In addition to the many keynote speeches, scientific presentations, and panels, Informática 2009 in Cuba also had a 2-hour high-level panel on the conference’s theme, called “National ICT policies for development and sovereignty“, which took place yesterday morning. In the presence of some 1000 attendees and the secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Dr. Hamadoun Touré, the ministers in informatica/ICT/telecommunications of Cuba, Iran, South Africa, Saudi-Arabia, Venezuela, and Vietnam and national telecomms heads of Bulgaria, Nicaragua, and Russia each held a speech. UPDATE (28-2-2009): see also the transcript of the speech of Ramiro Valdéz Menéndez, who is the Commander of the Revolution and Minister of Informatics and Communictions in Cuba.
While each VIP presented country-specific particularities and emphases, there were five recurring topics across the presentations.
- Security: the need for a) combatting cybercrime internationally together, and b) reducing the vulnerability of a country’s access to the Internet and the need to decrease the dependence on foreign companies and political whims and policies of certain other countries, i.e., increase sovereignty of the nation’s network and internet services infrastructure, e.g., by launching one’s own sattelite [Vietnam] or laying fibre optic cables [South Africa, Cuba, Venzuela, Jamaica].
- Infrastructure: or: the lack thereof. In addition to the aforementioned security and foreign-dominance, the liberalization of the ’90s took its toll because companies do not like to invest in remote areas that do not generate sufficient profits, thereby excluding the many under-priviliged peoples. Governments of several countries now take up that task themselves thanks to changes in the political colour and type of government.
- Responsible use of ICT: instead of the latest toys with consumerism, the programmes are aimed at ICT as tool to inform and educate citizens and “civil defense” w.r.t. detection of natural disasters and mitigation of the damages (e.g., inundation calculations, evacuation plans, smooth communications, climate change research).
- Trust: well, the lack thereof, both in general and w.r.t. ICT policies, which was tied to the general climate of the lack of trusts with the ongoing economic crisis. How to rebuild it was not particularly elaborated on.
- ICT for (socio-)economic recovery: in contrast to, say, Berlusconi’s policies, these VIPs do see the need for investment in this sector, both regarding human capital development and new technologies–and not just talk the talk but also walk the walk.
The country-specific themes included, among others, South Africa’s move from analog to digital with the set-top boxes and Cuba’s focus on knowledge management and open source projects.
I will add links, quotes, and photos later, as the next scientific session is about to start (more about that when I’m back from Cuba in about 2 weeks).
UPDATE (5-3-2009): eventually, a few photos:
From left to right: delegates from Nicaragua (empty seat in the picture), Russia, Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri (South Africa), Jorge Luis Perdomo Di-Lella (president of the organisation of Informatica 2009), Hamadoun Touré (Secretary general of the ITU), Commandante and Minister Ramiro Valdéz Menendez (Cuba), Minister Socorro Hernández (Venezuela), Minister Le Doan Hop (Vietnam), Minister Muhammad Jameel bin Ahmed Mulla (Saudi Arabia), Minister of Iran, Plamen Vatchkov (empty seat in the picture)
During the lunch breaks, students from UCI (Universidad de las Ciencias Informáticas) took care of the cultural programme, with dance and music.