocentro es un centro local de conectividad que proporciona acceso a servicios de información, diversos tipos de comunicaciones, educación y capacitación a distancia, insumos y mercados, fortalecimiento empresarial, etc. Los servicios más comunes que ofrece un telecentro son: teléfono, fax, correo electrónico, acceso al Internet y fotocopiado. También puede llegar a ofrecer capacitación, espacio para reuniones, videoconferencias, y la producción de contenidos de información para vender.

El Infocentro nace en base a una demanda identificada de información y servicios. Algunos ejemplos de necesidades locales son:

* mercados y proveedores nacionales e internacionales para productores locales
* capacitación puntual e información sobre técnicas de producción
* educación a distancia a todo nivel
* información médica, apoyo en diagnósticos y recetas médicas
* información sobre tecnologías apropiadas
* experiencias de gestión ambiental, administración local
* comunicación con emigrantes para fines personales y productivos

El taller del 13 de agosto pretende explorar la posibilidad de crear Infocentros en El Salvador en base a la demanda local y la expertise y experiencia de otros países similares.

Ponentes Invitados:

José Soriano, Red Científica Peruana

La Red Científica Peruana representa la experiencia más exitosa de América Latina en cuanto al uso de la conectividad para el desarrollo económico y social. Con centenares de "Cabinas Públicas Internet" en operación a través del territorio peruano, la RCP ha logrado convertir el Internet y la comunicación electrónica en herramientas de información accesibles a las mayorías. Las Cabinas RCP combinan la conectividad del Internet, teléfono, fax, correo electrónico, radio comunitaria y víperes con la producción de contenidos electrónicos relevantes para las necesidades de desarrollo de los peruanos. El Ing. Soriano transmitirá su experiencia como fundador y gerente de RCP.

Scott Robinson, Red de Información Rural de México

La Red de Información Rural, junto con el Sistema de Información Rural para el Desarrollo Sostenible, ha instalado una serie de infocentros en las comunidades rurales del sur del Distrito Federal y en el estado de Michoacán. El enfoque de los infocentros ha sido de proporcionar acceso a información oportuna y relevante a la población rural mexicana, y a la vez fomentar mayor transparencia gubernamental al promover la producción de estos contenidos por parte de todas las dependencias del Estado federal y local. El Dr. Robinson transmitirá su experiencia en la creación de alianzas locales, la capacitación de agricultores y la promoción de un papel activo por parte de las instancias de gobierno.

Introducción: Conectándonos al Futuro y la Sociedad de Aprendizaje

Presentaciones Audiovisuales sobre Infocentros en Perú y México
Presentaciones breves sobre el aprendizaje en El Salvador
Preguntas y respuestas

Problemáticas Específicas en la Construcción de Infocentros:

* Conectividad
* Contenidos
* Capacitación
* Sostenibilidad Económica

Mesas de Trabajo para profundizar en los distintos temas


Dirigido a:

* Gobiernos locales; representantes de ministerios de gobierno; empresarios, productores y sus asociaciones; artistas; representaciones locales de ONGs nacionales e internacionales de desarrollo; estudiantes y maestros.
* Profesionales de la información, informática y telemática.
* Proveedores de equipo de computación y servicios de conectividad.
* Representantes a nivel nacional de gobierno, gremios de la empresa privada, ONGs nacionales e internacionales.

Cabinas para navegar Internet, ¡como las telefónicas!

* La mayor operadora de Internet en Perú negocia una alianza con la italiana
* Telecom y un grupo de bancos, para expandirse por Latinoamérica con una inversión de $440 millones, dijo un ejecutivo.

Marco Aquino
“Podría formarse una alianza tripartita en la cual nosotros no perderíamos la gerencia”, señaló José Soriano, gerente general de la Red Científica Peruana (RCP), una firma emergente que tiene poco más de la mitad del mercado de correo electrónico de Perú.

Indicó que la alianza con la italiana Telecom y el consorcio de bancos europeos WorldTel está al “borde de una decisión” y se negocia la participación del grupo.

Precisó que Telecom planea invertir en la alianza estratégica unos $400 millones, en menos de dos años, para interconectar la región con fibra óptica e instalar “cabinas públicas” a escala nacional y latinoamericana.

Las cabinas permitirán “navegar por Internet” a menor precio a personas que no tienen en su casa una computadora debido a su alto costo en la región.

En Perú ya operan 250 “cabinas públicas”, cada una con 20 computadoras, donde se puede acceder a Internet hasta por $15 al mes frente a los $19 promedio que paga un usuario con ordenador en su casa.

“Del monto total, para cubrir Perú con fibra óptica Telecom invertiría $70 millones”, agregó Soriano.
Afirmó que WorldTel, por su parte, tiene planeado invertir $43 millones en unos 18 meses para expandir las “cabinas públicas” de correo electrónico por todo este país.

“Además WorldTel quiere exportar como negocio este modelo peruano a América Latina y al mundo”, indicó.

Aseguró que si se forma la alianza, la nueva compañía “seguramente tendrá que cotizar no sólo en el mercado local sino también en la bolsa de Nueva York”.

Soriano señaló que actualmente la red local ha exportado el modelo de cabinas públicas a El Salvador, donde el gobierno de ese país la ejecuta con una inversión de $12 millones.
“También tenemos pedidos de los gobiernos de Chile, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Honduras, la India y dos países africanos para ejecutar el proyecto de cabinas", dijo.

Indicó que el espíritu del proyecto tiene que ver con la realidad de Latinoamérica, con un escaso número de líneas telefónicas y computadoras frente a países desarrollados.

Por ejemplo, en Perú hay 1,9 millones de teléfonos instalados y apenas 450.000 computadoras para 25 millones de personas, mientras en Estados Unidos el 97 por ciento de su población tiene teléfono y el 43 por ciento una computadora en su casa, manifestó el ejecutivo.

Internet for everyone

Yolanda Maloney

Full-text Paper

There are advantages and disadvantages to the Internet for everyone, and its impact on population in the Third World is uncertain. This paper compares the proliferation of Internet use in the United States and Chile. The nations in less developed countries could profit from access to the Internet, since users no longer need to be "techies" with interfaces like Mosaic, and now Netscape. However, there are also the considerations of elitist disparities and barriers to access (e.g. cost, language, demographics, geography, political opposition).

While there are 236 countries connected to international networks1 of one kind or another, the developing countries in Latin America are underrepresented. The wealthier ABC countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile - and Mexico have the most networks, but the numbers just don’t compare with the industrialized nations. Puerto Rico and Mexico are the only Spanish-speaking territory and country, respectively, that had initial connections in 1989, which is roughly about the same time that industrialized nations had theirs. Most of the Latin American countries have been connected to the Internet since 1990 (Uruguay connected its one network last year), many funded by the Organization of American States and U.S. National Science Foundation.2

As in the US, it was the military in Chile that brought together the technology to make networking possible. (Incidently, it was the US National Science Foundation and NASA that helped create the telecommunications backbone that now supports Internet connections. NASA was interested in sending data from its Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in northern Chile, which was also funded by the NSF and which is apparently the perfect site to study Magellanic Clouds. In 1987 NASA donated time on the networks supporting the observatory to a project linking three Santiago universities in Chile’s first network.)

