The development of technology and its growing massification is creating a more interconnected world and more inter-dependent societies, which is reflected in accelerated changes in economies, societies, and environmental relationships, among other areas. New technologies are filtering into all our activities, while increasing the efficiency of human resources, boosting productivity, as well as improving services, communication and interaction.
One of the main challenges that we face as a society is to ensure that everyone is able to access and use these technologies, even as we tap opportunities for the advancement of less developed and disadvantaged groups. If not, these tools may in fact increase the differences between the development levels of various societies. This challenge is referred to as the digital divide, which the World Economic Forum (2017) defines as “unequal access to information, knowledge and education through information and communication technology”. Countries in the hemisphere are mindful of this situation and are adopting measures to promote investment in technological infrastructure and to improve the populations’ capacities to access and use this technology.
The global spread of Covid-19 in 2020 triggered a series of crises that are posing an unexpected and daunting challenge for which our societies were not prepared. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of new technologies, which have played a central role in mitigating its effects, by creating the necessary conditions that allowed sectors of the economy to remain active, using virtual means. The pandemic is prompting us to place even greater value on the potential of new technologies to develop our societies, which will undoubtedly cause us to redouble efforts to expand infrastructure, build capacities and encourage the use of technology. As such, the new technologies, which are quietly taking their place among tools to enhance agricultural and rural development today, will be afforded better conditions to improve and multiply in the near future.
However, the challenge is to ensure that these tools also create equitable, inclusive and sustainable development in rural territories. Thus, even as we create incentives to promote technology dissemination and application, we must also protect social groups that are lagging behind, while proposing strategies to bolster their capacities and enhancing efforts to ensure them digital access and coverage. Finally, we must design technology that is appropriate to their environments and ways of life. In other words, we must be ever mindful of the digital divide and develop strategies to minimize it.
IICA considers that information and communication technology is a powerful tool to improve rural living conditions, in turn, contributing to development. Thus, in order to make use of this technology, reducing the digital gap becomes imperative given the wide potentialities it offers to the development and transformation of productive activity in rural territories.
General: Ensure the full achievement of the benefits of digital technological progress, aiming to ensure that on-one is left behind, particularly in rural areas and in the agriculture sector.
Share information about digitalization opportunities and challenges to contribute to a more inclusive agriculture sector and rural environment.
Disseminate success stories and lessons learned from projects and public policies implemented in different LAC countries, with respect to bridging the digital divide in rural areas and indigenous communities.
Share experiences about the use of ICT tools in rural areas, emphasizing their impact on inhabitants, particularly family farmers, indigenous people, youth and rural women.
Define elements for future projects that will facilitate joint execution of actions aimed at sensitization, dissemination, appropriation, training, productive use, empowerment and overall digital education in rural areas in LAC countries.