Honorable Peter Boehm
Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Canada
to the OAS
501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Ambassador Boehm,
I regret that NETO/EDSAT-Americas will be unable to participate
in the November 7, 2000 civil society meeting due to a conflict of
schedules. I will be speaking at the European Commission Conference
on "Information Society Technology", IST 2000 in Nice,
The IST conference will focus on E Learning for European Youth
and the Future. There will be many, many public, private and civil
society organization representatives looking at the question
"will everyone have a chance".
Therefore, I respectfully request this opportunity to provide
some brief overview comments on "The Community of the Americas:
Vital Connections" discussion paper, and am respectfully
submitting the Summary of my comments at the IST 2000 Conference..
The full version of the "EDSAT-Americas, Facing the Challenges
with Collective Action: Will Everyone Have a Chance"? paper can
be found on the World Wide Web: http://www.oas.org.
On the discussion paper under consideration by OAS Special
Committee on Inter-American Summits Management, my first comment is
that it is an excellent beginning on the "elements of
connectivity" and its "benefits, values and
advantages". That said, I would like to touch on two critical
areas that are not touched on or are omitted
in the discussion paper.
I would like to suggest a short section with information to raise
cautions for those considering the role of Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT). Not necessarily risks, but in a
strong public /private partnership, the disbenefits or down sides of
public spending on ICTs should be discussed. And here’s why.
ICTs do not make change. ICTs alone do not produce knowledge.
ICTs are passive, some may even say it is an "inert"
technology! It is "how" it is used
and for what purpose, the "applications"
that can bring about or cause change or information And where
governments are involved in the use of ICTs, it is frequently "who"
is making the decision that causes a change and information to
Over recent years many government officials, leaders of
institutions, and individuals have been left with unfulfilled
promises, concerns over misuse or inappropriate applications, and
frequently have been left with dashed expectations despite large
public expenditures on ICTs.
I hasten to add, these are not issues which should be raised to
slow up the integration of ICT’s. However, if these issues are
included in the outset of the technology discussions it provides a
framework, almost a road map, for barriers and benefits for the
public officials and private sector companies who have set out to
institutionalize new information and communications technologies for
human resources development. It will result in more realistic
expectations, and for the most part, policy makers can expect and
realize huge benefits and success.
My second concern is that much the same as it is troublesome to
suggest that ICTs alone will cause change, it is equally important
not to have "connectivity" grounded in a discussion which
fails to address the barriers and differences between the delivery
of E- Commerce and public services.
The expanding information gap, digital divide, or digital
apartheid, or by whatever name one wants to call it, the gap
between the have and have nots , is a good example of what can
happen when the economic model for connectivity and ICTs is
developed and designed by companies with a different mission than
public officials. Yes, the lack of "connectivity" is one
major barrier. However, a discussion paper on connectivity and ICTs,
can not leave out the "who", and anticipate
that connectivity, in and of itself, will alter the "governance",
"equity", and "cost" issues.
For example, the statement in the paper, "we must recognize
the leading role to be played by the private sector", is
misleading. The new structures for global economies, social
services, democracies, etc. must take into account that small, large
and developing countries will be strengthened with diversity, and
thrive in the information economy with "full and equal"
partnerships with the private sector, as well as other countries, by
harmonizing resources and aggregating their economic strengths. No
one sector, company, country, or institution can achieve equitable
and affordable connectivity alone, or be placed in the "leading
Multinational and national communication companies are
financially and operationally structured to operate in mass and
volume markets. Their technologies have been driving policies for
more than 30 years. What have we learned is likely to happen to
national sovereignty, culture and language in small and developing
cocuntries if it is proposed that the private sector must be in the
"lead" role? What has happened to, not only small
countries, but indigenous, ethnic and minority populations in large
and well heeled industrialized countries with the "private
sector" in the "lead" role? Isn’t that what the
digital divide is all about?
Our data and experience suggests that we must look at
"new" structures and policies when ICTs with connectivity
are proposed for education, health care and other public services.
When the international lending institutions, the private sector,
small and large countries and civil society are at the table, we
must consider a new paradigm. It must include "equal and
full" partnership and accountability for all stakeholders and
players. That is, if indeed, we hope to provide a chance for
everyone with connectivity!
Attached please find the Summary of my presentation at European
Commission IST 2000 Conference on November 7, 2000. I greatly
appreciated the opportunity to present the full text of the
presentation, which touches on many of the issues previously
discussed, upon my return.
President & CEO
EDSAT-Americas, Facing the Challenges
with Collective Action: Will Everyone Have a Chance?
Suite 300-H, 1889 F Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20006,
United States of America
The Vice President of the United States recently communicated with
the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Forum on the EDSAT-Americas
project, encouraging Ambassadors, Ministers and others "to further
explore the dream of pursuing a viable Global Information Infrastructure
(GII) initiative that builds on efforts to establish a global
information society…I encourage you to remember that this dream is not
fundamentally about developing technology…This dream is about
communication and about increasing our ability to raise our children, to
educate, to heal, to empower and to liberate. . .The reality that we
must all embrace is that our interdependence will continue to forever
influence our daily lives in many facets. Every day, government leaders
face global, regional, and domestic challenges. But whether it is on our
shores, the hemisphere or elsewhere, one thing is certain -- technology
makes the unimaginable possible."
