4. THE INFORMATION PRODUCERS
U.S. National Intelligence is a major force behind studies on the current status of IT and telecommunications technology in Latin America. The National Research Defense Institution of the Rand Corporation held three international conferences on the topic of Information Technology in 1999 and 2000 as part of a study for the U.S. National Intelligence Agency. Summaries of the proceedings of those conferences provided much of the information included in this report and constitute a comprehensive and detailed analysis of technology in Latin America. The Rand Corporation has also published several analyses on other issues related to technology in Latin America, including sources on “netwar” and the use of digital technologies by drug cartels.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has also collected significant statistics on technology in the developing world as part of its 2001 Human Development Report. While the work done by U.S. intelligence seems to be interested in analyzing the current obstacles to and prospects for technology development around the globe, the United Nations is specifically interested in how technology might be used to alleviate particular development problems.
Wired magazine is a good source of up-to-the minute reports on individual country technology issues, especially relative to IT and telecommunications. It tends to focus more on the “successful” technology countries-Mexico, Brazil, Argentina-although it does include some updates on other countries as well.
Independent research centers focused specifically on questions of technology have been somewhat slow to emerge in Latin America. As noted above, originally technology R&D was pursued by the public university system, but the quickening pace of technological advances and the increasing ties between the region and its northern neighbors has stimulated the emergence of new initiatives. Often these initiatives incorporate private industry representatives, technology experts, policymakers, and foreign consultants. To date, the best example appears to be the Peruvian Scientific Net (RCP) founded by Jose Soriano, which has since been integrated into larger regional and global technology networks. However, even in these contexts much of the work on technology in the region appears to come from collaborations with U.S. scholars or international initiatives.
Research on Latin America conducted in the U.S. falls within two categories: that pursued by state/multinational agencies (i.e., U.S. Department of Defense or Education; the United Nations) and independent academic, research institutions. The information provided by the U.S and multilateral agencies (see for example the CIA page at
or the UNDP human development report indexes at
) tend to provide detailed, frequently-updated statistical information on the region, usually organized on a by-country basis. This type of research provides essential background information on political systems, economic activities and national production, income, demographics, etc. However, it does not necessarily provide analysis on the meaning of these figures. The UNDP Human Development Report does provide a comprehensive analysis of its indexical information, and that information is ranked relative to the rest of the world for further context.
Within academia, several institutions demonstrate a clear concentration of resources and researchers. The University of Texas at Austin is by far the largest and best institutional site for research on Latin America, including an enormous library and substantial faculty across several disciplines whose work focuses centrally on Latin America exclusively and/or Latin America-U.S. relations. The University of Texas’ website provides a wealth of information on both U.S. and Latin American-based research, commercial, cultural, and political institutions, plus statistics, maps, and other important reference materials (see
Other research institutions responsible for publishing a wide variety of work on Latin America are the North-South Center at the University of Florida at Miami. That center has sponsored several conferences on issues of Latin American economics and politics. Also, theWoodrow Wilson Center has organized and sponsored research on Latin American politics in particular.
Within Latin America, the independent research institution that stands out as the leader in the sponsorship and publishing of scholarly work on Latin America is FLACSO, based in Santiago, Chile, but with sites throughout Latin America. FLACSO sets annual research agendas and funds research projects throughout the hemisphere that seek to address those problematics. FLACSO publishes work by both Latin American academics and practitioners, usually focusing on issues central to social change, inequality, and politics.
The public universities in Latin America are another source of scholarship on the region; however, their impact is quite varied based on the large differences in institutional strength and resources across the region. In many Latin American countries, the public university system has been the site of some of the most stinging social analysis. For that same reason, it has been the victim of widespread political repression and censorship. Therefore, scholarly traditions vary based on both the historical legacy of a particular institution and the particular context of production.