In the face of the fourth industrial revolution, the settling of disruptive technologies and the non-stoppable pace of digitalisation it is timely to question the role that regional mechanisms/institutions play as enablers and governance instances of these technological developments. This is not only because of the economic and welfare benefits arising from them but also for the need to address the tensions and dilemmas they pose to traditional economic systems, patterns of production and labour.
Aware of this context and the challenges it presents, the PA recently launched a roadmap for its Digital Agenda focusing on four main pillars: (i) digital economy; (ii) digital connectivity; (iii) digital governments; (iv) digital ecosystems. The PA proposes an ambitious goal towards the creation of a regional digital market. The PA members commit themselves to the development of an internationalisation strategy for their IT industries and digital entrepreneurs. The content and scope of this strategy on a regional level is yet to be defined.
The exploratory roadmap in the area of digital connectivity cooperation also prescribes actions for the effective transition to IPv6 (ultimate generation internet protocol). These include technical advice from Internet Society and LACNIC (Latin American Network Information Centre) towards making the transition possible for the public sector of the PA members. It also provides for actions aiming at reducing international roaming rates with a view to make them equivalent to local rates. Works on this front aim to include efforts to strengthen the infrastructure at the regional and sub-regional level. PA members commit to looking for ways to develop the necessary infrastructure for establishing IXPs (internet exchange points) within the region to allow for regional interconnections. These investments are required to reduce final users’ costs and improve transmission speeds. Efforts in the digital connectivity realm also involve looking at ways to establish new high-speed access networks to promote the digital economy.
Regarding digital government, the PA focuses its works on open data, improving public services to citizens and businesses, and promoting the use of shared services. Actions in this front refer to technical cooperation between PA members and the exchange of experiences and practices.
The digital ecosystem pillar provides for the promotion of (national) policies on security and consumer information privacy, as well as cooperation among the CERTS (computer emergency response teams)/CIRTS (computer incident response teams) to enhance national strategies on digital security. PA parties commit to developing a strategy to facilitate coordination among regional network information centres (NICs) that ultimately could achieve common policies for the management of domain names.
“At the moment the type of actions proposed in this roadmap are modest and refer primarily to the exchange of information and best practices, regional workshops, development of technical cooperation and technical studies. Hopefully, the results of this exploratory roadmap will create a more precise and more robust path as to what policies could and want to be achieved on a regional scale. With no doubt, the digital agenda should be at the forefront of the 2030 vision that the PA is discussing at the moment.”
This digital agenda could not eschew the relevance that regulatory convergence has to foster digital environments and a digital market at the regional level for the PA. The issue does not seem to be part of the current roadmap, or at least is not clearly spelt out as one of the axes. Convergence and regulatory cooperation on issues such as consumer protection, privacy and data protection rules and procedures, data flows and responsibility are central to nurture digital ecosystems.
Parties seem willing to explore the adoption of the neutrality principle across the PA members and explore sectoral regulations to identify hurdles for the implementation of high-speed access networks. When talking about privacy and data protection the digital roadmap requires PA members to work to establish common measures for the protection of personal data transferred across the region. Hopefully, it will also have a facilitation component through means of recognition that would reduce unnecessary hurdles to the transfer of personal information across a region aspiring to build a digital market.
The early adoption of a regional dimension on national discussions of the PA members on the way to regulate digital platforms and innovations and how to strike a balance with other policy concerns is critical. This will prevent divergent regulatory approaches on competition, taxation, labour, personal data protection and privacy, data flows, localisation, IP and consumer protection that down the track could hinder the prospects for a regional digital market. Some lessons could be drawn from the experience of Europe in developing the single digital market strategy.