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February 27 2014

February 07 2014

Uruguayan ‘Asado', Much More Than Just a Barbecue

asado4

Photo published by Jorge Alonzo on Flickr, under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When we think of Uruguayan cuisine, one iconic dish always comes to mind: the ‘asado‘, or barbecue. But this is more than just a traditional dish, it represents the country's whole identity.

This dish is an icon of Uruguayan and Argentine tradition par excellence, acting as a social linchpin, as one of the most strongly rooted customs and as a symbol of friendship. No-one, or nearly no-one, prepares a barbecue for themselves alone. The barbecue is a reason to meet, an excuse for a get-together, to bring together those who are separated for whatever reason.

On Vimeo, Geoff Stellfox shares a brief video of a traditional Uruguayan ‘asado':

The ‘asado’ is also a cause of rivalry between opposite shores of the Río de la Plata. Both Argentines and Uruguayans boast of having the best barbecue in a debate as varied as there are palates in the world.

The daily newspaper El País [es] comments:

Los argentinos dicen que son ellos los que hacen el mejor asado, a veces nos reconocen que tenemos mejor carne (excepto el bife de chorizo que es argentino por unanimidad), nos matamos por la mejor receta del chimichurri, nos reímos de los mexicanos que cocinan a la llama y descalificamos a los porteños que cocinan con carbón.

The Argentines claim that they are the ones who make the best barbecue, they do occasionally admit that we have better meat (except the ‘bife de chorizo’ which is Argentine by definition), we batter each other over the best recipe for ‘chimichurri‘ [a special sauce for the meat], we laugh at the Mexicans who cook in the flame and we dismiss the Porteños who cook using charcoal.

When we speak of the barbecue, we are not necessarily referring to a mere lump of cooked meat, but rather to all the paraphernalia which surrounds it, the different kinds of meat and vegetables so that everybody feels included, whether they are meat-eaters or vegetarian. The fire which brings people together and protects them also has a central role, as it has done since the dawn of humanity.

In the absence of a grill, many households have substituted the typical grilled barbecue [es] for the oven-baked barbecue in their daily cooking. This option is considered a second-best by connoisseurs of the ‘asado', but it is easier to work in to the daily life of Uruguayan families. In order to simplify the dish's preparation still further, the well-known chef Sergio Puglia [es] even suggests a barbecue with salsa criolla [es] made in the microwave on his website.

xczxc

Photo published by Bruno Maestrini on Flickr, under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The role of the barbecuer -'asador’ in Spanish- is fundamental to this social event, transforming them into the architect of the feast and to a certain extent, into a master of ceremonies. The barbecuer is the one who takes the lead in this dish, the one who manages the timing and signals when and how to savour their work. The skill of the barbecuer determines the quality of the barbecue and if they are successful, they will receive praise and applause. However, if they get it wrong they will be the target of taunts and reprimands, until they manage to redeem themselves with another barbecue which meets expectations.

The traditional midday barbecue held on construction sites constitutes another iconic moment in the life of the dish. This is a ritual for construction workers who gather to eat together, regain strength to continue working and strengthen the brotherly bonds which make it easier to work and live together during these tough working days.

xcvzxczx

Photo published by Nae on Flickr, under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Besides the traditions and the friendship, there is also a veil of mystery surrounding a good ‘asado'. Each barbecuer has their secrets and their own particular way of preparing the meat, which gives each barbecue its unique and unrepeatable taste. Even if these secrets were to be revealed, it would still be impossible to repeat as the barbecue is much more than just a dish, it is a magical moment to be shared.

In Uruguay, but above all in Montevideo, the majority of gastronomic venues are specialised barbecues [es] or they have the barbecue as an option on their menu.

The daily newspaper El Observador [es] visited one of these venues to reveal the secrets for making the best Uruguayan ‘asado’ [es]:

February 04 2014

How Italian Gnocchi Became a Monthly Mealtime Tradition in Latin America

Ñoquis. Foto de simenon en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Gnocchi. Image by Simenon on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

[All links lead to Spanish-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

In Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, eating gnocchi on the 29th of every month is a popular tradition. No one knows for sure where or how this custom came about, but many bloggers have dedicated posts to the culinary habit and published recipes explaining how to make gnocchi.

The blog Sección del por qué went back to the 8th century

La tradición de servir ñoquis los dias 29 nace de una leyenda que se remonta al siglo VIII. Vivía entonces en Nicosia (Asia Mayor) un joven médico llamado Pantaleón, quien, tras convertirse al cristianismo, peregrina por el norte de Italia. Allí practicó milagrosas curaciones por las que fue canonizado. Cierta ocasión en que pedía pan a unos campesinos , estos lo invitaron a compartir su pobre mesa. Agradecido, les anuncia un año de pesca y cosechas excelentes. La profecía se cumplía y otros muchos milagros. San Pantaleón fue consagrado -a la par de San Marcos- patrono de Venecia. Aquel episodio ocurría un 29, por tal razón se recuerda ese día con una comida sencilla representada por los ñoquis. El ritual que lo acompaña de poner dinero bajo el plato simboliza el deseo de nuevas dádivas.

The tradition of serving gnocchi on the 29th of each month comes from a legend dating back to the 8th century. Back then, in Nicosia (Greater Asia) a young doctor named Pantaleon, who went on a pilgrimage through northern Italy after converting to Christianity. There, he performed miraculous healings for which he was canonized. Once, when he asked peasants for bread, they invited him to share their humble table. Grateful, Pantaleon declared they would have a year of excellent harvest and lots of fishing. The prophecy was fulfilled and many other miracles. Saint Pantaleon was consecrated – along with Saint Marcos – as the patron of Venice. That episode occurred on a 29th, therefore that day is remembered with simple food such as gnocchi. The accompanying ritual of putting money under the plate symbolizes the desire for new gifts.

Carambolatango offered her favorite story: 

Durante la Guerra de Europa, en Italia, escaseaban los alimentos entonces. El gobierno repartía bonos que eran cambiados por comida en los expendios. Las familias más numerosas se veían en serias dificultades para alimentarse y llegar a fin de mes. Nace la solidaridad entre  las personas y los vecinos invitaban a comer  noquis, (que era siempre considerada comida para los pobres) a las familias más grandes. Debajo de cada plato les ponían un bono y este regalo permitía que estos grupos pudieran cambiarlos por comida y llegar a fin de mes - 

In Italy, during the war in Europe, food was scarce. The government would give out bonds to exchange for food in the market. Larger families had serious difficulties getting food and making it to the end of the month. Solidarity was born among people and neighbors invited larger families to eat gnocchi (which was always considered food for the poor). Under each plate, people would put a bond and this gift allowed these families to exchange the bond for food and to make it to the end of the month. 

Alejandra Moglia from the blog Chocolate y Frambuesa added even more history for gnocchi:

Hay otra historia que cuenta que hacia 1690, en un pueblo de Piamonte, se perdió la cosecha de trigo. Si bien la papa sólo la usaban para alimentar a los animales, era tan grande la miseria que la cocinaron, la mezclaron con harina y dieron origen a los ñoquis.

There is another story going back to year 1690 in a small town from Piamonte, where the wheat crop had been spoiled. Even though potatoes were used to feed the animals, misery was so rampant that [potatoes] were cooked for eating and mixed with flour, and that is how gnocchi originated. 

