Internet policy formation in Latin America: Emerging issues and trends

Hernan Galperin of the Universidad de San Andrés and Carolina Aguerre, general manager of the LACTLD, discuss their ongoing research on the emergence of internet policy in Latin America.

In a previous blogpost (21 August), we shared the main objectives of our research project on internet policy formation in Argentina, Costa Rica, and Mexico against the backdrop of the successful Brazilian experience with multistakeholder internet governance. In this article we outline several preliminary insights about the creation and development of institutions for internet policy formation in these three Latin American countries.

We start in Argentina, where on April 22, 2014 the Secretary of Communications issued a Resolution creating the Argentine Commission for Internet Policy (CAPI). The new commission was announced the day before the start of NETmundial, and the Argentine government delegation at the meeting used this opportunity to identify key stakeholders within the country. According to the Resolution, CAPI has a dual objective: (1) to enhance national information and coordination within the different government entities involved in internet governance (IG) and; (2) to consolidate Argentina’s position in IG international forums. Although CAPI is basically a coordination mechanism used among different government agencies, the Secretary of Communications has expressed its intention to incorporate multistakeholder perspectives into the policy-making process. At the end of May, CAPI held its first open meeting, to which several non-governmental players involved in IG debates were invited. It is yet to be seen whether such involvement coalesces into a more formal process for participation by non-governmental actors.

The institutional landscape for IG has also changed in Costa Rica over the last two years. The Internet Consultative Committee (CCI) was created in October 2012 under the auspice of the National Academy of Science, which operates Costa Rica’s ccTLD. It is composed of representatives from several government agencies, academia, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. As such, its organizational structure better reflects the local internet community. The multistakeholder principle is thus enshrined as part of its core operational practices and values. As an example, Costa Rica was among the few Latin American countries which declined to sign the WCIT, as it was seen as a threat to its current open and multistakeholder model of internet governance.

In Mexico, there have been two recent institutional and regulatory landmarks worth noting.  The first is the consolidation of the “Initiative Group,” which has neither a formal nor a legal structure. Rather, it is a multistakeholder group started by several of Mexico’s internet pioneers (now part of the technical and academic sectors) which also comprises government representatives, trade associations, and civil society. The group’s objectives are to open a multistakeholder dialogue about IG in Mexico based on the IGF’s model of representation, to promote informed participation of Mexican entities in IG initiatives (both regionally and globally), and to elevate IG issues in the national policy agenda. One of the most relevant outcomes to date has been the creation of a two-day meeting in 2013 called “Dialogues on Internet Governance,”, which could be characterized as a  national IGF.

The other significant event for internet and telecommunications policy in Mexico comes from the Federal Telecommunications Law passed on  July 14, 2014. Under the new law, both the newly created Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) and the Secretary of Communications and Transport will have competencies related to IG. A third agency, the National Digital Strategy, was created by the Executive Branch of government,  and is responsible for the overall coordination of Mexico’s position in IG matters. The reforms have shaken up the entire telecom/media sector, and its long-term consequences could be very significant. We expect to monitor this case closely as IG debates are addressed under this new institutional structure.

We have attempted to briefly summarize the emerging institutional shapes for internet policy formation in these three Latin American nations. A common pattern that emerges from these cases is the acknowledgment that IG issues need to be addressed under multistakeholder principles and the acknowledgment of the need to create institutional models for policy formation that foster such interactions while also allowing for coordination of national positions in international forums. These institutions are still in their emerging phases, but we know both from theory and from empirical evidence that initial conditions are key elements in predicting future organizational trajectories. Costa Rica seems poised to replicate the multistakeholder operation of the global internet policy regime, while Argentina has decisively taken a more government-centered approach. In Mexico, the reforms are too recent to discern a specific trajectory. What is clear is that no two countries will follow a similar institutionalization path. In our next post, we will explore both the determinants as well as the consequences of these idiosyncratic national paths to internet policy formation.

 

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