Tracking wires that connect us: the growing importance of ICT for Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean bi-regional cooperation

Tracking wires that connect us: the growing importance of ICT for Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean bi-regional cooperation*

The historical relation between Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) with Europe changed with time and the new dynamics of the bilateral and bi-regional relations have opened the way for a more symmetrical cooperation. Regardless of being institutionally and socio-economically disparate, both regions have very strong historical and cultural ties, which have made it possible to reach dialogue and joint actions on matters of interest to both parties. Since the Declaration of Rio de Janeiro of 1999, the European Union (EU) has officially traced a bi-regional strategic partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean based on political dialogue and cooperation in specific areas of mutual interest, such as the development of a shared knowledge in innovation and technology.

The relations between LAC countries and the EU are being constantly strengthened by a variety of bi-regional summits and, through the development of information and communication technology (ICT), the overseas actors are more closely integrated. In this manner, the capability to communicate in an easier and direct way turns into a critical factor for the cooperation, as it has the ability to connect international actors and empower a vast number of bi-regional entities, such as the EU-LAC Foundation.

Currently with its headquarter in Hamburg and in process of becoming an international organisation, the EU-LAC Foundation develops multiple projects that are designed to guarantee the circulation of knowledge and raise the mutual understanding and visibility between regions. The publication of newsletters and studies (both available at the Foundation’s digital library), as well as, the organization events, such as the Lateinamerika Herbst Festival, with activities from September to December 2017 in Hamburg, demonstrates the ongoing compromise of the institution towards bi-regional dialogue and cooperation on working areas established by the EU-CELAC Action Plan. Needless to say, the core activities developed by the Foundation are only possible to implement through a broad and effective communication between institutional partners, governments and international organisations from both regions.

During the last two decades, the technological advances in information and communication technology transformed not only the global economy, but also the way international relations are being done. Since 2007, the EU has dedicated more funding to projects in Latin America and the Caribbean with focus on the development of communications infrastructures and networks. Programs like @LIS II achieved successful results by facilitating the integration of Latin American countries into the global information society. The programs contributed as frameworks for the development of a regional and collaborative space for policy-making on digital agendas, particularly in countries like Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador which didn’t have previously a digital agenda. Furthermore, the extension of interconnection between both regions find a great example in projects such as the European Technology Platform Alice, redClara, Géant and CKLN networks. These initiatives aim not only to increase the connectivity between the two regions, but also to be instruments for a higher integration on innovation and research.

The promotion of interconnectivity and the intensification of thematic dialogues have a key role to assist individuals and entities to get in touch with each other. In this sense, a supporting tool created by the EU-LAC Foundation named Mapeo is an effort on the promotion of mutual knowledge of entities through the registration and compilation of different organisations from both regions interested in the bi-regional agenda. This online database includes universities, research centres, non-profit organisations, international organisations, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME´s) and governmental entities/agencies from Latin America, the Caribbean and the European Union. The collected data is available and free to be downloaded at the Foundation’s website and is a good example of how ICT can be used towards dialogue construction and cooperation enhancement between the two regions.

The investment in making communication technologies widely available has also been defined as a mark of the Millennium Development Goals, as the strengthening of the communication technology infrastructure contributes to the reduction of the digital gap and illiteracy, while it helps to increase the interconnectivity between the civil society members and bi-regional research networks. All in all, the bi-regional partnership between Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe reflects the idea that in today's interdependent world, cooperation is imperative to meet challenges that are mutually shared. Therefore, the creation of a horizontal space for international dialogue has the ability to foster social and economic development, as well as reinforce democratic practices throughout the two regions, in a broader and inclusive way.

Finally, only a broad and participatory bi-regional dialogue can guarantee that the ties that bind us can grow stronger. By summing always more parties to the dialogue through information technology, the experience and capabilities exchange are enhanced and more legitimate, in a sense that enables actors to take part actively on the bi-regional cooperation process.

*Article by Maria Claúdia Reis- Winner of the EU-LAC Awards of the category “Young Journalists“ – Candidate of Latin America and the Caribbean. The category “Young Journalists“ had the support of the Spanish edition of Deutsche Welle