Since going online, Chile has not experienced the growth that networked information has undergone in the United States. The academic science community was the first and still is the primary user group. Unlike the United States, private access is very rare. Until the middle of 1994 the public had yet to be convinced of the benefits of networked information and of the Internet in particular. In Chile there are roughly 1,100 users, and is increasing at about one hundred percent per year. According to Patricia Mamana, an executive from Red De Computadores S. A., an Internet consortium of three universities, as more information about Internet becomes available and more computer-trained people gain access to leadership positions in business, more people and more networks are expected to be connected to the Internet. It has been just since October 1994, when information about it started to appear in television and magazines, that people started to buy into the system, doubling the number of users in that short space of time. The Chilean public is just coming to understand that the Internet is not just a place to find games or to send messages to people residing abroad.

One of the reasons for Chile’s lagging behind the U.S. in the number of private users might be found in the fact the main Internet hosts are still at the universities.3 Although the universities are seen as the seat of knowledge and technology, General Pinochet did away with all the humanist disciplines, and allowed to remain only the hard sciences and those disciplines which would provide the country with expertise or products that could be sold abroad; today business and science still predominate. Perhaps having more of a mix between scientists and liberal arts people early on could have made a difference in drawing public interest to the Network. But oddly enough, even the agricultural researchers who were greatly encouraged to use the networks are barely using the Internet.

Stephen Ruth and Raul Gouet, in a 1993 article in the magazine Internet Research, compare the networking activity in Chile and the Czech Republic.4 The countries have similar data communications capacity, population, and GNP. However, the authors say that in a given year the Czech Republic will reach three times the traffic volume and user registration that Chile had. As of April of this year, Chile had 103 host computers connected and the Czechs 459. The article advances no theories as to why the Czechs have more network use than Chile. The two are comparable since both countries were emerging from brutal dictatorships when the networks became available, and both have populations of about 14 million with similar disciplines represented in their universities. What circumstances might account for this disparity? Is technology transfer different from the US to South America than from the US to Eastern Europe? Even more pertinent is the case of Argentina, which experienced a growth of over 400 percent going from 248 host computers to 1,287 in October of 1994. This can only partly be explained by the fact that the actual physical link, the Internet node, is located in Buenos Aires.

By today’s standards electronic communication via computer networks is a cost effective, efficient way to communicate with the world; easier information dissemination and exchange could help the developing countries in Latin America be not only consumers of information but producers as well. In the case of Chile all the basics are in place: the infrastructure and educated population, activity in telecommunications, and hardware and software savvy. Meanwhile, there are four Internet providers in Chile whose cost to the user varies: one charges $50 a month, with a limiting volume of ten megabytes, another charges $45 per month for a volume up to five megabytes.5 However, networking in developing countries runs up against multiple obstacles ranging from telecommunication costs and lack of adequate technical support to regulatory restrictions, political instability and public mistrust.

Although forty percent of the Internet is located outside of the United States, it is only the most developed countries, the industrialized countries, that have the most thorough and sophisticated access. Full Internet connection for a country is very expensive - without going into tedious detail , the basic connection needs a high-speed link running on a lease line or satellite link. Telecommunication costs can be four to eight times what it costs in the United States. For example, to connect on a dedicated, high-speed line in the U.S., it costs $2,000 per month, while in Peru the cost is $8,000 to $14,000 and Cuba’s cost is $16,000 because due to the US embargo, its signals have to go through Canada. The cost of the equipment can be up to$25,000 (for routers, servers, etc) and the cost of installation and training added to the cost of support and maintenance can become unsustainable.

However, the most basic levels of connection do not require expensive use of an Internet node; UUCP (Unix to Unix coPy) and FIDONET can be broadly installed since both are low cost technologies with effective capabilities for email and ftp (file transfer protocol). In fact, the so-called ABC countries: Argentina, Brazil and Chile, all have several each of BITNET, UUCP, and FIDONET sites as well as IP (Internet Protocol) Internet links.6

Training becomes even more important in Latin American countries when the language barrier is considered; not only is most of the information in English (the books in the Gutenberg project, the library catalogs), but also the Unix commands and the computer manuals are in English. There is a man in Peru who says that Latin America needs an indigenous network; he has a project to create an all-Spanish network bypassing the U.S.

Government controls vary in Latin American countries; in Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, the government through the institutions of higher learning, have controlled what is on the Internet and in some cases laws have been passed to keep the Internet free from "undesirable content" - nothing so extreme as in Singapore, which keeps rigid control - but censorship of sorts and control of public access.

Latin Americans fear that the new technologies will be used as a tool of repression in the hands of the government, and in Chile as elsewhere, the fear has some basis in history For 17 years the Pinochet regime relentlessly persecuted journalists and other citizens who published news critical of the government. There is considerable precedent for people being harshly punished for open expression of opinion.

Another consideration that weighs heavily on the minds of Latin Americans and North Americans alike is access for profit versus a non-profit system; the fear is that big American companies like ITT or MCI will take over the Internet and will charge for access, and the business part of the Internet will grow and take over the research, academic, and non-profit side. The groups most concerned with this issue are the non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) who depend heavily on free access to the Internet to keep in contact with their people in the field and with other NG’s. Brazil and Chile each have more than 5,000 of these institutions connected by networks to institutes and universities such as GEONET, ENVIRONET, and PEACENET.

Chile is long, narrow and centralized. In spite of many efforts, decentralization has not been accomplished, but the geographical difficulties which made it impossible to lay cables from Tierra del Fuego to Valparaiso are obviated today by fiber optic technology with no less than three companies vying for the privilege of laying down submarine cables.

In Chile information is housed solely at the universities, which restricts access to the public. It is still very difficult to find information (especially if the patron does not belong to the elite) and to find current information is virtually impossible. Owners of small businesses in the chemical industry are still working with patents from 1916. The phenomenon of the new information technologies is now making current data available to the university elite, but the smaller enterprises and ordinary citizens are in real danger of becoming information-poor in top of their other handicaps.

Perhaps Chile would benefit by adopting another country’s system, for example France, which developed the highly successful public access Minitel and distributed it free to homes, stores, and post offices throughout France. Some features of the French Minitel system are the provision of inexpensive services, user-friendly screens, simplified hierarchies, and accessible sites. This is probably a pipe dream for Chile, because the country does not have the resources that an implementation of such a system would demand. Furthermore, the Chilean culture dislikes communication via machines. Unlike Americans who can do without talking to a human, Chileans - for all the frustrations of standing in lines - are reluctant to let go of the socially-enriching contact which would be lost in a machine.

