“The illusion that technology is the magic stick to progress is actually prevalent in Mexico”
How would you define the meaning of e-Content in Brazil?
E-contents in Mexico are assuming great importance. There is a general feeling that technology can help us reduce the digital divide we find in politics, economy, education and development. However, the strong bid, like in many other developing countries, is on technology and we are not giving enough attention to the content gap that every day becomes more evident on a global scale.
It is common to find projects from the private initiative as well as the government where enormous efforts are being made in terms of technological infrastructure. But they bring poor results because they do not focus attention on the developed content.
The illusion that technology is the magic stick to progress is actually prevalent in Mexico. Mexico begins to suffer important outcomes due to the lack of quality e-contents. Nowadays it is common to see, in some low resource communities, the use of computers as paper weights, or
|“The government has used the Internet to spread its social programmes of academic regularization and fighting illiteracy”|
schools where only teachers, who sometimes don’t even know how to turn the computer on, have access to this technology. Nevertheless, a few efforts are worthy of mention and export-quality.
Which area of e-content (e-health, e-biz, e-culture, e-government, e-entertainment, e-learning, e-science, and e-inclusion) is best developed in Mexico?
E-learning has experienced important developments in private initiative through different universities, training centers and the government. The government has used the Internet to spread its social programmes of academic regularization and fighting illiteracy.
In the same way, e-government has registered significant growth with e-Mexico program. This project has been carried out not only on the Internet but also in the development and implementation of technologies for electronic government practices, and to exercise democracy.
Which sector (business, private sector, government or civil society) in Mexico?
The main developer of e-content in Mexico is definitely the government. From the educational sector, which has digitalized great part of its literacy social programs, to the bureaucratic sector, which has implemented tax payments online, the government has actively participated in the growth of e-contents. Its efforts in generating portals, websites and important projects on issues related to the government, culture, politics and social life have generated a positive response among the people.
Though private initiative is yet to pick up, private universities have played an important role — the academic courses they offer online have facilitated the constant creation of e-contents. Despite these efforts, from both private initiative and the government, the majority of e-learning projects have used the Internet as a channel of dispersion and student training through their “virtual universities.” This exercise has led to the development of platforms that control students and the option of creating textbooks online. Paper books could not take advantage of the resources technology offers to develop interactive contents of high impact. All this has generated a great number of e-contents, if I may call them that, in the university servers of Mexico that lack the important and necessary richness to contribute to bridging the content gap.
What major initiatives have influenced the development of e-content in Mexico?
The most important initiative until today in Mexico has been the e-Mexico project which has included all sectors and contributed greatly to generating awareness about the importance of using ICTs in our country. On the other hand, though it has not formally been an initiative, the development of the cell phone platform in Mexico has been the only phenomenon that has brought millions of Mexicans to high-tech. This, in turn, has favored the Mexican market of telecommunications, and there has been an enormous amount of proliferation of information and entertainment services for cellular phone users. These services, despite technological limitations, have found a market developing gradually, and without a doubt will be of strategic importance for all sectors of our country in the coming years.
What are the major bottlenecks in the path of e-content development in Mexico?
Great efforts have been put in practice by the government and the results begin to appear. But until technology solves the pending issues on the economic, social, political and cultural fronts, the development of quality e-contents will continue to be scarce in Mexico. On the other hand, the lack of technological infrastructure and high prices of connectivity, software, computers and peripherals will continue to limit access to telecommunication technologies to a privileged minority. This minority, that until today maintains a constant e-content development for a reduced sector, will continue to be limited until the infrastructure reaches the whole country, and then it will be possible to give a sustainable development of e-contents to all sectors of the country.
Today the e-content development in our country needs to respond to urgent needs that affect the majority due to a shortage of resources and production timing, translating into poor development and short lifespan.
It is important to add that our culture, inherently, does not gravitate towards technology, adding to the list of problems. There are many variables obstructing the development of e-content in Mexico, nevertheless, the efforts that were planned and developed, have generated important results that present enough alternatives to put those variables behind. No matter how big these obstacles seem, practices in Mexico have demonstrated that it is well worth the effort to develop telecommunication technologies and related content.
How would you describe the ICT scenario in Mexico in terms of infrastructure, penetration, and policies?
The infrastructure of telecommunications in Mexico is starting to be developed. Although efforts have reached most cities already, services continue to be limited to the demand, leaving areas in the big cities still unattended. Although government participation has been important in telecommunications, its action has been mainly limited to legislation.
Private initiative has played the most important role in the development of telecommunications showing an accelerated progress in the last years. Thanks to the opening of the Mexican market
|“The government has played an important role investing in computers in its offices, public schools and universities”|
in this sector, its given way to foreign investment and that competition translates into direct benefit for Mexicans.
