The fledgling global common of internet connectivity is increasingly embracing other human activities and penetrating strategic cultures. This is how digital resources are conceived and mobilized in any given society project. This strategic perspective, or more simply, the perception that every geocultural or sectoral sphere is formed from the internet, is no small thing.
Debate about a democratic internet among social organizations in Latin America has focused precisely on this question. At the meeting in Quito in September 2017, the idea emerged of taking steps towards a new understanding of electronic communication along with four other lines of action: to consolidate a horizon of struggle (ideological component); to construct a collective actor (organization); to coordinate and create alliances (boosting and broadening existing ones); to further experiences and alternative paradigms (direct and innovative action.) One of the challenges in advancing towards a citizen internet is the need to simultaneously combine these lines of action with the specific social, political and economic situation.
One central exercise, then, is to decipher the evolutionary physiognomy of the internet and its interactions with other vectors of power and influence, and provide a dynamic interpretative framework, both for a democratizing internet and for State policy. It is important to highlight one key aspect in this respect. The way actors in the region appropriate digital innovations arises primarily from a desire for assimilation—even a philosophical assimilation—of the DNA of electronic communication and a capacity for conceptual reformulation. This capacity is related to the incorporation of the electronic grammar in the regional and global world view.
In Latin America, the objective reality of the electronic territory is that it continues to be a technological appendix of Washington’s realm of influence. Despite numerous crises of confidence in the way the United States runs the internet, and with the failure to establish the regionalization of some of its components (UNASUR and CAN’s regional fibre ring and South American Integration Connectivity Network, the MERCOSUR’s Governmental Cybersecurity and Governance Group), US extraterritoriality continues to support all levels of regional infrastructure (traffic, routing and search engines, data and norms ecosystem) while simultaneously impeding the emergence of a regional digital market.
This structural dominance obviously imposes serious internal and external limits, but it is important to note that this inherited domination is also found in concepts of cyberspace. Digital resources are generally addressed from orthodox or dialectical models. The elites tend to handle a series of conceptions that swing between the delegation of resources under their tutelage (particularly in the current entreguista [sellout] cycle), developmentalist technicalities (the internet is just another development tool with no strategic value) or autonomous regionalism and anti-imperialism. In these apparently contrasting conceptions, the digital sphere tends not to be internalized as something that can modify power relationships, compensate for asymmetries or promote a genuine modernizing model. There exists a “passive” inclination to blindly follow the leader, which becomes a weakness whenever a different mobilizing agenda is promoted. It is vital to work on this weakness in order to renew the transforming visions of digital goods.