Nuria Eme from Cuaderno de recetas published a recipe and added:  

[...] se suelen comer los días 29 de cada mes, y por lo visto el origen  (de esta versión, pues hay varias)  es, que por ser uno de los últimos días del mes, las personas que tenían pocos recursos y cobraban a primero de mes, tenían que ingeniárselas para comer con alimentos hechos con materia prima barata. Y claro, ya sabemos que la papa y la harina, no son excesivamente caros. Y aunque la tradición es antigua, creo que por desgracia, es extrapolable en el tiempo, y totalmente actual con las circunstancias que nos ha tocado vivir.

[...] gnocchi is usually a meal for the 29th of each month, and so it seems that its origin (at least this version, there are many others) is because it is the end of the month and people have less resources and get paid at the beginning of the next month. So they have to be creative to make it to the end of the month by using less expensive ingredients. Potatoes and flour are not expensive. Even though the tradition is very old, it can be extrapolated over time and fit in perfectly with the circumstances in which we are living now.

Claudia Calizaya showed in a video how she prepares them:

But this tradition goes beyond meals. In Argentina, “gnocchi” is a nickname for public employees and those who do not go to work but still appear every 29th to get their paycheck.  

Legend or tradition, this custom continues to stand the test of time in the southern hemisphere. If you do not know how to make them yet, take a look at another recipe from the blog From Argentina With Love [en].

January 20 2014

Uruguay Among 10 Most Ethical Destinations for Fourth Consecutive Year

Foto publicada por Brennan Paezold en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Photo published by Brennan Paezold on Flickr, under Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to the prestigious publication Ethical Traveler, Uruguay has made the list for the fourth consecutive year of the ten most ethical destinations in the world.

Every year the Ethical Traveler team, after exhaustive research, chooses the ten best countries to visit in the developing world, choosing destinations with attractive natural landscapes and cultures. These countries must also demonstrate a commitment to the conservation of their natural resources. These selections are aimed at recognizing the efforts of these countries and encouraging neighboring countries to follow their example.

Tourism has become one of the world’s main industries, but it can have a negative impact on the host communities and ecosystems, so the World Tourism Organization has created a Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, a list of “do's and don't” that aims to improve lives and protect the planet through responsible tourism.

Many nations have accepted this code through their tour operators, redirecting their tourism industry practices to ensure the welfare of travelers, host communities, tourism workers and the environment.

Uruguay is one of the countries that has channeled its tourism in this direction and this has earned it recognition for the fourth consecutive year. This has placed it in the top 10 ethical destinations in the world in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

This distinction is considered a prize for the efforts by the players in the Uruguayan tourism industry who have signed the commitment to adhere to the code of ethics of the World Tourism Organization, as noted in the Viaje a Uruguay [es] portal.

Meanwhile, the news was received and published in a short article on the website of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports [es].

The rest of the countries chosen for 2014 are the Bahamas, Barbados, Cape Verde, Chile, Dominica, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritius and Palau.

December 24 2013

Des Mexicains plus proches de Paris que de Caracas

Dans les colonnes du « Monde diplomatique », la journaliste Elena de La Souchère rend compte des travaux de la conférence interaméricaine de Punta del Este, en Uruguay. Tenue un mois auparavant, le 14 avril 1967, la rencontre identifie — déjà — l'intégration économique des Etats latino-américains comme (...) / Amérique latine, Intégration régionale, Commerce international, Industrie, Uruguay - 2013/06

December 16 2013

Uruguay Becomes a “Sanctuary for Whales and Dolphins”

Fotos de

Photo shared by @PaipoUruguay on Twitter.

[Links are to Spanish-language pages.]

In September, Uruguay adopted law 19.128, which designates the country's territorial waters as a “sanctuary for whales and dolphins.” The law applies not just to the territorial sea but also to the economic zone that is exclusive to Ururguay and prohibits the chasing, hunting, catching, fishing, or subjecting of cetaceans to any process by which they are transformed. 

It also includes a prohibition against the transportation and unloading of live whales and dolphins, irrespective of whether the vessels sail under Uruguayan or foreign flags. The law envisages penalties for those who do not comply. Exceptions will be made for scientific and medical cases, providing they are approved by state authorities. The law also takes into account cases of harassment, aggression, or any other mistreatment that could lead to the death of cetaceans. 

The law was unanimously approved by the legislature and was promulgated on September 13 by President José Mujica.

The new legislation strengthens Uruguay's existing conservation policies, implemented by the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries (MGAP) and by the National Directorate of Aquatic Resources (DINARA). The Director of DINARA, Daniel Gilardoni, declared to the government publication Presidencia that: “For our country the biggest threat is shipping, a good deal of the beaching is due to collisions between whales and ships.”

The newly designated whale and dolphin sanctuary in Uruguayan waters will be economically beneficial, according to an article entitled “Uruguay sanctuary for whales and dolphins: Let the cetaceans come to me” on the blog Ballenas en Uruguay [Whales in Uruguay].

The cybersphere lit up with favourable reactions to the passing of the law. Social media reflected widespread approval to Uruguay's new status as a “sanctuary for whales and dolphins.”  

Last year, user Jana (@Piper_uy) contributed to the campaign to promote the bill on Twitter:

Click to support the creation of a sanctuary for whales in Uruguay  http://t.co/N7x1uVMN

In October of the same year, according to the journalist Lourdes Vitabar (@louvitabar), several different school groups assembled outside the Legislative Palace: 

At nine o'clock schoolchildren from Maldonado and Rocha (sponsored by Paez Vilaró) are going to the Legislative Palace to promote the whale sanctuary bill

The National Party representative from the Rivera deparment Gerardo Amarilla (@GerardoAmarilla), anticipated the success of the bill in March of this year:

The Whale and Dolphin Sanctuary was approved today in the House of Representatives and will pass in the Senate where it could become law.

Animales Sin Hogar (@ASHcomUY) [Animals Without Homes] celebrated the news when the law was approved in September; at the same time, however, it mourned the death of a beached whale in the Colonia district:

On the one hand we celebrate this wonderful news about the creation of a sanctuary for our whales and dolphins…. http://t.co/DTtyd0hXVQ

For more information on the continuing conversation about Uruguay's marine ecosystem, you can follow the Organization for Cetacean Conservation (OCC) on Facebook and Twitter.

December 14 2013

Uruguayan Trade Union Federation Backs Launch of Worker-run Airline

alas-uruguay

Photograph published by Jimmy Baikovicius on Flickr under a Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 2.0)

[Links to English language web pages are indicated by [en]; all other links lead to Spanish language web pages]

The Uruguayan national trade union federation PIT-CNT [en] has come out in support of the new Alas Uruguay [en] airline by investing union resources into the project after the airline's launch suffered numerous setbacks.

The PIT-CNT (Intersyndical Plenary of Workers–National Convention of Workers) has shown its solidarity with Alas Uruguay due to its status as an autonomously administered company consisting of ex-workers of the previously state owned airline PLUNA [en]. With the Uruguayan government no longer able to meet the airline's growing debts, Pluna was liquidated in mid-2012 after 76 years of service. 

However, in November of this year the Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the law allowing for the liquidation of Pluna, which saw seven of the its aeroplanes handed over to trustees and special treatment awarded to certain creditors, was unconstitutional. As a result, Alas Uruguay’s plan to buy three of the seven Bombardier planes held by trustees has returned to Earth with a resounding thud after the court’s ruling led to the suspension of a previously approved loan by the development fund FONDES.    