The situation of public access in Latin America is best exemplified by Jose Soriano, who in 1994, connected the first computer network to the NSF backbone in his native country, Peru. Peru’s Internet services attracted 8,000 members and is among the fastest-growing Internet providers. The Peruvian success could be extended to the rest of Latin America by linking all of the Latin American countries via satellite on an all-Spanish network embedded in the culture, economy, and politics of Latin America and bypassing the United States. The chance for economic survival and the information revolution are going to be their databases.


1. NASFNET Networks by Country. April 01, 1995. Available by

2. The map shows the countries while the text shows connections: United States, Canada, and Germany were connected in 1988; NSFNET Networks by Country as of 01 April 1995. Available by

3. The map shows the position of the universities and the relative position of the two observatories: one American and one European. Presently in Chile there are three of these national networks connected to the Internet: CONICYT, REUNA and RDC S.A. CONICYT is the National Commission for Science and Technology; (governmental) it has about 80 networks and more than 500 clients covering 4,345 kilometers. It is CONICYT’s role to implement a national information network to support scientific and technological activity by establishing infrastructure for communication between researchers at the national and international level by expediting the access to available scientific information both in the country and abroad. In 1992, CONICYT agreed to be part of an association formed by 19 Chilean institutions of higher learning to cooperatively manage REUNA, which resulted in REUNA the national university network (Red Universitaria Nacional) being integrated into Internet through a high-speed channel. CONICYT’s programs and services have been available since 1993 through the server at REUNA. REUNA, helped at inception in 1987 by funding from the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has paid since 1992 for satellite connections to SURAnet, one of the fastest on-ramp access to the Internet in South America and the only satellite that carries only data in Chile; the high-speed cable provides a speed of 516 kbps and it is expected that at the end of 1995 Chile will have a T-1 connection. The third network RED DE COMPUTADORES S.A. began in 1992 as a joint project by the University of Santiago, Catholic of Valparaiso and Catholic of Chile with the goal to establish a Chilean network; presently RDC S.A. covers the country’s capital, Santiago.

4. Stephan R. Ruth and Raul Gouet, Must Invisible College Be Invisible? An Approach to Examining Large Communities of Network Users. Internet Research (Spring 1993): 36-53.

Eric Arnum, Correlation of GNP/GDP to Number of Internet Hosts in July 1994.

5. In Chile there are 4 Internet providers:

* Chilenet (DCC U. de Chile)

* RDC: it offers access to individuals and enterprises

* REUNA: expanded phone lines providing service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

-added telephone support 7-11 M-F Sat 9-6 services chargeable to credit cards

-Charges: SLIP connection UF 2 plus IVA (one time charge) support UF 1,5 plus IVA

* Tasco: this server will offer the user an opportunity to interactively buy computer products. This provider offers:


-connections through modems of 28,800 bps or 115,200 bps (compression)

-access to CD-ROMS so the user does not need to use servers abroad

6. Larry Landweber, International Connectivity Version 13 - February 15, 1995.

Bolivia has only UUCP and FIDONET; Columbia has less than five BITNET, Internet and less than five UUCP; Costa Rica has Internet and modest UUCP and FIDONET connections; Ecuador and Nicaragua have Internet connections and less that five UUCP sites; Mexico has more than five BITNET sites, IP Internet connections, less than five UUCP sites, and more than five FIDONET sites; Paraguay has less than five UUCP sites no IP Internet connectivity while Peru has Internet connections, more than five UUCP sites and less than five FIDONET sites; Puerto Rico has less than five BITNET sites but plenty of IP Internet connections and UUCP and FIDONET sites, Uruguay and Venezuela both have IP Internet access, more than five UUCP, and more than five FIDONET sites. Note that the U.S. has the full range of BITNET, IP Internet, UUCP, and FIDONET and ISO sites while Cuba has only UUCP sites; Nicaragua has less than five UUCP sites.


Focus Session Report
Education and Awareness


"The next Internet dot coms are going to be in education. Get in the business, do it now. We started out as an ISP in 1991. Today, 52% of our income from community centres/internet access booths comes from education and training programmes."
Jose Soriano, RCP Peru



Four types of training are needed to build e-trade competency:

* High End Training for ITspecialists. (Example: Software engineering)
* Mid and Low End Training for employees. (Example: Web-enabled services)
* E-literacy for the general public. (Example: cybercafes)
* E-management for senior managers in export-related business and government. (Example: conferences to shape strategic vision about how technology can be used to achieve key business goals)


Communities have core competences that they must concentrate upon. This is the only thing that gives them a competitive edge in a knowledge-based world. (Without local content and training, there will be nothing to talk about internationally. The key is to exchange information between local networks.)


Today, rapid changes in society are being driven far more by technology than by anything else. More than 1 billion web pages exist, with 3 million more added each day. There are two different, though linked, phenomena: technological developments themselves, and the explosion of information and data available via the Internet.

Educational systems are unprepared for technology. We need to rethink what we teach (contents) and how we teach it (methodology) and create new paradigms.

For example, there is an explosion in demand for skilled technical workers. But rather than train people to be certified for specific products, train them to understand the underlying concepts at a deeper level. Do they learn about database concepts, or specific database packages like Oracle?

Change is happening so fast that we need to teach people how to think and how to learn, rather than concentrate on training that will become quickly outdated.

Information cannot be transferred in traditional channels anymore because there is no time to reflect on it. What we need to do instead is share knowledge through linked communities. We need to build networks and tap into them as we need them. Then complementary networks link between each other.


* Education systems need to move away from book-based provision of information.

Who has learned about Internet through a book? Most of us learned from each other and by working directly on the computer.

* On the job training

As Mr. Ricupero of UNCTAD said in the opening session of this Executive Forum, the IT revolution is the biggest one since the invention of the Gutenberg press. However, most education systems are still based on books... Perhaps we need to return to an earlier model, that of the Middle Ages, to encourage a greater emphasis upon apprenticeships and on-the-job training.

* Learning at your own pace, with your own style.

The Internet allows educators to train students in a tailor-made fashion, rather than with curricula in which everyone must move at the same pace, and with the same methods and styles.

* Alternative learning systems, community based systems.

The amount of available information is growing faster than can be digested. But we don't need to digest it all. We need to be selective, by tapping into networks to access knowledge and information as we need it, in a focused manner.

* Re-examine training policies in universities.

Some students in universities are studying IT related materials and have never seen satellite dishes, routers or computers. You need to touch it to understand it.

* Teachers need to be co-learners and facilitators, not masters.

We need to move away from formal channels of knowledge. In today's world, children are often teaching parents computer literacy skills.

* Build technological fluency.

And start young. Technological fluency can be learned like a language, naturally, with products that help children build computer literacy.


