Towards a thriving digital economy in Latin America: promoting trade and inclusion

Start: Friday 15 December 2017

End: Friday 15 December 2017

“Clear rules, plus 21st century infrastructure and networks, are crucial for the development of the country,” said Andrés Ibarra, Argentine Minister of Modernisation, as he opened the event Digital Economy Forum: Driving Growth, Regional Trade and Inclusion in Latin America, hosted in Buenos Aires in partnership with the GSMA and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). Held alongside the Eleventh WTO Ministerial Conference, the forum brought together key executives from digital ecosystem companies such as AT&T, Google, Mercado Libre and Telefónica, and representatives from international and government organisations in the sector, to discuss the key opportunities and challenges for the transition towards digital economies, including policies on trade, competition and digital services.

“Regulation and public policy have a fundamental role to play in fostering the digital economy by expanding investments, encouraging innovation and facilitating trade. As the digital economy continues to grow and thrive, our challenge will be to create a regulatory framework that allows for changing market dynamics and technological advances,” said Sebastián Cabello, Head of Latin America, GSMA, at the forum opening.

Daniel Pataki, Vice President, Policy and Regulation, GSMA, said: “Mobile is at the heart of the digital revolution. Mobile technology provides anytime, anywhere connectivity for people and businesses, and creates opportunities for governments to improve public services and reduce costs. The next wave of industry digitalisation is going to rely even more on mobile, using M2M technologies with improved analytics and ubiquitous sensors that will enable the modernisation of the economy.”

Debating policy for a digital future

The first discussion panel of the forum addressed the opportunities and challenges for a regional digital market in Latin America. The participants were Jacobo Cohen Imach, VP General Counsel – Government Relations, Mercado Libre; Edwin Fernando Rojas, Production, Productivity and Management Division, ECLAC; José Juan Haro, Director, Public Policy and Wholesale Business, Latin America, Telefónica; Fernanda Viecens, Member of the National Commission for the Defence of Competition, Argentina; and Pelayo Covarrubias, President of Fundación País Digital, Chile. “We need to start making decisions in each country that will lead us towards a regional digital market. The future of our economies will be digital, or there’ll be no future, which means we must be capable of digitally transforming our industries through enabling policies,” Mr Haro said.

Adriana Labardini, IFT Commissioner, Mexico, and Héctor Huici, ICT Secretary, Argentina, discussed the new regulatory agendas in the face of the challenges posed by convergence in Mexico and Argentina. “If we want to talk about ICT for sustainable development, then we need holistic, smart, comprehensive public policies that don’t override each other,” Ms Labardini said. Argentina’s ICT Secretary said that in 2018 the country would advance towards full convergence, making it necessary to have “rules that ensure competitive markets”.

The closing panel, moderated by Sebastián Cabello, addressed trade, competition and digital policy as key issues in the era of convergence. Participants Andrew Wilson, Chief of Staff, International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); Sonia Agnese, Senior Analyst for Latin America, Ovum; and David Weller, Head of Global Trade Policy, Google, highlighted the importance of data and connectivity as drivers of trade in the fourth industrial revolution.

Commitment of the mobile industry against gender-based violence – SDG 5

A new initiative of the GSMA’s We Care Argentina campaign launched during the forum focuses on supporting SDG 5 and the fight against gender-based violence. Mobile operators Claro, Personal and Movistar pledged to support the work of the National Women’s Institute of the Argentine Ministry of Social Development in the fight to eradicate violence against women, ensuring that calls to nationwide phone line 144 are free of charge for all mobile users in Argentina. The latest pledge of the We Care Argentina campaign was signed by Juan Pablo Tognetti, Regulatory Affairs Manager, Claro Argentina; Pedro Lopez Matheu, Director of Government Relations, Communication and Media, Telecom Argentina; and Agustina Catone, Director of Responsible Business, Telefónica Argentina and Fundación Telefónica.

Women 20 and mobile technology to close the digital gender gap

The announcement included the participation of witnesses of honour Flavio Fuertes, UN Global Compact Focal Point for Argentina; Susana Balbo, Chair of W20 Argentina; and Agustín Dellagiovanna, National Director for the Development of Social Responsibility and Sustainability, ‎Ministry of Social Development, Argentina. During the G20 – Argentina 2018, the GSMA will serve as the topic chair of the digital inclusion theme within the W20 group, underscoring its commitment to the SDGs and initiatives to close the digital gender gap.

“Women need technology for their labour and financial inclusion. Digital inclusion is a strategic area that must be developed and transformed into a platform of daily use, women should become familiar with it and realise that without digital development, their growth will always be delayed,” said Balbo when closing the event.