As Alas Uruguay officially state on the website of Portal de Américas in the article “Alas Uruguay rompe el silencio” [Alas Uruguay break the silence], this has delayed the awarding of mandatory certificates from the National Civil Aviation and Aviation Infrastructure Directorate which could further hinder the airline’s launch and leave workers unable to meet the numerous financial commitments made in recent months. 

Maintenance of the aeroplanes has been carried out by ex-employees of Pluna with the aim of keeping them operative as even a short break in upkeep leads to the withdrawal of airworthiness certificates. This would result in an immediate fall in their sale price.

In addition to the failed attempt to purchase the three aircraft, Alas Uruguay has already registered as a Public Limited Company having incorporated its managerial staff. According to statements made by the company, office spaces have already been let, bank accounts have been opened, documents have been submitted for the insurance of aircraft (including to Uruguay’s state owned insurance company), websites have been designed and telephone services put in place. Furthermore, the General Manager recently made a presentation before an International Forum on aviation and preliminary talks were underway with national and international service providers.

One particularly worrying detail, however, is that by not finalising the creation a new airline, the government has to continue to pay workers unemployment benefit for a period of two years in order to cover expenses and loss of income. Estimates suggest that this could end up costing the government in excess of US $20 million without any chance of the sum being recovered.

Leo Pintos (@huesopintos) ironically tweeted:

Uruguay 2030: Alas Uruguay workers demand unemployment benefit for ten more years.

Jose Pedro Urraburu (@urraburu), on on the other hand, declared himself against continuing to pay income support:

#Plunagate and its baby #AlasU: The state shouldn’t be paying unemployment benefits to merged companies. Pay layoffs, now

Despite accusations, workers have stated that they are financially committed to Alas Uruguay, alongside PIT-CNT who have also made guarantees for the realisation of the project. Furthermore, workers of Alas Uruguay have given 25% of their salary to the company as a means of financing the venture.

With regards to the Pluna aeroplanes, if these are not subject to constant maintenance then were they to be sold it would be for a drastically lower price than the US $15 million per plane previously agreed with Alas Uruguay.  

The Minister of Economy and Finance, on the other hand, has stated that he is not aware of any law that allows for the state to act as guarantor for a private company in which it does not have an active participation. Indeed, the Uruguayan government is already paying a fee of US $8 million every six months to Scotiabank in its role as guarantor of the seven Bombardier planes that were acquired by the former Pluna CEO, Matías Campiani [en], in 2008. Consequently, if Alas Uruguay does not keep up with its payments then the government would be liable to Pluna’s creditors thus creating a type of ‘double guarantee’ on the same aeroplanes.

The Uruguayan president, José Mujica, in a recent speech spoke about the possibility of the government financing the venture, saying: “I would ask that people have a little bit of heart because the PIT-CNT is even offering part of its monthly income as a guarantee. The Government, if it can, will take that step.”

The senator Alfredo Solari (@senadorsolari) commented on this statement, saying:

Mujica: “People should have a little bit of heart over Alas Uruguay” In the meantime, we’re all paying for it.

In their article “Alas Uruguay más cerca del despegue” [Alas Uruguay, closer to take off], the tourism website TurisUY stressed the importance of this project in kick starting the local tourist industry while also benefiting Uruguayan travellers who are currently paying over the odds for airfares.

The upshot of the closure of Pluna and the delay to the launch of Alas Uruguay has been reflected in an increase in airfares for flights to and from Carrasco International Airport [en] which has ended up benefiting BQB [en], a rival airline run by the Argentine entrepreneur Juan Carlos López Mena who, coincidentally, has since been implicated in Alas Uruguay's failed attempt to buy the Pluna aircraft.

The economist and broadcaster Laura Raffo (@lauraraffo) commented on a photograph published by the Uruguayan newspaper El Observador in which López Mena and his son Juan Patricio can be seen lunching with the Minister of Economy and Finance, Fernando Lorenzo, and Hernán Antonio Calvo Sánchez, the vice-president of the Spanish airline Cosmo, saying:

Great photos of the López Mena – Lorenzo lunch!! Some surprised faces and some poker faces :)

One of the leading newspapers in Uruguay, El País, in their article “Aerolínea de López Mena sumó 56 vuelos tras el cierre de Pluna” [López Mena’s airline adds 56 flights after closure of Pluna], claim that in “the year and a half since the closure of Pluna, López Mena has not only expanded his river transport business [en] [that connects Uruguay to Argentina] but has also seen a significant growth in his airline business.”

The official Twitter account of Alas Uruguay responded by saying:

businessmen like this should be sent back to their country with their tail firmly between their legs. Obviously after having been arrested!!!

December 12 2013

Uruguay Legalizes the Sale and Production of Marijuana

marihuana

Photo shared on Twitter by @T13.

With just the votes of the governing Broad Front left-wing coalition, and after 12 hours of intense debate, the Uruguayan Senate has passed a bill legalizing marijuana. The bill to regulate and commercialize marijuana was approved at 22:38 on Tuesday 10th December, 2013.

The decision has put Uruguay on the front pages of international news media following the session with great interest. Now, all that remains is to craft regulations and put the proposed bill into force. A four month period has been allowed for this process.

At a grassroots level, the parliamentary decision has made waves and stirred up opinion. Among the opposition's arguments given in the Senate are the difficulties in ensuring compliance with the law, and the argument that it isn't a valid strategy in the battle against drug trafficking. The opposition also suggested that, in contrast to the government's position on the subject, the law will actually encourage drug use.

Uruguayan pharmacies, who will be in charge of marijuana sales for medicinal use, are now involved in an intense controversy [es] in which some wish to sell the drug while others do not.

The UN, for its part, has noted that the Uruguayan bill to legalize marihuana violates international treaties that the country has signed. In addition, the Psychiatric Society of Uruguay has warned [es] about the consequences of using marihuana and its rising popularity among youths. Psychiatrists also told newspaper El País that the drug plays a role in school drop-out rates.

According to information collected by Infobae [es], Uruguay's president, José Mujica, has said that he hopes Uruguay will be “lend a hand and that we all learn together, because the idea isn't to establish Uruguay as the land of free marijuana. No. No. That's not what this is about. This is a plague, just like cigarettes are a plague. You'll be offered a legal portion and if you abuse it, you'll be registered and attended to medically.”

Internationally, the bill has generated both expectations and doubts, as the world has observed the events with interest and expressed concerns following the decision.

Opinions have been expressed in social networks such as Twitter. The presidential candidate for the conservative National Party, Jorge Larrañaga (@jorgewlarranaga), said:

For security and health; marijuana, for freedom; a new media law. For education; nothing. The majority is used for whatever purpose.

The user @charruasomos, on the other hand, has defended the bill:

[In response to @NicoleOrtizCh's tweet] [The world's gone crazy, they legalize marijuana en Uruguay.  Where are we headed?]

@NicoleOrtizCh Well, to me it seems like a GREAT STEP FORWARD and takes drug traffickers out of the picture. Uruguay's not a country that runs away from its problems.

The Paraguayan television presenter, Lucía Sapena (@LuSapena), complained about international confusion about their two nations:

I've now had to explain to three foreign friends that Uruguay is where they sell marijuana legally, and not Paraguay!  Confused people.

The Venezuelan Yusnay Bleque (@yusnayb) expressed her thoughts on the bill:

Uruguay becomes the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Just shocking. They don't think about people's health.