Governments manage and run the education system. But governments do not have the resources to single-handedly invest in the changes we need. Education needs to open up to the private sector to get these changes. This means we need to re-examine things like:

* Role of educational institutes of major IT corporations
* Role of ISPs and community centres/Internet kiosks
* Sharing of costs of education between government and private sector.

Internet access in Uruguay

Uruguayan APC Member takes on the telecomms Big Boys with Latin American flavoured Internet Strategy

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- Chasque, APC member in Uruguay, plans to open up Internet access in Uruguay by providing telecentres throughout the country’s interior; less lucrative territory which until now ignored by larger scale Internet access providers in Uruguay in favour of the lucrative capital, Montevideo.

With their new partners, the Red Científica Peruana, a commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP) from Peru, which maintains the ‘non-profit’ ideals of its origins despite capturing 50% of the Peruvian ISP market share through popularizing telecentres, Chasque is planning to take on the large telecommunications companies in Uruguay and build a uniquely Latin American Internet ISP marketing strategy at the same time.

For More Information

Interview with Magela Sigillito of Chasque, Jose Soriano of the Red Científica Peruana, Carlos Afonso (Brazil) and Roberto Bissio (ITeM) in Spanish:


Global_Net Principles




By Daniel Pimienta, REDALC Project Director, Union Latina, Santo-Domingo, e-mail: dpimient!pimienta!


The article presents the synthesis of a part of years of personal and team activities. Several people have participated directly or indirectly in the conceptualizing of the ideas produced by the REDALC Project. Jose Soriano, actual Manager of the Red Cientifica Peruana have more specifically contribute to the thematic expressed in this paper.


The paper presents a structured set of guidelines to help starting and operating research networks in developing countries. The proposed methodology is the result of a combination of studies and field experiences in Latin America since 1989 [REDALC Project]. The introduction identifies the key factors for the success of research network creation in developed countries. A comparison is made on the respective industrial and developing countries environments which calls for a different approach. A summary list of the activities linked to network building and operation is shown which demonstrates the bulk of activities is more in managerial tasks than in technical one's. A hierarchical approach for problem solving is described, from politic, to organizational, to financial and, last, technical types. The different levels are described and to each it is associated a set of guidelines. Finally, some success prone ingredients are presented.

KEY WORDS: Research networks, developing countries, Latin America and Caribbean, methodology, guidelines.


The traditional success story for network creation have proven the unbeatable superiority of the bottom-up approach for the network building process. The putting in place of an initial kernel of users have always been followed by the emergence of a nation-wide network. The mechanisms which allow the growth from this basis have usually been considered as an inherent part of the environment.

A slight detail, among others, makes the method not necessarily transportable from industrial countries, where it have demonstrated its validity, to the developing countries.


If one analyzes the factors of the growth of the EARN/BITNET model, he will discover, from the bottom to the top, the presence of this efficient tool:

-the money invested by large computer manufacturers to offer the first years telecommunication costs and telematic equipments,

-the money invested by the governments to keep on paying part of the telecommunication infrastructure,

-the money collected from subscriptions by the research institutions,

-and maybe, tomorrow, more money by the last group to pay the bill of transport networks becoming less subsidized... Money was of course not enough. Some other factors were keys to the success.


-the existence of good national telecommunication infrastructures,

-the high level of organization and management of the research institutions [mainly the universities],

-their capacity for negotiation in front of the computer industry,

-the existence of pioneers who were able to manage the idea, create the condition of the network emergence, make it happen and keep the effort ongoing.

All that process have created a wide consensus among networkers about the validity of the "pragmatic", "realistic", bottom-up approach against the "planned", "theoretical" top-down approach.

The network architects could have been more inclined, by their profession skills, towards the second approach. However, they were put in the situation of being always in advance compared to the standard authorities, thus encouraged to build on the path and maintained an "advance technology" type of attitude.

The only low rated points of the research networking emergence are the natural consequence of a technology driven situation:

-lack of standardization,

-low involvement of the end users,

-few global efforts for structuring the application level.


It is not the point here to argue against the obvious validity of the historical approach. However, although we are part of the consensus on that very point, we do want to warn the reader about the illusion of projecting that truth, very specific to the industrial world, to a quite different environment: the developing countries.

On one hand, the lack of money may prevent the "growth mechanism" makes a start-up realization evolve naturally toward a national solution. On the other hand, beside money, and beside the time elapsed since the beginning of the application of the technology [should necessarily the new networks be built the same way as 10 years ago?], there are other good reasons why one should think differently in term of solutions. We will show them hereafter.

In counterpart, the experience of the emergence of research networks in developing countries should not leave indifferent the networkers of the first world: although they believe their concern is now on fat pipes and "applications" [in the OSI sense of the term], they may have to learn something, for their own future, from the experiences conducted in developing countries!

Indeed, the signals are clearly appearing of the coming of the time where research networks will evolve to a market driven growth pattern, and hence, situations where the managing power and the budget expenses will drastically switch from networking infrastructures toward end-users considerations [training, support, interfaces, user's applications]. This is why the experiences and considerations of the emergence of network in developing countries may be of special interest for the industrial countries. It may teach something about that key transformation which concern the whole world.


This paper aims to identify a set of factors which argues, to a more balanced approach in developing countries: something which merge the best of the top-down and of the bottom-up approach, something which design is specifically based on the characteristics of this different environment.

And to keep "pragmatism" as a healthy premise to network activities, we present a methodological tool which is applicable in the field, and which have been successfully applied already in two concrete cases [Peru and Dominican Republic].


The proposed methodology is the result of a set of in-depth studies conducted, since 1988, by the author, his team and his Latina y Caribe] is a project from Union Latina, a Governmental Organization aiming at the defense of Latin language and culture, looking for a steady, regional and comprehensive solution for research networks. The study was first conducted from Europe in 1988 and 1989. Then an EEC funding was obtained in 1990 to conduct a 2 years feasibility study in the field. In mid-1991, Unesco [PGI and CRESALC branches] joins the feasibility study to address more specifically the information network content aspects. ACAL [Academia de Ciencia de America Latina] participated in the Unesco studies. Some other related studies or activities are also conducted by the REDALC team of Union Latina: a research network impact study in French West Indies, the coordination of a "listserv" informing about regional networking activities [REDALC@FRMOP11.BITNET], the coordination of the development of a state of the art, PC-based, multi-lingual, network type independent, interface [MULBRI], and last, but not least, a central participation in the launch of two national networks so far [Peru and Dominican Republic].

All this process have made involved the concept of the Latin American network since 1988, from a simple EARN projection to the region, toward something more specific and appropriate to the economical and structural reality of the region [REDALC model].

The paper, which uses the spirit of the results collected by some of the studies, is directly derived from the diagnostics made in Latin America.

We tend to believe that a large part of the experience is applicable in other regions. Readers have to check if the conditions in other regions [Africa, Asia, Middle-East, Eastern Europe] are similar so that the methodology is applicable.