Nowadays, you can hire practically all flavors of connection that exist in the market in the biggest cities of the world; from dial up connections of 56k to wireless Internet and microwaves. Service offers increase day by day with residential and business options that go from 128k to specialized services of T1 and data centers for high-security corporate transactions. Even though the offer is diverse, connection prices are still expensive, with users having to pay for kbps up to 5 times more than in developed countries.
The government has played an important role investing in computers in its offices, public schools and universities. The e-Mexico project has instructed even the most undeveloped communities in our country to establish community squares where computers and connection have been provisioned either by cable or satellite. At the same time, this has generated a need in the government to generate e-contents that help reduce the economical, educational, social and cultural setback of these communities.
How do you recognise the best e-content practices in your country?
For the selection of Mexico’s representatives, a project was developed for a national contest with the WSA flag culminating the execution of WSAMX. This contest was developed in 3 general steps.
1. Contest Creation
First, we had to decide on the name and the date in accordance with the WSA schedule. Unlike other countries, the selection of Mexico’s expert in January 2005 left us with only six months to complete the selection process and registration. That happened in August keeping with the dates established by the WSA.
Besides the timing, we faced an interesting challenge in our country. WSA had never come to Mexico and few would understand the significance and scale of this event. We knew we needed to build the WSA brand from scratch and bring in a sense of belonging one way or another. As our strategy, we decided to associate with the Tecnológico de Monterrey, one of the most prestigious private universities and the only one in almost every state across the nation. The university is also the first institution in the country to invest in technological infrastructure and formally generate an
|“WSA had never come to Mexico and few would understand the significance and scale of this event”|
Internet platform, given that a few years ago the NIC Mexico was directed by them because it came to Mexico through them. So strategic alliance coupled with sponsorship helped us to acquire the recognition and necessary resources to organize and publicize this e-content contest in Mexico.
In order to support the diffusion, we decided to adopt a sponsoring strategy, thereby becoming part of the private initiative ourselves. Once again, the problem we faced was the lack of awareness of the WSA. We emphasized the global importance of the event and the names of ICNM and the UN allowed us to talk about the importance of this project and create the necessary interest.
Counting on sponsors, we publicized the contest through different communication media and though it was not the ideal way to reach producers and convince them to submit their projects, it allowed us to consolidate the position of WSA in the e-content producer community and create a general awareness of this contest in Mexico.
Besides the mass media, we approached chambers and ONGs to increase this awareness, and this helped us invite their “agremiados”.
However, the part that helped the most to bring subscribers to the WSAMX was the direct invitation to sites linked with each category. A group of people, among them some of the judges, took the task of looking for e-contents and inviting the producers personally either by e-mail or telephone to submit their work.
3. Evaluations and Selection
To continue with the strategy of making the WSAMX popular, we invited eight eminent people including college deans, high-ranking government employees and executives from the private initiative. The judges were chosen for the expertise and contribution they would offer during evaluation. The selection was based on the inputs from both the judge and the local expert. Although we had more than 200 producers interested in participating in the contest, the total number of products submitted, which fulfilled all conditions and had proper documents were 52:
Regarding trends, we can say that the most important effort towards content development is Internet based. In the beginning of the 90´s there was a significant development of products destined to spread through CD-ROM. However, the lack of technological infrastructure (computers mainly) among the majority of our population caused future efforts to change direction. The government launched a project called e-Mexico with hopes of bringing the population together, but instead it led to more concentrated effort in creating and spreading products and platforms online.
To this we must add the great influence of the United States. That left a mark when the dot-com fever got caught up in a great number of failed attempts to launch into the market sites, communities and portals destined for the Latin American audience. Luckily, these influence had also set into motion the creation and training of an Internet savvy labour force. The same wisdom went into the making of e-Mexico.
Universities have played a very important role in the development of e-content in Mexico. Besides providing access to the student community, they have kept admissions to information technology majors constantly updated. However, other careers that should contribute to the creation of content are Communications, Journalism and Graphic Design, though they haven’t yet made strides in modernization, leaving an important gap. The labor force is constantly on the lookout for people who know how to use new technologies.
Electronic art has also begun to develop, drawing its inspiration from the cultural life of the country. Galleries and exhibitions import samples of what is produced in other countries, thus exposing the national artistic community to international work.
Lastly, it is important to mention that the technological infrastructure of telecommunications in Mexico until only a decade ago belonged to the government. The growth of privatization was uncertain and the Mexican legislature protected the national telecommunications from foreign competition. This slowed down the growth of technological infrastructure and delayed connectivity. Today, the possibility of Internet access is limited and broadband prices are sometimes five times more than those paid in the first world countries.