The Argentinian activist Alex Freyre (@AlexFreyre) compared the bill with Argentina's laws:

Marijuana ISN'T HARMLESS, so IT HAS TO BE REGULATED. The current Argentinian law 23737 is useless and encourages drug trafficking.

Rubèn Jorge Castro (@elojodelciudada) tweeted about moves to legalize marijuana and same sex marriage:

The minority imposed same sex marriage on us, the minority imposed [the] marijuana [bill] on us, and while that happens, they become distracted and education [reform] falls to pieces. More equal. More stupid.

On the other hand, in Luis Alberto Borsari‘s opinion, the same sex marriage act, legalization of abortion, and now, the legal production and distribution of marijuana are causes of pride. In his blog [es] he writes that:

cuando nuestros hijos y nietos estudien todo esto en sus Libros de Historia, los imagino sacando pecho por lo hecho hoy, o cantando “Uruguay es el mejor País…”

I imagine our children and grandchildren all puffed up with pride as they study today's events in their history books, or singing “Uruguay's the best…”

Reposted bydrugsSebeczekpaketselen34

December 11 2013

Uruguay Becomes First Country to Legalize Marijuana Market

Uruguay's Senate voted 16 to 13 to legalize the production and sale of marijuana. President Mujica is expected to sign the law, which would become effective starting next year.

I'm in favor of legalizing marijuana, but it would be great to make headlines around the world because of our security and education.

Ignacio de los Reyes, the BBC's Argentina and Southern Cone correspondent, tweeted on December 10:

Stay tuned for more citizen reactions.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

October 24 2013

This Weekend at Developing Latin America 2013 Apps Challenge (Part II)

Foto obtenida del set en Facebook de Desarrollando América Latina.

Photo from Desarrollando América Latina Facebook page.

We continue the virtual tour of the countries participating in the third edition of Desarrollando América Latina [Developing Latin America]-#DAL2013. (See the first part here.)

Bolivia's [es] envisioning meeting took place a few weeks ago and they were also preparing for Demo Day. And although the organizers have not been very active on social networks, [es] they have been virtually supporting participants.

Learn about social issues to be worked on in Bolivia during #DAL2013

Tired of your work being a machine?

The people of Chile [es] are among the most enthusiastic about #DAL2013:

Preparation for #dal2013 in Chile :)

Learn more about the first #DAL2013 Chile workshop on Flickr

Days from hackathon #DAL2013 Chile! Check out what we've done so far

In Chile, preparations for the close of a successful day. #DAL2013 participants creating real solutions!

We share the Dynamic Management workshop at #DAL2013. Don't forget Oct. 26 is the end.

In Argentina [es] there have been a couple of preparatory meetings, but the actual hackathon will be the 25th of this month:

This Thursday at 19:30h will be the preview of #DAL2013, join in to think about technological solutions with social impact

And so we start Argentina's #DAL2013.  Crazy photos

The presentations of the projects begin

Argentina presents the projects for #DAL2013. Follow it live here

Click here to see the #DAL2013 Argentina projects

#Dal2013 Argentina is the hackathon where there are more girls than programmers

It is the first time [es] that Paraguay [es] is participating in a DAL event and expectations are high:

The day has arrived! #DAL2013 in Paraguay is a reality! Thanks to all for the support and effort, now all that remains is….

Paraguay. Day 1. Just started

In Paraguay #DAL2013 is not over! The teams continue developing!

There is still enthusiasm and will for @dalparaguay. The second day of #DAL2013 has been amazing!

talking about the environment in Paraguay :)

In Uruguay [es] there is once again a month dedicated to open data and the following tweets are only part of all the activity going on in Montevideo:

In Uruguay, the expedition is in development. The data is an unknown universe!

Subgroups present the results of the Data Expedition at the #OktoberDATAFEST

Thank you for the beautiful note about the #OktoberDATAFEST

Starting the #OktoberDATAFEST

This goes to show that anybody can participate in a hackathon!

And Brazil [es] is fulfilling its schedule of activities with a view towards Demo Day on this October 26.

The schedule of activities for the Brazilian edition of #DAL2013 has been published. Check it out, share it, and sign up!

This is #DAL2013 Brazil. Tomorrow 10 other countries have their turn.

We are on the third day of #DAL2013. Developers energetically brewing up ideas!

DAL Brazil 2013 Day 1 video

Prototype Saturday at DAL2013 Brazil

This has been a quick panorama of the activities in 12 Latin American countries participating in #DAL2013, but this isn't all that has happened; the central organization of #DAL2013 has been organizing and coordinating workshops for the participants, and many have had thoughts about Developing Latin America:

Open government isn't just transparency, it's openness to prioritize, create and implement policy and tools WITH its citizens

In a few minutes, a presentation of @EscuelaDeDatos, #DAL2013 and data scraping will begin. There will be a hangout 

What's cool about #DAL2013 is the interest generated by developers to create social solutions, hopefully it will be a success!

This October 26 at our Demo Day you can find out the results of #DAL2013. Stay tuned for more details!

We will soon bring you more updates about this year's Developing Latin America.

October 23 2013

16 Books on Latin American Street Art

In Latin America, street art is of major cultural relevance. The region’s traditions of social movements and revolution have allowed the form to give voice to otherwise unheard sectors of the population. Of course, not all street art is politically or socially-oriented in content, but it does often provide insight into specific objectives and ideals.

Nick MacWilliam from Sounds and Colours browsed the online store Amazon “to see what’s readily available for those who are interested in the subject of street art in Latin America.” He recommends 16 books on the subject, covering Haiti, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina and more.

October 18 2013

Declaration on the Future of Internet Cooperation

Representatives of the organizations that manage the technical infrastructure of the Internet meeting in Montevideo,  Uruguay, have released a Declaration on the future of Internet cooperation [es], in which they analyze the problems currently affecting the future of the Internet.

Among other things, they mention the importance of globally consistent Internet operations and warn against the fragmentation of the Internet at a national level, while expressing their concern about the global decrease in confidence of Internet users due to the recent revelations of monitoring and surveillance.

This can, in some way, be considered as a response to proposals that go in that direction, such as that recently advanced by the president of Brazil, Dilma Roussef, before the UN and to the activities of the NSA.

September 27 2013

Developing Latin America 2013: An ‘Apps Challenge’ for Social Impact

flyer_inscripciones

“Developing Latin America”

Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente is about to launch a new edition of their regional initiative entitled Developing Latin America [es], which brings together the efforts of developers, social specialists, and others to use open data to create applications that serve the Latin American community. In their own words [es]:

Impulsamos aplicaciones innovadoras, sustentables, escalables y de alto impacto social. Celebramos a la comunidad de emprendedores, tecnólogos, desarrolladores y diseñadores, desafiándolos a trabajar en conjunto con sus gobiernos y organizaciones locales para co-crear soluciones que generen un cambio positivo para los ciudadanos. Fomentamos una cultura de creatividad, innovación y emprendimiento en América Latina.

We promote innovative, sustainable, and scalable applications with a high social impact. We celebrate the community of entrepreneurs, technologists, developers and designers, challenging them to work together with their governments and local organizations to co-create solutions that generate a positive change for citizens. We foster a culture of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Latin America.

For its third edition, Developing Latin America (DAL) is transforming and is going from being a Hackathon to what they call an Apps Challenge, meaning a longer event with the goal of developing better ideas, obtaining more concrete solutions, and, as such, achieving applications that are more sustainable and scalable.