We gather hereafter a set of facts which we consider very significative in giving the readers a close idea of the figures involved in building research networks.

-EARN take-off was obtained between 1985 and 1987 thanks to an IBM grant for the support of international telecommunication costs, of an order of magnitude of 10 millions of US $. Note, on the way, this interesting economical fact: the research networks have allowed a large and indirect transfer of money from the computer private industry to the telecommunication national public operators!

-National networks require yearly operational budgets of the order of magnitude of the million of US $, where the main part is directed toward telecommunication cost. So far, telecommunication is the largely predominant part of the visible side of the [basically manpower and resources given free by universities] is spent in user support, hardware, programming services, local administration and national telecommunication. Yet, the largest part of the "real budget" is used to pay telecommunication cost [guess estimate between 60 and 70%]. However, the amount [and quality] of free-ware produced on behalf networking, is something worth noticing and if one could evaluate on a price basis we could be surprised by the economical importance.

-Brazil current network level [which serves less than 20% of the potential users] is strongly supported by the State of Sao Paulo which pays a yearly bill of few millions of US $.

-One of the first experiments of EARN in Africa was conducted in Ivory Coast. The level of investment for having few users gaining access was in few thousands of US $ [order of magnitude of 10,000 US$ investment per user].

-The ratio researcher population vs national population is, depending of the countries, measured in a figure between 1 and 10 for 1000 in the industrial world, let's say 10 times higher as the same figure in the developing countries.

-The Science and Technology population for France is around 200,000 persons. The same population for all Latin America and the Caribbean is also estimated at 200,000 [with much loose criterions].

-The monthly salary for a teacher in Latin America averages 150 US$.

-The salary for researchers in Latin America may in some case reach the industrial world pattern of few thousands of US $, but the bulk of the monthly salary distribution is in few hundred of US$.

-The building of the Porto Rico research network consumes a budget of the size of 20 Million of US $ [the result is a state of the art network, with multi-protocol support, full optical fiber at T1 speed between campuses, where terminals, with remote logon facility at fraction of second response time, are spread over the various campuses of several universities].

-Twenty millions of US $ is sufficient to build a Latin America proprietary regional backbone. The figure is obtained assuming a satellite transponder provided by the region as counterpart to an International Agency investment in terrestrial equipments and costs of technology transfer. The existence of such backbone will allow the decrease of the telecommunication operational yearly operational costs of an order of magnitude, says few hundreds of thousand US$.

Note: the fact the two figures are presented sequentially is not the result of a mere coincidence! That comparison says it all island of 4 millions habitants have built a state of the art research network for its 4000 research networks users [a 5,000 US$ investment per user]. With twenty millions the whole region could reach the level of basic services for its 200,000 potential users [100 US$ investment per user]. Of course, it would be unfair not to say that the first budget includes every thing from the terminal to the optical fiber, and that the second concentrates only in the backbone infrastructure and implementation costs. But anyway, it is important to identify that this is the amount of money required by the region to definitively solve the problem of generalized affordable research networking.


Hereafter are gathered a set of facts which are an obvious part of the research environment of industrial countries but are hardly verified in the developing countries.

-The researchers are generally and naturally part of the Academic world, where they split harmoniously their activities between teaching and researching.

-The salary level of the researchers [several thousands of US$] allows them to be full time employees of their institutions with no much incentives for looking for more jobs.

-The large majority of the Academic institutions offers appropriate characteristics in term of budget, administrative and managing skills, computer and telecommunication skills to conduct a node creation and operation.

-The market size of the academic world for computer products justifies global national marketing investments from manufacturers of hundreds thousand of US $ yearly.

-The national packet switching networks have been developed independently of the research networks.

-The Public Administration Education and/or Science and Technology budgets are such that the support of telecommunication costs for networking is rather marginal.

If is feasible to check, one by one, if these facts are also verified in specific developing countries. Of course, the result varies depending on each country, but, in average, the large majority of these facts are not verified in most developing countries.

These obvious facts are the implicit building foundation of the research networks in the developed world. Would it be wise to use the same building model in an environment so different?


A full scale national network unit cost is on the size of the million US $. How can the required money be collected?

Directly from the using Institutions? The large majority of research centers cannot afford it, and it there is a general agreement on the need for networks to be democratically and openly accessed.

From Public Administration? Of course, the Governments should participate in financing such activities prone to contribute to the global development. But it is hopeless they can support it all: their budgets are narrow and they have to complete more urgent tasks in the Education and Research domains, like, for instance, improving the alphabetization rate and completing the creation of basic education infrastructures [one of the more urgent task being to increase teacher's salary].

Is there a hope to get strong enough contributions from the computer industry? Time have changed and the marginal benefits have become thinner for that market segment! And, anyway, the expectable return of investment does not justify "no free lunch gifts" of that level of magnitude for most developing countries.

Three alternatives remain:

1] Regional Integration. Substantial scale economies could be obtained by building regional transport infrastructures in a coordinated fashion. Furthermore, regional agreements must be obtained for the suppression of taxes on national and international telecommunications used for research networks. Last but not least, dedicating channels in a regional satellite is an appropriate way to offer a regional stable and independent solution.

A lot of money have been and is still expensed by EEC to pave the ground toward European integration in term of networking, primarily with the reinforcement of the normative politic and also with the financial in joint venture on specific advance technology domains. The motivations, both political and economical, are medium term oriented.

For developing regions, integration is an immediate financial urgency.

2] Trading with Telecommunication Operators. Most of the developing countries have very recent data network infrastructures or are on their way to build them, together with the value added services. The key importance of telecommunication infrastructures for the development have not to be demonstrated any more. Developing countries cannot afford what have been the rule in the industrial world: a rather Telecommunication entities. Furthermore, it is the interest of the Telecommunication marketers to use that tiny segment market which have a huge multiplicative factor on the whole market to help solving the chicken and egg problem which prevents the arising of the telematic market. Indeed, it appears to be more cost effective to invest in offering to the research sub-market than in commercial campaigning and advertising for the whole market...

There is a crucial area of common interests between the Telecommunication market players, the world of Science and Technology and finally the whole country development areas.

3] Multilateral Cooperation is probably the only financial way to trigger the process. The international Agencies may provide the funding to fulfill the basic regional infrastructure and act as reinforcing agent for the two first factors within regional programs framework.

Of course, one could still argues [ref 8] it is easy and cheap to build a network node, and, for the telecommunication costs, no problem: the end-user can pay a bill which is one order of magnitude cheaper than international communication by more traditional means [telephone, telex, fax]. One should also accept that this model would, without doubt, conduct to a "only-who-can-pay-research network" exclusive to the minority of third world rich universities. Is that the real credo of networking? Furthermore, is it fair to have the third world researchers pay the bill their homologous of the industrial world had subsidized?