In 1998, at the II Summit of the Americas, with the entire hemisphere
looking on – education was identified as the most urgent of issues to
be addressed. The 34 Leaders of the hemisphere were encouraged to
develop multilateral initiatives, if indeed all people of the Americas
are to realize a promise of access to basic quality education for 100%
of the children by 2010 and to include the use of new information and
communication technologies for education. The Ministers of Education
were urged to harmonize their resources in concert with the private
sector and other social agencies linked by a commitment for the larger
good – the idea that education and training will drive sustainable
development, strengthen democracy and alter inequalities.
The EDSAT-Americas/OAS/Private Sector Initiative
As a follow-up effort to the II Summit of the Americas the initiative
is a cooperative, concrete and manageable action plan to develop the
Hemisphere’s human resources to ensure that all people are given the
opportunity to contribute to the political, social and economic life of
their country, community and society; with further enhancement of the
cultural and linguistic diversity of the Americas.
It includes 13 Latin American and Caribbean Ministers’
representatives, the North and South American private sector,
educational institutions and civil society organizations in development
to promote more equitable access to and use of technology to link
education, health care and other public services. With special attention
to open and advance these opportunities for women, youth, indigenous
people and those who have been disenfranchised by illiteracy, poverty
The goal is to establish a non-government mechanism, accountable to
subscriber countries in conjunction with the private sector and
international organizations to connect, operate and manage satellite and
land-based telecommunications infrastructure for Americas’ education
and health-care institutions and other public services.
Long term benefits accrue from the rapid growth of open and
affordable telecommunications infrastructure with connectivity creating
an unprecedented opportunity for human resource development in
education, job opportunities, health care and other social development
in the Americas.
Short term benefits assure a significant, achievable and concrete
implementation report for the III Summit of the Americas in Quebec,
Canada, April, 2001. An action plan to assure access and use of
telecommunications in education by small and large countries with
commitment to inclusion and equity harmonizing their resources; to
strengthen public institutions – education and health-care, and to
empower all peoples to participate in knowledge-based economies to their
fullest potential. There is little question that the information gap
between the have and have-nots will continue to expand absent
public/private cooperative action to level the playing field
for all – to close the growing gap between the have and the have-nots.
In Latin American and Caribbean countries almost 30% of the
population is school age. Overall, more than 30% of this age group is
without schooling and teachers. A large percentage of the countries’
children drop out of school by 2nd and 3rd grade
or become ineligible for schooling beyond 7th and 8th
grades. A large number of the children living in poverty, rural areas,
and ethnic and indigenous communities have no access to school
facilities, community buildings, or qualified teachers. Women and girls
are particularly vulnerable since they are not expected to
or are not eligible to enter schooling.
In the US, despite its economic boom and fewer Americans going hungry
these days, 17% of US children, almost 12 million, face hunger. 21% of
all black persons went hungry or lived on its edge, with almost the same
number of hispanics in the same situation in 1999. A few US Native
American Indian reservations are offered limited telephone service for
the first time, some remain without telephones.
It is self evident that we need not list the benefits of education as
a tool to fight poverty and other social problems. However, it is only
in very recent years that some Latin American and Caribbean leaders made
education reform a priority. The potential for access to
technology and its information resources emboldened some Ministers of
Education and Prime Ministers to address the education reform in their
countries. However, the realities of huge national debts, weak economies
and high costs held back funding.
It is widely recognized that if we are going to even the
playing field for all countries in the Americas with small and
large populations, widely dispersed or densely populated communities,
groups of countries and states must aggregate their buying
power for cross-border and international common-infrastructure to bring
about cost-effective access and use of these technologies and respect
national sovereignty and authority.
The concept is not new. We have been encouraging multilateral
agreements in the use of electric power grids and transportation
authorities around the globe for years. To meet the education
sector demands and needs, governments, schools and the private sector,
need modern day electronic power grids governed by an authority
or mechanism to bring costs down, recognize local and national
governance and interests, encourage competition, and effectively and
swiftly bring educational institutions, - teaching and learning - into
the 21st century.
How to address the long term financial investments to provide
equitable access to education for all students and workers in the
Americas, or elsewhere on the globe, which cannot be met by one company,
one nation/state or one institution, is a key challenge.
How growth of private E-Learning networks impacts
supply and demand for access in less affluent, poor, rural, ethnic and
indigenous communities, remains an open question.
The EDSAT-Americas project addresses costs, equity, governance and
other major barriers. It addresses the incompatibility of
telecommunications industries and international lending institutions
with education demands. The report calls for collective action
with public/private partnerships to address a growing information gap
between rich and poor countries and communities.
The full version of this paper can be found on the World Wide Web: http://www.oas.org
 The US Vice President, Al Gore, writing to
participants in the Secretary General’s OAS Forum on the EDSAT-Americas
Project, September 20, 2000.
 The New York Times, "Millions Still
Going Hungry in the US", September 10, 2000.