But, what is an Apps Challenge? [es]

Un Apps Challenge es una competencia entre aplicaciones. En el caso de DAL, es una competencia colaborativa que se realizará a lo largo de tres intensas semanas de desarrollo. Esta etapa está diseñada para dotar a los equipos de las herramientas que permitan desarrollar una aplicación innovadora y disruptiva. Realizaremos varias actividades con el objetivo de generar aplicaciones de alto impacto social.

An Apps Challenge is a competition between applications. In the case of DAL, it is a collaborative competition that will be held over the course of three intense weeks of development. This stage is designed to give teams the tools that will allow for the development of an innovative and disruptive application. Various activities will take place with the goal of generating applications of high social impact.

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“Let's share idea and work together to develop Latin America!”

DAL officially launches on October 5 of this year, and we say officially because in reality the coordination of DAL and the different teams in charge of the event in the participating countries (now 12) have been working on preparing for it for several weeks. In fact, each team has planned various activities [es] to take place in their country during the month of October and, on October 26, there will be a Demo Day in addition to the selection of the three best applications per country.

But that is not all. After this phase, in association with Socialab, a project accelerator specialized in high impact social projects, will choose five teams among the winners to build up their projects for three months, helping them construct a business plan and find funding, among other things:

  • Co-creación “en terreno” con sus potenciales usuarios y clientes.
  • Definición de áreas de impacto que el proyecto tendrá en la sociedad, estos son co-creados con la comunidad y usuarios en trabajos en terreno.
  • Capacitarse en metodología de innovación y emprendimiento (Lean Start-Up, Canvas Business Model, Design Thinking, etc.)
  • Búsqueda de financiamiento para la sustentabilidad de sus proyectos a través de distintos medios: inversionistas, crowdfundings, fondos concursables, entre otros.
  • Generación de redes con distintos actores relevantes para el proyecto.
  • Planes comunicacionales y financieros elaborados.
  • Co-creation “in the field” with their potential users and clients.
  • Definition of areas of impact that the project will have in society, these are co-created with the community and users in field work.
  • Training in innovation and entrepreneurship (Lean Start-up, Canvas Business Model, Design Thinking, etc.)
  • Finding funds for sustainability of their projects through various means: investors, crowd funding, competitive funds, among others.
  • Generating networks with various stakeholders relevant to the project.
  • Elaborating communication and financial plans.

To learn a bit more about what DAL will be like this year and familiarize ourselves with the Apps Challenge process, our collaborator, Elizabeth Rivera, met with Anca Matioc, Regional Coordinator of Developing Latin America. Below is a video [es] of the interview:

In the interview, Matioc expanded on DAL's decision to go from a Hackathon, typically 36 hours, to an Apps Challenge, which will span a period of three weeks. As a response to DAL's growth over the past two years, Matioc highlighted the desire to have participants go beyond making prototypes for applications by giving them the opportunity to create more efficient and finished apps for social change. With the Apps Challenge, which she described as an “extended hackathon”, each of the twelve participating countries will have its own agenda of activities and workshops, culminating in the Demo Day and Socialab nominations. Currently, DAL is continuing its preparations for the event and meeting with its stakeholders to discuss their roles as mentors for each team of participants.

DAL has already generated interest in the region. For example, ALT1040 reports on the event and says [es]:

Este tipo de programas son ideales para impulsar pequeñas startups que pretenden resolver problemas comunes de la región. Lo interesante es que las aplicaciones pueden estar enfocadas tanto en solucionar un problema de tu país como hasta solucionar uno de Latinoamérica en su totalidad. Un reflejo de que podemos y queremos cambiar el mundo en el que vivimos, aunque tengamos que hacerlo una aplicación a la vez.

These types of programs are ideal for inspiring small startups seeking to resolve common problems in the region. The interesting thing is that the applications can be focused on solving a problem in your country as well as solving one in Latin America as a whole. A reflection on the idea that we can and want to change the world we live in, even if we have to do it one application at a time.

El Becario from the Código Espagueti blog reflects [es]:

Sin duda, un gran reto para países en los que no todos tienen un smartphone o una tableta, aún así se trata de un gran esfuerzo que bien podría ayudar a mejorar las condiciones de vida en la región.

Without a doubt, a big challenge for countries where not everyone has a smartphone or tablet; still, it is a great initiative that could really help improve living conditions in the region.

If you are a developer and are interested not only in a professional challenge but simultaneously having the opportunity to help solve social problems in your city or country, such as education, health, public safety, and transportation, among others, you can sign up [es] until October 4 and participate in this event on a regional level.

On our behalf, we will be providing coverage of the details of this great initiative.

Other related posts:

2011
Developing Latin America – 30 hours of technology and society [es]
“Developing Latin America”: Open Data Projects

2012
Developing Latin America 2012
What Exactly is a Hackathon? And What is Open Data?
Developing Latin America Draws Near!
Day 1 of Developing Latin America 2012
Day 2 of Developing Latin America 2012
Winning Applications From Latin America's Biggest Hackathon

Praise and Criticism for Uruguay's Proposed Media Law

The bill, which has received the praise of several journalism and freedom of expression organizations, is not as controversial as the one recently approved in Ecuador or as contentious as the one currently in the hands of Argentina’s Supreme Court.

However, it is not without its critics. While it has been lauded for its intention to set limits to media concentration and guarantee spaces for independent content, critics say some of its provisions are broad, ambiguous and overreaching.

Travis Knoll provides an overview of Uruguay’s proposed media law in The Knight Center's Journalism in the Americas blog.

September 24 2013

Latin America: “Where do the Disappeared go?”

Manifestación convocada por la Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos. 2009, Santiago, Chile. Foto de antitezo en Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Demonstration Convened by Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos [Families of Detained Missing Persons Group]. 2009, Santiago, Chile. Photo from antitezo on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This is the second part of a two-part article. To read the first part click here. We also invite you to visit the Office of High Commission for Human Rights page, which you can access with this link, for some more official information on the topic.

In the previous post we explored some of the stories and activity of families of missing people in Latin America. We got closer to testimonies, we opened up contexts, and we introduced popular songs which ask, “Where do the missing people go?”

After decades of questions with no answers and cases that continue to increase the list of victims, we could say that, thanks to their relatives, the missing people and their stories can be found, if only virtually, on Internet social networks.

We see, therefore, family and friends making an effort to fight so that memories are not another victim of the forced disappearances. In this way, the internet becomes a source of innumerable initiatives and stories that fight against impunity and the return to the past.

In this post we dedicate space to the topic in Peru, Guatemala, Uruguay and Mexico. Similarly, we also mention the contribution from arcoiris TV [es], which makes accessible a documentary [es] directed by Ángel Palacios about forced disappearances in Venezuela.

In Peru, the conflict between the Peruvian State, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the MRTA (Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) has been the main source of the crimes that have resulted in victims of forced disappearances.

A decade after the delivery of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, Spacio Libre [es] publishes observations about the results that the Peruvian justice has presented regarding the victims of forced disappearances. In the editorial, the right of the victims to get answers is defended and the unfulfilled promises that are not allowed to advance to Peruvian justice are listed:

Muy poco se ha avanzado en materia de reparaciones y sobre todo en la búsqueda de la verdad y de un proceso sincero de reconciliación, luego de la violencia desatada por la insanía terrorista de Sendero Luminoso y el MRTA y la respuesta brutal de un Estado que no dirimió entre inocentes y culpables y mató tan igual que el enemigo que perseguía.

