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New communications technologies can spur participation in the democratic process

MILAN, Italy—The Inter-American Development Bank has entered into a partnership with its Latin American and Caribbean member countries to put information technology both to the service of economic and social development as well as to strengthen the democratic institutions on which good government depends, said IDB President Enrique V. Iglesias today.

“The countries have expressed their interest in establishing a rapidly growing knowledge economy to promote efficient, equitable and sustainable development,” said Iglesias. “The role of the IDB is to assist them in creating concrete projects to achieve their objectives.”

Iglesias made his remarks at the opening session of the seminar “E-governance: Towards a new approach to international cooperation in the knowledge economy,” which is being held in conjunction with the 44th Annual Meeting of the IDB’s Board of Governors. Also participating in the opening session were Lucio Stanca, minister of innovation and technologies of Italy; and Luigi Roth, president of the Fiera Milano Foundation. Other seminar speakers included Arturo Vallarino, vice president of Panama; Augusto Zodda, director general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance of Italy, and information technology experts from Latin America and other regions, at the local, national and international levels.

The seminar was held to explore the use of information technologies to foster development and strengthen democratic processes and institutions.       

“The first aspect of this partnership is the growing understanding that expansion of the knowledge economy is a crucial bridge between promoting sustainable economic growth and reducing poverty while fostering equity,” said Iglesias. “Applications of these technologies increase local value added, productivity and competitiveness while developing human resources through expanded lifetime access to an increasing number of high quality opportunities for learning.”

In addition, Iglesias highlighted the role of information technology in fostering the democratic process. “Throughout the region, governments have begun using these technologies to enhance public sector effectiveness, boost efficiency in the provision of public services, broaden access to those services, and increase the accountability of public officials,” he said.

Also in the opening session, Technology Minister Stanca emphasized that e-government can meet its goals only when it has the support of three components: the backing of public officials, technical and managerial capacity, and political support. Only when three elements intersect, he said, does e-government achieve its potential for creating public value.

He also described Italy’s programs for supporting information technology initiatives overseas, and said that he looked forward to a new trust fund the Italian government has established at the IDB to expand these efforts.

The seminar examined a series of e-governance issues at the local and national levels, as well as its application to regional and international cooperation. Speakers provided examples of uses to which information and communication technology is being put in Latin America and the Caribbean to make public administration more open and transparent.

As used in the seminar, the term e-governance goes beyond the use of these technologies in public administration to include aspects such as the electoral process to also include civic education and the mobilization of civil society, according to Danilo Piagessi, chief of the IDB’s Information Technology for Development Division, which organized the seminar.

“A commitment to openness, transparency and accountability increases the level of trust between citizens and their public sector representatives,” said Piagessi. “E-governance plays a crucial role in strengthening democratic process in the knowledge economy of the 21st century in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

In conjunction with the seminar, an agreement between the IDB and Italy was signed to create the “Italian Trust Fund for Information and Communication Technology for Development.” Signing were the IDB president and the minister of innovation and technologies. The 3-million Euro trust fund will support IDB technical cooperation projects that promote the use of information and communication technology and electronic government in social development, poverty reduction and transparency programs in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The resources donated by the Italian government, which will be administered by the IDB through its Information and Communication Technology for Development Division, will provide grants to cover, among others, the costs of short- and medium-term consulting and professional services needed to supply technical assistance for the preparation and implementation of such programs.

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