There is a common false idea resulting from the dogmatic believing toward the bottom-up magics: create a node with few users, connect it to another network and you will automatically get a network. The transformation from few users on a node toward a real national networking requires a lot of organization and engineering, and also, a lot of money!

Let's use the analogy of the hot tub and the swimming pool. You, of course, can get wet in both of them, but it is not very realistic to believe than you can offer a collective bathing service to a large community... in your personal hot tub! And if your plumber says there is no technical problem to do the transformation of your hot tub into a swimming pool, just tell him that the most delicate problem may no be the water delivery but some managing one's where he may be not skilled for, like, for instance:

-marketing the customers and their requirements in term of bathing,

-defining a billing pattern for the use of the swimming pool and

-offering swimming teachers and watching teams,

-organizing the administration and the accounting of the business,

-insuring the quality of the water, the security of the customers, and their privacy for changing clothes,

-defining a traffic pattern and hence deriving the algorithm for purification and recycling of the water,

-preparing to solve new customer requirements [towel, drinks, foods, music, sun bathing, etc.].

-and so on, and so on.

Finally, you realize that the amount of job and money necessary to transform your apartment in a public swimming pool may be such than you decide to consider professionally the problem...

This analogy does not mean to shower the intents of seeding networking by small realizations: they are necessary actions participating to the learning curve process. The point is to avoid the confusion between a 10 users mail system with a nation-wide solution!

A bad habit have been created of flagging the countries which got network access with no consideration of percentage of served users. This is a consequence of the weird solution-oriented accounting system: counting the nodes. Who really cares about the number of nodes? Product salesmen! What really matters is the number of users. The outstanding task of identifying the world accesses by country [ref 2] should evolve toward some level of user's penetration measurement. Why not distinguish at least, below 1%, below 10%, below 25%, and below and above 50%. The lack of user survey and maintained directories is not a good excuse no to do so: a best guess is better than nothing. The difference of accessing users and using users is probably more delicate, but statistical laws should apply.

The other point we want to make with the pool analogy is to struggle against the myth of the technical gurus. They are many steps to build a national research network, and the set up of the technical infrastructure, if important, is timely and money-wise predictable. Furthermore, the percentage of manpower required for a simple node connection and installation, compared with the whole task set, is rather marginal. Finally, the tasks involving organization and human relations, being much less deterministic, are more exposed to delays or failures.

Building a network have much more to do with the gathering of people under a common and structured organization scheme than installing hardwares and software!


A research network is a set of telematic services offered to a large user population. Beyond the setting of a network node connected to several users on one hand, and to other need be performed before the result should be qualified as such:

Briefly, superficially, and far from being exhaustive:

-Users base and needs identification [diagnostic, quantification, population growth pattern recognition, surveys, directories,...].

-Users federation within an associative structure [status, rules, partnerships...].

-Users awareness and diffusion strategy.

-Users training and permanent education.

-Users support [documentation, help desks, ...],

-Users and Service administration [profile management, security, confidentiality,...].

-Services Operation [connections and node supervision],

-Financial management [accounting and budget],

-Maintenance [prevention, detection, problem solving,...]

-Traffic Analysis and networks resource provisioning [telephone lines, X25 ports, international links, memory, modems,...].

Beyond the basic functions of e-mail, distribution lists, conferences, remote logon, file transfer, special attention must be paid, from the beginning, on the application level [directories, information networks, data bases].

Such a system is characterized by the quality of the service. The quality is a concept which summarize the global user perception of the services in regard with various system's components.

-System availability [in general for such networks, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week].

-System reliability [the confidence than the data does not get lost]

-Response times

-Maintenance [mean time between failure, mean time to solve a problem]

-Users interface quality [time to learn them, easiness in using them, functionality]

-Users support quality [mean time to resolve a user problem, confidence from the user to have his problem considered and fixed, clarity and efficiency of the documentation]

-quality of resource provisioning [if there is too much of them compared to the real traffic the bill is too high, if not enough it can seriously affect other quality factors as response time or availability]

-Migrability [ability to plan and conduct harmonious upgrades in answer to technology moves and traffic increase]

-System security

These quality concepts translate in complex engineering and managing requirements on the system, like for instance:


-system components duplication,

-remote maintenance procedures,

-queuing theory modeling for resource provisioning,

-telecommunication interfaces [protocols and hardware] strategy,

-least cost routing strategy,

-plan and control procedures.

Everything explained here-before is in fact generic of any computer based services offered to a large user population, and one should never forget that, as for any of such system, the fundamental objective is to serve the maximum of the potential users at an appropriate trade-off level between cost and quality.

Let's now be much more specific and show a set of rules, steps and statements which have been specially designed for the launching of networks in developing countries and experimented twice.



Learning to build and manage a network is obviously a never ended task. What we want to share hereafter is the level our team have reached based upon our studies and experiments. We know there is still a lot of work to do to improve the method and we urge the readers to share with us its reactions, critics and suggestion of improvements. Of course also, the presented rules may need to be adapted to particular circumstances or specific regional or national contexts.


We are presenting three group of elements which together we name "methodological tool".

1] PROBLEM SOLVING PRIORITY SCHEME: A logical and hierarchical grouping of the type of problems, usable as a priority scheme tool.

2] STEPS: A chronological organization of the development, a task scheduling tool.

3] OTHER INGREDIENTS: An identification of the driving patterns and the appropriate ingredients which contribute to success.


The problems should be treated with descending priorityfrom the top to the bottom of the pyramid presented hereafter.


POLITICS: What Institutional model? What areas of the civil society participate to the project? In what terms and conditions? What type of relationship with the Public Administration, the Telecommunication Operator, other regional networks?

ORGANIZATION: What form of Institution? What model of development? What model of operation?

FINANCE: How to get the money? How to expense it?

TECHNICS: What network architecture and design? What implementation choices?

The hierarchical point is based on these sometimes forgotten evidences:

-It is not very satisfactory to get a perfect technical plan if there is no money to finance it. Hardly technical arguments help to get the money for a project!

-Having the money without the appropriate organization is a risk of wasting the money without getting the result done. Next time it is going to be tougher to get the same money!

-Having the technical solution, the money to buy it, and the right organization scheme, without the political will to get across the development is probably the most frustrating situation!

This pyramid does not necessarily imply a chronological order but it does imply a priority scheme for problem solving.

Next, we present a set of guidelines, deriving from the diagnostic made, and associated with each level of the pyramid.


-Associate and federate in the same project Institutions from all the areas which host researchers: Public Universities, Private Universities, Academic Research Centers, Public Administration Research Centers and Councils, Non Gubernatorial Organizations, International Agencies.

-Manage a good trade-off for the development process, maximizing the level of independence from each group and, and, at the same time, the level of participation.

-Involve directly in the development process active researchers [future end-users] and obtain, on the way, political support from their institutions on the project and on their representativeness.