Y es que no se puede hablar de reconciliación, cuando un sector bastante influyente de la clase política ha pretendido silenciar y desprestigiar un trabajo realizado con ahínco, con compromiso y con un interés concreto de generar memoria y buscar un camino para recuperar la esperanza de miles de familias que perdieron a un ser querido y que en muchos casos (15 mil) no tienen ni idea de donde están.

Very little has progressed in terms of compensation and above all in the search for the truth and for a sincere process of reconciliation, after the violence unleashed by the terrorist insanity of Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA and the brutal response of a State that does not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty and kills just the same as the enemy it pursues.

And the thing is you can't talk about reconciliation, when such an influential sector of the political class has tried to silence and discredit an undertaking achieved with effort, with compromise and with a concrete interest in generating a memory and searching for a way to regain hope for thousands of families that lost a loved one that in many cases (15 thousand) have no idea where they are.

Also in Peru, the historian Renzo Salvador Aroni [es] gathers stories and analyses the circumstances of families that still hope for signs from their missing relatives. In his post “The Families of the Disappeared”, the blogger defends the importance of regaining the historical memory of the country and indicates that this also involves “regaining the memory of those who are absent”:

[…] La memoria de los familiares de los desaparecidos, siguen aguardando la posibilidad de que sus seres queridos aparezcan. […] Para los familiares es muy difícil aceptar un hecho aún no concluido.

[…] The memory of the family members of the missing people, they continue believing in the possibility that their loved ones will appear. […] For the families it is very difficult to accept an event that is unresolved.

The author also explains how pieces of memory carve themselves a space in people's daily lives. He explains that these are painful experiences and sometimes they express themselves in oral narratives, in artistic representations, in dreams, and in other forms of language, and cites part of the testimonial of the mother of a missing person.

- Si lo veo, me dice: “mamá no llores por mí”.

Así me habla. Ya no lo he vuelto a ver [a mi hijo: Segundino Flores Allcaco], sólo en mis sueños. Lo veo con la misma ropa que tenía puesta.

- If I see him, he tells me: “Mum don't cry for me”.

This is how he talks to me. I haven't seen him again [my son: Segundino Flores Allcaco], only in my dreams. I see him with the same clothes he had on.

In Guatemala, where the detained and disappeared are commemorated every 21st of June, the Comunidades de Población en Resistencia (Communities of Population In Resistance) [es] blog explains that forced disappearance in Guatemala is a current circumstance, that has expanded throughout the region and that counts on the silent collaboration of power:

La desaparición forzada en Guatemala no es un hecho del pasado. Es un crimen de lesa humanidad de carácter imprescriptible instaurado en América Latina, que también permanece vigente por su continua utilización como mecanismo de control social y dominio político; así como por la impunidad que persiste sobre los hechos cometidos y que hoy se expresa, entre otras cosas, en la reconfiguración de las estructuras de poder que articularon, financiaron y callaron estos crímenes.

Forced disappearances in Guatemala are not a fact of the past. It's a crime against humanity of an imprescriptible character established in Latin America, that also remains in force because of its continued use as a social control and political dominance mechanism; as well as because of the impunity that persists about the committed acts and that is expressed today, among other things, in the reconfiguration of the power structures that articulate, finance and conceal these crimes.

The blog Familiares de Desaparecidos [Families of the Disappeared] [es] also reunites the Uruguayan families of missing people that have not stopped searching and gathers together the efforts of people who live in Uruguay or are in exile:

Desde la apertura democrática caminamos juntos respetando la diversidad de pensamientos que nos caracteriza pero unidos en torno a nuestros principales objetivos: MEMORIA, VERDAD, JUSTICIA Y NUNCA MÁS

Since the democratic opening we have walked together respecting the diversity of thoughts that characterises us but united around our principal objectives: MEMORY, TRUTH, JUSTICE AND NEVER AGAIN

In Mexico the forced disappearances explode from the war against narcotics trafficking. The Mexican Comité Cerezo [es] made available a handbook called “What to do in case of forced disappearance [es]“, downloadable from its web page.

It's important to add that the topic of disappearances is not exclusive to Latin America and does not form a part just of the historical memory. Yet the number of people who vanish in dubious circumstances is great, and many more are those who are silenced and terrorised by these crimes.

So, to conclude, it's important to highlight that the families’ struggle continues outside the Internet. And also that these initiatives and movements see their reflections online before and after the international day of their commemoration. In this way social media helps to revive the memories and connect groups of victims outside their borders. Their meeting point: the search for answers and the collective fight for justice.

August 06 2013

Uruguay One Step Closer to Legalizing Marijuana

Uruguay's House of Representatives has approved a bill to legalize and regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana. If approved by the Senate and signed by President Jose Mujica, Uruguay would become the first country in the world to legalize marijuana.

Under the bill approved by the House, “the government would be allowed to sell marijuana,” as BBC News reported on August 1, 2013:

The state would assume “the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products”.

Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.

But the bill faces “fierce opposition”, as The Economist explained in a piece titled “The Experiment“:

A poll last month found 63% against, and opponents claim that consumption will rise. But its supporters argue that drug prohibition has caused more problems—in the form of organised crime and the risks of clandestine consumption—than the drugs themselves.

The Economist also published an article explaining the bill.

Photo shared by @CannabisMagazin on Twitter.

Photo shared by @CannabisMagazin on Twitter.

The debate started last year, when the Uruguayan government unveiled its plan to decriminalize the controlled sale of marijuana.

The debate has continued online, as citizens and analysts from Uruguay and abroad consider the implications of legalizing marijuana.

On Twitter, Seba Sánchez (@SebaSanchezuy) [es] referred to recent moves by Uruguayan lawmakers on abortion and same-sex marriage:

I remind you that you are part of a unique moment. Laws on abortion, same-sex marriage and marijuana. It happens here.

While Alejandro Figueredo (@afigue2010) [es] pointed out public opposition to the bill:

Something should be noted about those who push for and vote for the bill regulating marijuana. They cared very little about the peoples’ opinion.

Carlos Aloisio in the blog Razones y personas: repensando Uruguay [es] (Reasons and people: rethinking Uruguay), wrote that the regulation of marijuana is “a solution, not a panacea.” Carlos looked into the national debate over the bill and argued [es] that many Uruguayans don't support the bill because “it puts us in the uncomfortable situation of choosing between two evils”:

Por un lado, esto implica aceptar que tenemos un problema, y que estamos en la peor situación. Por otra parte, también implica reconocer que la regulación es una solución, pero está muy lejos de ser una panacea. La literatura internacional sobre el tema reconoce la ausencia de soluciones o recetas universales al problema, y admite de hecho que no hay diseños óptimos. La solución para Uruguay será algo que iremos descubriendo juntos a medida que ganemos conocimiento y experiencia en el problema. Pero, para hacer esta búsqueda posible, el primer paso es regular.

On the one hand, this means accepting that we have a problem, and that we are in the worst situation. On the other hand, it also means recognizing that regulation is a solution, but it is far from a panacea. The international literature on the subject recognizes the absence of universal solutions or prescriptions for the problem, and admits that indeed there are no optimal designs. The solution for Uruguay will be something that we will discover together as we gain knowledge and experience about the problem. But to make this search possible, the first step is to regulate.

