by Daniel Aguirre Azócar*
The Chilean Internet Governance Ecosystem (IGE) stands out due to the paradoxical characteristics related to its digital development. Digital development indices often times place Chile on the high end of regional rankings regarding access and use, that is connectivity and how Chilean society appropriates Internet in their personal and professional lives. Professional use that can potentially translate into enhanced productive practices have yet to become widespread, thus a digitalized economy has not entirely been established unlike other marketplaces such as Argentina or Brazil. This can potentially point to an issue of ineffective or non-existent policies originating from Chile’s policymakers. Alternatively, it could also mean that the “underregulated” Chilean economy provides an environment where transnational firms prioritize other Latin American markets in lieu of a second tier market such as Chile. The paradoxical characteristics of Chile’s digital development might signal and provide some answers to the main question of this text: Why is the Chilean IGE lacking an active and participatory community, and policies that address IG related issues?
Chile’s IGE, beyond a technical community, lacks participatory actors, especially local ones. In addition, the Chilean IGE is affected by the internationalization and the liberalization of its marketplace that took hold in the 1990s. Consequently, the realm of digital issues are and have been of concern of private sector actors and from its technical side; local actors interact with a transnational web of technical organizations. What do above statements actually mean is that the IGE in Chile focuses on connectivity/use from a statist perspective and all other issues can potentially be privatized, when private sector actors chose to participate/address them. Therefore, identifying actors in this context and the roles played within Chile, become an entry point to discuss that lack of a national debate on IG and IG related issues.
IG and IG issues span a number of areas of critical concern for the development of individuals and societies in our present age. DeNardis (2010) and the Internet Society (ISoc) enumerate a series of issue-areas that require attention and committed efforts by a diverse set of stakeholders locally, internationally and globally.1 These issues according to the ISoc web page are: Access; Children and the Internet; Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC); Domain Name System (DNS); Encryption; Human Rights; Innovation; Networks & Trust; Open Internet Standards; Online Identity; Intellectual Property;Internet Exchange Points (IXPs); Internet of Things (IoT); Internet Regulation; Internet Governance; Internet Security through Resilience and Stability; Internet Protocol (IP) Addressing; IPv6; Net Neutrality; Privacy & identity; Routing Security; and Standardization. In the Chilean case, scant attention has been given to non-technical issues, in spite of decades of manifest digital plans presented by different administrations. Private sector actors in effect certainly have a presence in the Chilean marketplace, yet should our expectation be on transnational telecommunication firms and Internet content providers to invest time and resources related to issues not entirely pertaining to their economic/commercial objectives.
After a series of in-depth interviews of potential IGE actors located in Chile, the initial conclusion of the participation, commitment and influence of actors is that capacity and knowledge to properly present into the public space a nuanced and thoughtful debate on IG and IG related issues is incipient. The initial findings point to a context that can be described of high connectivity driven by governmental and private sector partnerships early on in the country’s digital development, but scarce partnership formation with local firms and non-governmental organizations on sociopolitical IG issues. While it is important to point out that academia has played an important role from both the technical and legislative aspects related to Internet resources, what is noticeable is a map that remains “underpopulated” by a vibrant civil society. In effect, as seen in the map presented below, the Chilean IGE is composed by a few local actors and transnational actors who “fly-in” when business objectives might suffer because of potential policies. All this begs the question if this is the ecosystem the Chilean society deserves or when will an active citizen concern himself or herself of protecting/expanding the benefits the Internet provides or could provide for the country?
Daniel Aguirre Azócar is a professor of International Relations at Instituto de Estudios Internacionales, Universidad de Chile.