These three objectives represent together the biggest challenge of the whole process.

-Use, as a constant guideline for decision making, the regional integration factor, first at the sub regional, second at the regional level.

-Look for International Agencies and/or bilateral cooperation support in a non exclusive fashion, and manage, with independence, the federation of such contributions.

-Participate to the promotion of the national data telecommunication sector [mainly X25 networks]. Integrate representatives of this sector in the process. In counterpart, negotiate the best level of support in term of tariffs for national X25 access and international links.

-Develop cooperative relationship with the industrial sector.

-Maintain, as a side-objective, the support to the Science and Technology domain. In countries where exist official and strong structure avoid to appear as a competitive structure. In that case, develop a full integration with the Official sector. An important niche of responsibility remains where the Science and Technology Council [or other Official Institution] is a driving force for networking [for instance where it provides the technical layers]: the constitution of a networking user group which can and should orient the decisions in the direction of the users general interest. ORGANIZATION

-Get participation of the end-users in each step of the development.

-Get all the concerned Institutions at the same level in the final organization.

-Offer the same right and obligations to the Institutions coming afterward.

-Establish a consensual juridical form on non-profit making Association. For the statutes, use models from other countries and adapt them.

-Start with an informal and open step where the institutions are non officially represented by future and motivated end-users.

-Only start to formalize the juridical structure when there is a good level of consensus and a good level of participation.

-Consider user training as prioritary compared to technician training.

-Consider from the beginning the integration on the network of national information networks. Use the momentum to catalyze the building of new ones.

-Change from an "assembly" to a "committee" pattern when a sound coordination group is formed and the number of active participants is too large to maintain efficient decision making assemblies.

-Maintain global information and transparence of the coordination group activities.

-Consider the diffusion of the knowledge about networking the task of each one, and maintain openly accessible all the documents generated by the development process.

-Wehter there is a node installation phase with external support, or a Telecommunication company global offering, be organized to start technology transfer and introduce it as part of the agreement. FINANCE

-Get International Agencies or bilateral cooperation support for the development and the education.

-Get the maximum support from National Telecommunication Operators, in particular in term of X25 access and international links.

-Try as much as possible to get your internatinal traffic flow via a neighbor country.

-Get time limited free offering for commercial Scientific Data Bases from the main vendors.

-Get national industries support for operational costs.

-Get hardware gifts from vendors.

-As a rule of the thumb, it is much preferable to formulate sponsor requirements than to receive non requested donations [we all know cases of offers of hardware where the additional costs in equipment is higher than the whole bill of purchasing a complete appropriate solution].

-Other rule which better respects freedom of selection and independence is to get donation in form of contracts with a symbolic fee.

-Establish sub-regional and regional agreements for the minimization of international connection costs.

-If exist regional training structures functioning, use them.

-Keep some level of auto-financing as a sane objective, and establish an Institution subscription fee. TECHNICS

-Minimize the number of nodes. For countries where users count in few thousands try to manage a unique node model.

-Use UUCP as the more affordable entry solution. Introduce TCP-IP in the plan and stay open for OSI out-coming.

-If there is a reliable X25 network, enforce the usage to get to the node. If not, and if the telephone system is particularly on bad shape, consider a VSAT hub system as an alternative.

-At the user level, encourage the use of PC's as the natural way of accessing the node. Get the best free PC interface available.

7.1.3 STEPS

Four main steps are distinguished.


START: Whenever somebody shows the interest of research networks to some part of the research community, being at a personal or institutional level.

END: When every potential user have reached the right level of awareness. That implies this step will overlap all the other one's for quite a while!

OBJECTIVE: Get the maximum potential user awareness.

KEY WORDS: Learning curve. Awareness.

TASKS: Operations of demonstration and promotion via different type of medias. Direct contacts with key people and Institutions.

CRITICAL PATH: Maintain the motivation of the first interested people if the process is slow. Trade-off between the will to satisfy the created expectatives and the awaiting of the critical mass.

COMMENTS: Depending of the level of maturation of the country the process may stay at this level from several months to few years. It should be taken advantage of this step to build a pattern of mutual understanding with the telecommunication operators. It should be obvious to show that most of the promotional operation beneficed to them, and it is recommended to ask for punctual sponsorship during the shows [free data network use for show for example] so that to create the natural habit.


START: When there is an homogeneous, representative and motivated group of end-users ready to meet toward generic objectives.

STOP: When the critical mass of participating users is such that have appeared a coordinating steering committee and the need for task division in other committees.

OBJECTIVE: Form a user group. Get consensus inside the user group on the main objectives of the whole process.

KEY WORDS: Group meeting. Motivation. Participation. Dynamic. Federation.

TASKS: Large group meeting to get agreement in basic principles. Global diagnostic and strategy for the various components [networking efforts, telecommunication, computers, research].

CRITICAL PATH: The managing of group dynamic phenomenon in term of struggle for power, leadership or hidden interests.

COMMENTS: A well rhythmed action plan is necessary to maintain the necessary momentum. The process consist to progressively transform the unstructured levels of intention of the participating users into organized and articulated committees which very concrete objectives. Note that the nature of the proces is as much important as the results, in the sense it builds the user group dynamics.


START: When the previous one stopped, meaning sub-groups meet toward specific and coordinated objectives.

STOP: When both the User Association and the network service are launched.

OBJECTIVE: Form the user Association and the network service.

KEY WORDS: Committees. Action.

TASKS: Get a coordinated action plan. Get done all the elements for the association [statutes, logo, signatures, etc]. Prepare technical solution functioning.

CRITICAL PATHS: Maintain the participation while changing to a more hierarchical form of organization. Maintain the active transparency pattern from the steering committee to the whole group. Obtain Institutional support on a user group. Obtain the right mixture of people skills and institutions in the steering committee. Distribute the sensitization process to avoid bottleneck and negative effects on development schedules.

COMMENT: This is a no joke step! There is a lot of thing to do and the point of no return after take-off is reached. The group have to go from a spectator to an actor pattern. This is very selective: during this step are going to appear the key people able to incorporate the first board of direction of the association.


START: When the network service is ready.

STOP: When the number of active users cross the line of 10% of the potential base and a stable operating budget is in function.

OBJECTIVE: Check of the basic elements of the model and adjust parameters.

KEY WORDS: Benchmark. User training and support. Tuning parameters.

TASKS: Formalize the pending agreements. Execute systematic user training plans. Get offices. Get a workable accounting scheme. Get a systematic diffusion scheme. Get a growth plan. Enroll employees.

CRITICAL PATH: Maintain the group motivation meanwhile they are not yet provided network accesses. Link the user training and the access providing. Create new habits for user support and avoid the telephone bottleneck. Organize systematic access distribution.


START: When the network service is stabilized and the user growth reach a steady pattern..

STOP: Hopefully never...

OBJECTIVE: Maintain quality of the network services and serve additional user requirements.