In Asuntos del Sur [es], Chilean analyst Eduardo Vargas wrote about Uruguay's bill and what it means for drug legalization in the region. He concluded [es]:

El desafío para Uruguay es grande. Ser pionero no es fácil. Sin embargo, el éxito de esta política también depende del resto de América Latina. Urge que el resto de países inicien revisiones profundas a sus leyes de drogas y tomando la experiencia uruguaya, junto con la de los estados de Colorado y Washington, finalmente piensen, diseñen y ejecuten políticas de drogas más humanas, serias y responsables. Es el momento para que nuestra región se sume a la visión y pragmatismo que llevará al país de Pepe Mujica a liderar con responsabilidad, con una regulación responsable.

The challenge for Uruguay is great. Being a pioneer is not easy. However, the success of this policy also depends on the rest of Latin America. Other countries need to initiate major revisions to their drug laws taking into consideration the Uruguayan experience, along with that of Colorado and Washington states, to finally think, design and implement more humane, serious and responsible drug policies. It's time for our region to join the vision and pragmatism that will lead the country of Pepe Mujica to lead responsibly, with responsible regulation.

August 02 2013

Abre Latam: Developers and Solutions for the Region

Abre Latam [es], an event on Open Data and transparency in Latin American governments that took place in Montevideo, Uruguay on June 24 and 25, did not only bring together hackers and civil society activists from Latin America, along with other people from the region interested in spreading open data and the applications that use them, but also organizations and people from other parts of the world with the same interests.

For example, Alla Morrison, writing for the Open Data blog at the World Bank comments on what she had in mind before the event took place:

Does open data have economic value beyond the benefits of transparency and accountability? Does it have the power to fuel new businesses and create new jobs? Does it have the potential to improve people's lives by powering new services and products? If so, what should the World Bank be doing to help this along? These were questions we had in mind as we set out to bring together open data entrepreneurs from across Latin America for an Open Data Business Models workshop in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Logo-Abre-Latam-700

Abre Latam: An open meeting for an open region

As mentioned in a prior post, people from the Open Knowledge Foundation were present to launch the Spanish version of School of DataEscuela de Datos [es]. They had previously been in Santiago and Buenos Aires and their mission was to promote the launch of the School of Data, but also to try to find and meet the people that participate and drive the topic of open data. According to what they wrote in their blog, it was a magnificent experience:

The initiative [Escuela de Datos] was received enthusiastically and we’re looking forward to see the network grow. [...] After the two intense days all of us left with big smiles and new ideas in our minds. Big congratulations to the team at DATA for organising the event and bringing together such a great group of people from all around the region!

Foto de la página de Facebook ABRE LATAM

Photo from the ABRE LATAM Facebook page

Jen Bramley, of MySociety.org, one of the organizations present that is dedicated to developing software that will empower people in their civic and democratic aspects (FixMyStreet, for example), wrote that “it was extremely interesting to hear the social, cultural, and political experiences of other people in relation to technology,” and also mentioned that:

For me, the most important part was seeing the projects other people work on to strengthen transparency, citizen participation, and civil liberties in their own countries. It’s a humbling experience to realise that some things we take for granted are the subject of intense campaigning in other countries. Each day we had a series of workshops around different topics. I facilitated one, trying to learn what people want from open source technology to make it more globally usable.

Javier Ruíz of the Open Rights Group, an organization dedicated to defending freedom of expression, privacy, innovation, creativity, and consumer rights on the Internet, believes that it is interesting that among the attendees at Abre Latam there was a genuine concern that open data was not only playing with technological toys. He also wrote about his participation in the event:

ORG’s proposed session on privacy brought up many interesting examples of conflicts and difficult choices. Among others we heard of exam results being published in Mexico and the electoral register with Google indexed photos in Argentina. The consensus was that the privacy and open data nexus is very important but we lack the framework to analyse it. This is particularly complicated with the diversity of legal and cultural contexts we find in different countries. Many activists asked for more information and capacity building.

Foto de la página de Facebook ABRE LATAM

Photo from the ABRE LATAM Facebook page

Although Fabrizio Scrollini is Uruguayan and a member of D.A.T.A., one of the organizers of Abre Latam, he wrote a post in English as a guest for the Sunlight Foundation's blog, where he makes a series of reflections on the event as well as on the state of open data, transparency, and open government in the region. Among other things he says:

Community matters. This is hardly a surprise but community can mean different things. Indeed people are interested in open data for all sorts of reasons, but when it comes to a particular area or group of datasets, and the aim is social change, the need for different skills and common goals becomes crucial. Some of the greatest sessions were about how to link the different worlds of technology, communication, policy and social problem solving. Open data (or the lack of it) is sometimes a great excuse to put minds together working to achieve better outcomes.

Susannah Vila, a Global Voices collaborator, kept a live-blog for TechPresident, which she begins with a bit of history about the initiatives with open data in the region:

When Ciudadano Inteligente was launched back in 2011 it was perhaps the only initiative in the region using technology to enhance civic information, engagement and transparency. That same year a regional hackathon, Desarrollando America Latina, was created. Soon after, a community of civic technologists that rivals Chile’s emerged in Mexico, and then in Argentina, Perú, and elsewhere. Uruguay’s DATA launched less than a year ago. As bellwethers like Ciudadano Inteligente grow, and newer projects emerge, a convening designed to consider what has worked and what hasn’t is propitious. It’s also the first of its kind for the region, where civic technologists have come together (plenty) for hackathons, but never to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the hackathon and open data projects.

Foto de la página de Facebook ABRE LATAM

Photo from the ABRE LATAM Facebook page

In another post, Susannah identifies three tendencies that emerged in Abre Latam to answer the question: How do we engage the right people at the right time to use data from the government and turn it into policies for lasting change?

1. Top-Down Solutions: Donor-funded strategies that bring technologists together with NGOs, journalists, activists and other interested groups.
2. Bottom-up solutions: Workshops that develop political autonomy and engagement at the grassroots level.
3. Realistic Solutions: Engage deeply with niche groups.

In conclusion, we are sharing a quote from the blog of Raquel Camargo, a Brazilian journalist who attended the event and also presented the project where she works, Movimento Minas [pt]. After writing about the initiatives that impressed her the most, she reflects the following:

A mensagem que fiquei com todos esses projetos é que, quem quer faz. A grande parte desses projetos contam com poucas pessoas, mas muita vontade. São independentes, são alimentados de determinação e ideologias. Dinheiro? Nem sempre rola. Mas tem paixão no meio. Isso é, para mim, emocionante e faz total sentido ao momento do Brasil. A gente quer mudança? Então vamos fazer a mudança. Esse pessoal aí sabe o que é isso.

The message that all of these projects gave me is that, whoever wants to, does it. A big part of these projects have very few people, but a lot of will. They are independent, they are fed by determination and ideologies. Money? Not always. But passion is in the middle. That is, for me, exciting and makes a lot of sense in Brazil's present moment. We want to change? Then let's make the change. These people here know what that is.

Foto de la página de Facebook ABRE LATAM

Photo from the ABRE LATAM Facebook page

Related post:

Abre Latam, an Open Conference for an Open Region.

Original post published on Juan Arellano's Globalizado [es] blog.

June 20 2013

ABRE LATAM: Open Data and Transparency Unconference

Fernando Briano from Picando Código informs [es] about the upcoming unconference ABRE LATAM [es], organized by D.A.T.A. [es] and Ciudadano Inteligente [es], on June 24 and 25 in Montevideo, Uruguay. The event hopes to “bring together representatives of different sectors of Latin American civil society who work with Open Data on issues like transparency, citizen participation and the extension of civil liberties.” You can follow them on Twitter [es] and Facebook [es].

