Latin America: A Conversation With Santiago Hoerth about Open Technology

[All links lead to Spanish language pages except when otherwise noted]

Santiago Hoerth, founder and coordinator of Código Sur, presented on ‘Open Internet with Open Technologies’ at the Open Culture Congress held October 17 and 18, 2011, in Quito, Ecuador. His presentation is available almost in full in two videos (1 and 2) online.

Código Sur is an organization which defines itself as:

un grupo de personas pertenecientes a diferentes movimientos sociales preocupadas por los derechos humanos, las libertades y los procesos sociales de emancipación. De igual modo lo estamos por las nuevas formas de comunicación y sus herramientas tecnológicas.

a group of people from different social movements who are concerned about human rights, [and] the freedoms and social processes of emancipation. Similarly, we are [concerned] about new forms of communication and related technological tools.

Among their objectives they mention the following:

  • Colaborar con el desarrollo y la socialización de las tecnologías y herramientas de comunicación en América Latina.
  • Realizar proyectos y programas que fomenten la comunicación y faciliten el acceso a Internet y las tecnologías de información y comunicación (TIC) en las organizaciones de América Latina.
  • Collaborate with the development and socialization of communication tools and technologies in Latin America.
  • Undertake projects and programs that encourage communication and facilitate access to the Internet and information and communication technologies (ICTs) in Latin American organizations.

A couple of days after the Congress I met with Santiago to talk, among other things, about Código Sur:

In his presentation Santiago discussed neutral internet exchange points (IXP) and free networks. He provides more information on the subject in the following video:

Wikipedia explains [en] more about these neutral points:

The technical and business logistics of traffic exchange between ISPs is governed by mutual peering agreements. Under such agreements traffic is often exchanged without compensation. When an IXP incurs operating costs, they are typically shared among all of its participants. […] Fees based on volume of traffic are unpopular because they provide a counterincentive to growth of the exchange.

RedLibre (free networks) is also defined on Wikipedia. Its goals [en] are particularly interesting to note:

  1. Build a Free Network (Red Libre)
  2. Bring technology to society and make communication easier
  3. Create an emergency network which could be used in a moment of disaster

The Wikipedia entry in Spanish also mentions common problems among free network communities:

Exceso de expectativas. Falta de acciones, sentimiento de comunidad y trabajo en equipo. Falta de coordinación.

Excess of expectations. Lack of action, sense of community and teamwork. Lack of coordination.

As in any project, the human factor is apparently very important. You can find more information on this subject on, Buenos Aires Libre, Bogotá Mesh, Montevideo Libre, and Redes Libres, the organization that gathers all the Latin American free network communities.

Finally, Santiago spoke about Free Software [en] in Latin America. 

As Santiago explains, free software is very popular in Latin America, as revealed during the Latin American Free Software Install Fests (FLISOL [en] for its initials in Spanish), an event that spreads free software in the continent every year. This year, for example, 269 cities participated with lectures, workshops, and installations of different free software.

It is important to note that Codigo Sur looks beyond the concept of free software as a programming tool and considers it a social tool as well:

El propósito de retirar la programación de la esfera corporativa y volverla a poner en el ámbito social es algo indispensable para evitar que la promesa de la Era Digital se convierta en una pesadilla social. La condición necesaria para poder confiar en que las reglas impuestas por el software reflejen los objetivos y valores de la sociedad, es que la participación en la construcción del software esté abierta y al alcance de todas las personas que deseen hacerlo.

The intention to withdraw programming from the corporate sphere and put it back in the social sphere is indispensable to keep the promise of the Digital Age from becoming a social nightmare. The necessary condition to make sure that the rules imposed by the software reflect the objectives and values ​​of society, is that participation in the making of that software be open and available to all who wish to participate.
The videos in this post were subtitled by Beatriz Arze, Helen Siers, and Noemi Zalazar
Post previously published on Juan Arellano's personal blog, November 25, 2011.


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