Investments & Telecommunication’s Networks sustain Latin America’s digital economy

Cartagena, Colombia. By accelerating the digital transformation of Latin America, the region will be able to leap out of slow economic growth and it will enable driving development; that was the common conclusion of representatives of international institutions. To have such acceleration there must be regulations that permit predicting investments so as to deploy telecommunications’ networks that sustain the digital economic activities, highlighted regional telecommunications’ operators.

Latin America is a 600 million people market that will benefit from telecommunications’ infrastructure and from digitalizing the economy and productive processes.

During the panel discussion “Digital economy, investment & innovation: lessons on regulation & issuing public policy in Latin America” in the 5th Latin American Telecommunications’ Congress, Mr. Wilson Peres, Senior officer of Economic Affairs at the Latin America & the Caribbean Economic Commission (i.e. CEPAL), stated that productivity in the regions must leverage itself on digital services. The role of the private sector is fundamental because they must be protagonist.

Mr. Fernando Borjón, General director of the “Organismo Promotor de Inversiones en Telecomunicaciones” (i.e. Promtel) of Mexico, pointed out that telecommunications’ infrastructure shall be the backbone of the digital economy, and for it to be so, it is necessary to raise awareness in the municipalities, so that they understand how important it is to deploy infrastructure.

Innovation, one of the pillars of Internet

Innovation has enable Internet’s growth but there is the temptation to regulate it and, without infrastructure networks there shall not be Internet or services for users. Thus, there is need for juridical certainty and clear rules when investing or innovating. That was the warning made by representatives of the Internet stakeholders, telecommunications’ operators and social media companies.

To encourage more Internet, regulators must “enable investment, infrastructure, innovation and users”, assured Mr. Juan Carlos Archila, director of International Affairs at ‘América Móvil’, during the panel discussion “Internet & innovation in regulated environments”.

He pointed out that “there must be encouragement as well as a clear set of norms that provide certainty for investments when competing for infrastructure”, because without telecommunications’ networks there shall be no Internet, or services. Mr. Archila emphasized that infrastructure sharing by partitioning is key but it should not discourage investment.

Mr. Chris Weasler, Global Connectivity director at Facebook, warned that regulation should have clear objectives and strategy to drive connectivity.

Mr. Oscar Robles, Executive director at LACNIC, clarified that open Internet does not mean free Internet, but it does mean open to allowing solutions, applications and services to go online. “Innovation is one of the pillars for Internet development”.

ICT’s called upon to solve social problems

Information & Communication’s Technologies (ICT or ‘TIC’ in Spanish) constitute a source of leverage to comply with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. According to Mr. Daniel Quintero, Colombia’s vice-minister of Information Technologies at the ICT Ministry (i.e. MinTIC), “the ICT industry has the tools needed to solve Latin America’s social problems”.

During the panel discussion “How to be effective in materializing the Sustainable Development Goals”, moderated by Ana Blanco, Industry Purpose Campaign Strategist at GSMA, they pushed for the use of mobile technologies in order to achieve the SDGs.

Mr. Quintero Calle emphasized that thanks to Colombia’s peace process, deploying telecommunications’ infrastructure is now feasible, as well as Wi-Fi hotspots, connectivity and computers have been delivered to people in areas of former conflict, thus contributing to a greater social inclusion with health services, education, access to justice and to e-government. He was clear on stating that 30 billion dollars are still needed to close the digital gap. More political will is need among governments to speed up investments and to design pertinent regulation.

Mr. Alfonso Gómez Palacio, president of Telefónica Colombia, explained that telecom operators contribute by creating digital ecosystems that enable achieving the SDG. To that pursuit clear rules, juridical stability, enabling policies towards investment and trusting the digital environment are all needed.  

ICT Policies enable economic development

Regulations should be pertinent, efficient and effective in generating the needed investments that enable closing the digital gap in Latin America, stated Mr. Luis Fernando Mejía, Colombia’s National Planning Director of the Ministry. Sometimes the best set of regulations is the absence of regulation; one must resist the temptation of regulating incipient technologies and services or those that have not been fully deployed.

During the discussion panel “Public Policies to develop telecommunications”, he pointed out that Public Policies to develop Information and telecommunication’s technologies (ICT’s) are not just sectorial but they are also enablers for general economic development.

Colombia’s National Planning Director identified the need to redefine the regulatory framework for the industry so that it does not become a barrier to closing the digital gap. He recommended broadening the concession span terms for telecommunication contracts to 15 or 20 years, so as to guarantee return on the investment.

Mrs. Martha Suárez, Ejective director of Colombia’s National Spectrum Agency (ANE), explained that her institution plans the electromagnetic radio spectrum long term, so as to contribute to genuinely closing the digital gap.


Operators sustain the digital economy with investments

The panel discussion, “challenges in developing the digital world in Latin America” at the 5th Latin American Telecommunications’ Congress, gathered regulators and operators in the region to debate regulation and its need within the digital economy and their ecosystem.

Mr. Karim Lesina, vice president for international affairs at AT&T, suggested laws that have to adapt to a futuristic look, because it is the telecommunication’s operators who sustain the digital economy via investments.

“The industry is not just telecommunications but rather it is a digital economy. One must understand if it less or better regulations what is needed. Norms may be as dynamic as technology warrants it, but it is impossible to be ahead of technology. What the regulator should do is to understand the dynamics of the digital ecosystem”, was Mr. Germán Darío Arias’ proposal, an expert commissioner at Colombia’s ‘Comisión de Regulación de Comunicaciones (i.e. the CRC).

Mr. Rodrigo Ramírez Pino, president at Regulatel, recognized that regulators have not been up to par with the digital economy challenges.

The Adjunct director of regulatory affairs at América Móvil, Mr. Daniel Bernal explained that the active transformation of the industry currently forces telecom operators to be more aware of customer needs. He proposed an open and transparent dialogue with the regulating authority because the industry makes considerable investments.

The Global Strategy director of Public Affairs at Telefónica, Mrs. Trinidad Jiménez assured that Latin America is prepared to face the digital transformation. “Europe is not necessarily more advanced than Latin America in the digital revolution.” She emphasized that the regulator should regulate matters so that operators continue to invest.

Mr. Marcelo Cataldo, CEO at Tigo-Une Colombia, requested a stable regulatory environment with a long-term view in order to recuperate investment levels.

Conclusions CLT17

After being committed to preaching and to evangelizing the adoption of new technologies, broadband and the digital economy, Mr. Pablo Bello, Executive secretary of ASIET (i.e. ‘Asociación Interamericana de Empresas de Telecomunicaciones’), emphasized that there is no greater challenge for Latin America than to digitizing the economy and its administrative productive processes. Pushing public policies to close the digital gap and connecting the other 50% of people in the region who are not on Internet is the other challenge that must be met with leadership and with trust building. Establishing a public private dialogue is needed to tag on to the highest authorities, policies concerted with company leaders. In that manner regulations shall converge, supported on the digital ecosystem and on the future of Internet. That way they shall promote investment in infrastructure with a clear set of regulations, with juridical assurances and with predictability.


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Hashtag del evento: #CLT17

Twitter de los organizadores: @ITU @AgendaCAF  @asiet_lat  @GSMALatam  @CRCCol

Sede: Centro de Convenciones, Hotel las Américas. Cartagena, Colombia.