TASKS: All the tasks involved in network operation.

CRITICAL PATH: The user satisfaction.


The key to the success is to maintain the cohesion and the dynamics of the group of participating people thru all the steps. Some ingredients have been identified as essential for that purpose.

A] A right trade-off between leadership and participation.

The experience have shown the need for leadership to conduct the process. The leader should be an experimented networker with an orientation toward the end-user [rather than towards technics]. It is better than the leader, who will concentrate on making happen the convergence of efforts from people of areas with different objective and interest, be clearly identified as above or aside these sectorial interests. It may be easiest to obtain from a person from an International Agency [it helps too if there is a real belonging pattern to the country] but that should not be necessary. It is required a lot of communicating enthusiasm, a good negotiating skill, and the ability to make the other participates.

Developing people participation without economic incentives is not an easy task. The success elements are the ability to make people feel they are participating to a nation-wide priority action and a permanent attitude of active transparency. The last is a very heavy objective to maintain without the use of a network! If it has to be done again, we should have opened a BBS, at the conception step, to kill two birds with one stone: provide permanent open information and start the telematic learning curve.

It is of the outmost importance to leave always the door open to other people involvement. Since all the participants offer their times on a benevolent basis, the experience shows than the level of involvement of individuals varies during the different steps of the process, the key point being that there is always a critical mass present.

B] A right trade-off between people and Institutions.

Although people are, by definition, key in the process of building a user group, institutions are the necessary foundation of the targeted result. The key people are those who manage together the end-user and the institutional points of view. They have the capability to get official representation from their Institutions when required. It should be payed attention not to leave out a complete sector because of the lack of motivated people. Finally, the success indicator is the ability to obtain Institution official support on a user based methodology. In the case of the Dominican network, the 25 Rectors, Directors or Manager of the Institutions founding the Association were asked to express formally their compromise both on the Statutes of the Association and on the name of their representative: 20 of them formally agreed upon.

C] A federative attitude implemented in the acts.

It is key to obtain, as far as possible, the identification and implication of all the persons who have an history of trying to build networks in the country and to make all the current intents join a national coordinated effort.

Experience have shown in the Latin America region a natural tendency for multiplication of national solutions and, as a consequence, some level of tensions derived from centralist attitudes.

The difference between centralistic attitude and federative is fundamental but very tricky to determine from the outside. The centralist wants to promote his/her solution as the unique solution and tends to act in order to make the competitive one's disappear. The federative wants to conglomerate the various potential solutions in a pattern of commonality, where the originality of each contribution is preserved as far as possible.

Since it is useless and endless to enter in polemics about who is really who, it is strongly recommended to maintain a coherent attitude in the action plan:

-negotiation with competitive action to try to federate efforts, -if the negotiation succeeds, do integrate [vs assimilate] the originality of the federate actions [and, of course, the people],

-if the negotiation does not succeed, maintain in the facts a cooperative and transparent attitude with competitive actions.

One should never forget that the real goal is to give access to the maximum number of satisfied users. Every solution which concourse to this objective should be treated with respect and cooperation. The competitive pattern, if sometimes difficult to understand in countries lacking resources, does provide some advantages, and at the end, the answer belongs to the users.

Each solution will eventually be measured in term of the satisfied user bases and not in term of national or international political alliances.

D] An efficient participation of national networkers residing in foreign countries having network access.

Use must be made of national researcher residing in foreign countries to support the effort, in particular for the initial use step. It is logical than new users get a bit tense on using a new communication tool. The best way to start the learning curve is the use of national cultural distribution lists involving nationals living abroad. The use will provide a natural and progressive learning mechanism and create opportunities for direct contacts. It is strongly recommended to maintain from the beginning user directories and to publish them.


This article will hopefully get obsolete in a few years time-frame when all the countries will have gain consistent user's base accessing research networks. Once this is done other challenges await the networkers to make their users satisfied: like, for instance, keep on with the technology, develop applications, maintain directories, provide good training and user support.



1. "The Matrix: Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide", J.S. Quaterman, Bedford, Digital Press, 1990.

2. "International Connectivity", L. Landweber, Internet Society News, Vol 1, Nx2, pp49-52, Spring 1992.

3. "Latin American and Caribbean, networking perspectives", D. Pimienta, Internet Society News, Vol.1, Nx1, page 8, Winter 1992.

4. "E-Mail for Developing Countries- What they never tell you about it", I. Chukwudozie Ezigbalike, Shem J. Ochuodho, presented at AITEC South Conference, Harare, Nov 1991.

5- Various papers related to research networks in "Calidad, Tecnologia y Globalizacion en la Educacion Superior Latinoamericana", UNESCO/ CRESALC, July 1992.

5.1- "Preface", G. Lopez Ospina

5.2- "Dimension tecnologica de la calidad en la educacion superior", J. F. Silvio,

5.3- "Un nuevo modelo de acceso al conocimiento", M. Cartier

5.4- "EMEREC, la comunicacion audio-scripto-visual y la telemediatica", J. Cloutier

5.5- "Calidad y tecnologia informatica en la educacion superior latinoamericana", M. Casas Armengol

5.6- "Impacto de la informatica en la educacion superior de America Latina y el Caribe", H. Castillo-Bescanza

5.7- "Integrar la comunidad academica latinoamericana: un desafio para las redes telematicas", D. Pimienta

5.8- "Nuevas tecnologias e integracion academica en America Central: experiencia de la red universitaria centroamericana de informacion cientifica (REDCSUCA), E. Richards

5.9- "La red CUNET y la integracion academica en el Caribe", R. Loran Santos, R. Perez Colon

5.10- "Uso de redes electronicas y cooperacion hemisferica en la educacion superior", S. Lanfranco

5.11- "Hacia una Universidad Global Electronica Latinoamericana", T. Utsumi

5.12- "Un modelo conceptual para el analisis del mercado potencial de servicios telematicos", P. Liendo

6- "Guidelines for a computer network interconnection of the African Countries", Unesco, IIP Program document.

7- "Special edition on information and research networks", Carta Informativa NTC/NCT, Vol VI, Nx 14, Lima, IPAL (Instituto para America Latina

8. "The South American Scientific Network: an attainable, low cost, high yield reality", S. Ruth, F. Utreras, R. P. Brescia. Interciencia, Vol.15, Nx5, Sep-Oct 1990.

9- "Main Science and Technology Indicators", OECD Publication, 1992.

10- "Statistical Yearbook", UNESCO, 1992.

11- "Encuesta para el Diagnostico de la situacion de la investigacion en America Latina y el Caribe", Academia de Ciencia de America Latina, ACAL, 1991.

12- "Vision Cuantitativa de la Eduacion Superior en America Latina y el Caribe", UNESCO/CRESALC, April 1991.

13- "Telecommunications and Economic Development", R. J. Saunders and al., Washington, World Bank.