May 30 2013

Latin American and Caribbean Governments Discuss Internet Policies

Links are to Spanish-language pages except where indicated.

Open development: the Future of the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean” was the theme of a forum held in Montevideo, Uruguay, April 2-3, 2013, as a lead-up to the 4th annual ministerial conference addressing the issue. Attended by both government officials and experts from throughout the region, the conference was organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Spanish acronym CEPAL) and the government of Uruguay via the country's national agency for e-government and the information society (AGESIC in Spanish). The goal of the meeting was to examine regional gains and challenges with regard to the information society as outlined in the eLAC2015 action plan, which aims to:

…coadyuvar a la universalización de la banda ancha, alcanzar un gobierno electrónico transaccional y participativo, lograr el acceso de todas las MIPYME a las TIC, promover la integración regional a través de las TIC, y universalizar el acceso y la expansión de las nuevas tecnologías para la salud y la educación.

…facilitate universal broadband, attain transactional and participatory e-government, provide universal access to ICT for all micro-enterprises and SMBs, promote regional integration through ICT, and ensure universal access and growth of new technologies in the fields of health and education.

As part of the agenda, beyond the formalities and protocol, participants discussed topics such as cyber security, open government, and the role of new technologies in innovation. The event was inaugurated by Uruguay's President José Mujica, who, in his opening speech, not only advocated greater equality of access to ICTs in order to narrow the digital divide in Latin America but also pointed out that “the world is a place where people want to be connected to everything and, conversely, are becoming increasingly less connected to their own feelings.” The blog Hábeas Data, published by Argentina's Center for Personal Data Protection, added:

En esta línea, Mujica remarcó la importancia de aumentar el compromiso por disminuir la brecha digital en el acceso a las tecnologías de la información y comunicación (TICs) existente en América Latina a las cuales se refirió como “instrumentos desafiantes”. Pero, el mandatario también fue desafiante al señalar que “si la tecnología avanza en una sociedad de bestias, el producto será de bestias”. En pos de este argumento y para dejar inagurada la conferencia agradeció a los presentes “por lo que puedan hacer por mejorar la bestia que llevamos dentro”.

In this sense, Mujica emphasized the importance of increasing commitment to narrowing the digital divide in terms of current access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) in Latin America, which he calls “challenging instruments.” But, the President was also provocative, arguing that “if technology advances in a society of savage beasts, the product will reflect this.” To support his argument, as he inaugurated the conference, he thanked participants for “what they could do to tame the beast we carry within us.”

Also speaking at the opening, Alicia Bárcena, the executive secretary of CEPAL, pointed out that Latin American and Caribbean countries were moving technologically at “two very different speeds,” so it is important to strengthen public institutions and policies with a long term strategic vision. She indicated that, while a recent study revealed the ICT sector is responsible for 3.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Mexico, “in the 27 countries of the European Union the rate is 5%”. Journalist and researcher Clarisa Herrera added further examples in an article in Pulso Social, including mobile broadband use statistics:

…en los tres países más avanzados es 15 veces mayor que en los más rezagados. Además, se observa un aumento de la brecha digital de América Latina respecto de los países de la Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económicos (OCDE) en banda ancha móvil (11% versus 55% de penetración en 2011).

In the three most advanced countries, it is 15 times greater than those most lagging behind. Moreover, the digital divide in mobile bandwidth is increasing for Latin America with respect to members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)—11 versus 55% penetration in 2011.

The tangible outcome of the conference was the ratification of a document call the “Montevideo Declaration” in which the representatives of the participating countries resolved to approve, among several points, a roadmap for 2013-2015 and to reaffirm their commitment to implementing the results of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS+10). However, the most significant point of this accord was that it rejected “any attempt to appropriate in any language, without due consent from the countries of the region, the designation Amazon or Patagonia as well as any other generic top-level domain names (gTLD) [en] referring to geographical, historical, cultural or natural entities, as these should be preserved because of their heritage and cultural value.” On his blog, Peruvian lawyer Erick Iriarte commented that it is the first time at one of these meetings that a regional stand on Internet policies has been so clearly stated, and he adds:

Más allá que Perú haya sido quien propuso el párrafo, con el apoyo de Brasil, Argentina, Chile y Ecuador, han sido los países de toda la región de América Latina y el Caribe quienes han expresado su posición clara en torno a lo que el GAC (NdA: Governmental Advisory Committee (Comité Asesor Gubernamental) del ICANN) debe tomar como acción, en la reunión que está ocurriendo en estos momentos en Beijing, en el marco de la 46 reunión del ICANN. [...] ¿sabrá el GAC oír esta posición de los países de América Latina? Y mejor aún la pregunta a hacerse es ¿el ICANN está preparado para que el GAC no escuche a América Latina, región que ha trabajado arduamente para fortalecer el GAC y diversos espacios de dialogo multistakeholder?

Beyond the fact that Peru proposed the paragraph in question, with the support of Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador, it is noteworthy that countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean clearly expressed their position that the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) [en] of ICANN [en] must take action in the meeting happening right now in Beijing, as part of the 46th ICANN conference. [...] Will GAC listen to Latin America's position? And more to the point, the question is whether ICANN is prepared for GAC to ignore Latin America, a region that has worked assiduously to strengthen GAC and many other areas of dialogue among stakeholders.

As indicated by the aforementioned Alicia Bárcena: “These countries are defending names that reflect our heritage and identity against plundering third parties.” In fact, during the 46th meeting of ICANN [en] in Beijing, April 7-11, the Peruvian government reiterated its objection to possible registration of the Internet domain name “.amazon” by a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc. It would seem the plea by Latin American countries was heard: at the end of the ICANN meeting in Beijing, the GAC informed [en] Amazon that some of its requested generic top-level domain names (gTLDs)—.amazon and .patagonia—which had been petitioned by another company could be rejected for being problematic. Greater support is expected from Amazon and other applicants in similar situations, the particulars of which will be available at the next ICANN meeting in July in Durban, South Africa.

To return to Uruguay's ministerial conference, the economist Alfredo Velazco, writing for Usuarios de Internet del Ecuador, offered his opinion of the event:

…se matizó con conferencias con temas muy interesantes, lastimosamente poca audiencia, sin espacio para preguntas y poco debate por la sociedad de la información en redes sociales. Nos queda el reto como sociedad civil abrir más espacios, en especial en lo que tienen que ver con la creación de políticas públicas en nuestros gobiernos; pero también aportar en los espacios digitales.

The conference featured interesting topics, [but] unfortunately [had] poor attendance, without time for questions and little discussion of the information society in social networks. As a civil society, we are left with the challenge of opening up more space, especially with regards to the creation of public policies in our governments; but also where digital space is concerned.

The next ministerial conference on the information society of Latin America and the Caribbean will be held in Mexico in 2015. For more information on the meeting in Montevideo, take a look at #eLAC2015 on Twitter.

Post originally published on the blog Globalizado.

April 27 2013

#FLISOL 2013: Hundreds of Latin Americans Installing Free Software

Flisol 2013 Banner.

Flisol 2013 Banner.

From the Patagonia to Havana, hundreds of computer users across Latin America are choosing freedom over control by installing free software on their computers. On April 27th, groups of free software enthusiasts will be installing free software in dozens of cities across Latin America as part of FLISOL [es], the Latin American free software installation festival.
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