Córdoba Connectivity Plan: Government Deployment of Infrastructure to Equalize Territorial Opportunities

Melisa Gorondy Novak, Universidad Católica de Córdoba

Relevance of the Practice

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) created a ‘Digital Revolution’,[1] in which Internet has become a human right.[2] Public policies to extend connectivity along territories are fundamental. Internet penetration is still a challenge for the peripheral and rural areas of Argentina.

The selected practice, based on the Province of Córdoba Connectivity Plan, provides evidence about different strategies of territorial connectivity and digital inclusion. The case is an example of a public policy in which the development of infrastructure is linked to a process of digital inclusion. It seeks to provide citizens with knowledge of the use of the internet as a tool for social and local development.[3] The practice highlights the interconnection between public policies in the quest to make resources more efficient.

The case also reveals the dependence on infrastructure investment of the local level and the need of territorial articulation with multiple stakeholders, including private sector and civil society, to cover a highly fragmented and diverse territory.

Description of the Practice

The Province of Córdoba has a high degree of administrative fragmentation compared to other provinces, encompassing 427 local governments, while the average number of municipalities per province in Argentina is 91.[4] This fragmentation is related to a diversity in socioeconomic indicators and geographic regions, which become the basis for inequalities among localities in the province.

In relation to connectivity, 69.5 per cent of households in Córdoba have access to broadband internet. However, within the universe of households that do not have broadband access, 50.6 per cent only have mobile connection.[5] Although the software industry in the province has grown significantly,[6] most ICT companies are still concentrated in urban areas, mainly in the capital. That leaves rural and peripheral areas out of the opportunities offered by the development of technological sectors.

The ‘Córdoba Connectivity Plan’ is a public policy aimed at ‘educating creative and innovative citizens capable of developing their localities in the context of the digital revolution’.[7] This plan consists of, first, infrastructure investment (e.g., a fiber optic network) to guarantee connectivity throughout the provincial territory, linking rural and urban schools, hospitals, and public buildings of the 427 local governments of the province. Second, a digital inclusion initiative which seeks to reduce the digital gap in access, use, and appropriation of technologies.

A previous infrastructure investment built the first fiber optic network in the City of Córdoba in 1999. The Secretary of Connectivity created the Córdoba Connectivity Plan in 2018 and, in 2020, the Cordoba Connectivity Agency, a public-private state unit. Its main goals were to expand connectivity infrastructure, integrating it with other national and provincial fiber optic networks, and to promote digital literacy.[8]

To optimize the allocation of resources, and achieve greater penetration in the territory, the government used the gas pipeline to lay the fiber optic network. This strategy highlights the alternative of interconnection between public policies when the execution of two or more political actions requires considerable investment, in the quest to make resources more efficient.

The Government of Córdoba also coordinated efforts with the Provincial Energy Enterprise, the national government, cooperatives, and private entities to take advantage of previous infrastructure investments.

The connectivity plan has been complemented by two other initiatives. First, Citizen Connection Spaces, which are places where citizens have free access to the internet in waiting rooms of provincial public hospitals, museums, cultural centers, and other public offices and open spaces in towns of the provincial countryside. The provincial government provided internet connection to public offices and spaces in the 427 local governments of the province. These actions provided internet access for peripheral and rural areas of the province.

Second, the digital inclusion initiative democratized access to ICT, seeking to reduce the digital gap in access, use, and appropriation of technologies, strengthening digital knowledge and skills, mainly in vulnerable sectors of the population. It includes training courses in basic abilities to use ICT, and hackathons for digital alphabetization for older adults, women, people in rural areas, and with disabilities. These actions are carried out in collaboration with universities, civil society organizations, and technological entrepreneurs.

Assessment of the Practice

The Córdoba Connectivity Plan laid out a network of more than 2,300 km of fiber optic. It connected 100 per cent of the provincial hospitals, more than 3,000 schools, more than 200 open spaces and more than 300 public agencies. In addition, more than 65,000 people have already accessed digital literacy programs.[9] The challenge is to deepen those training initiatives for citizens in order to make them capable of participating in the growing digital economy, not only appropriating existing technologies, but also contributing to the generation of technological development in their localities.

References to Scientific and Non-Scientific Sources

Legal Documents:

Connectivity Córdoba Plan, Law no 10,564/2018

Connectivity Cordoba Agency creation, Law no 10,737/2020

Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications:

Assumpção R, ‘Política Pública de Inclusión Digital’ (Ministry of Planning, Budgeting and Management 2008) <http://www.residuoselectronicos.net/archivos/boletin/boletin_11_ppt/11_assumpcao_mpog_arg_ocampo_1208.pdf>

Gendler M, ‘Globalización y tecnologías digitales: un estado de situación’ (2016) 6 Unidad Sociológica 30 <http://unidadsociologica.com.ar/UnidadSociologica64.pdf>

Lago Martínez S, Gendler M and Méndez A, ‘Políticas de inclusión digital en Argentina y el Cono sur: cartografía, perspectivas y problemáticas’ (2016) 2 Revista Interritórios 155 <https://www.aacademica.org/anahi.mendez/27.pdf>

Peres W and Hilbert M (eds), La sociedad de la información en América Latina y el Caribe: desarrollo de las tecnologías y tecnologías para el desarrollo (CEPAL 2009) <https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/2537/1/S0900902_es.pdf>

Government of Córdoba website with information on connectivity, <https://www.cba.gov.ar/conectividad-cordoba/>

Secretary of Connectivity website, <https://conectividad.cba.gov.ar>

[1] Martin Becerra, ‘Revolución digital: ciudadanía y derechos en construcción’ (Cuadernos SITEAL 2015) <http://www.tic.siteal.iipe.unesco.org/sites/default/files/stic_publicacion_files/tic_cuaderno_ciudadania_20160210.pdf>.

[2] Alix Aguirre and Nelly Manasía, ’Derechos humanos de cuarta generación: Inclusión social y democratización del conocimiento’ (2014)14 Télématique 2 <https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/784/78435427002.pdf>; Pedro López López and Toni Samek, ‘Inclusión digital: un nuevo derecho humano’ (2009) 172 Educación y Biblioteca 114 <https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/11886312.pdf>.

[3] Juan Benavides and others, ‘Impacto de las Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones (TIC) en el Desarrollo y la Competitividad del País’ (Fedesarrollo 2011) <http://www.repository.fedesarrollo.org.co/handle/11445/180>.

[4] OECD, ‘OECD Territorial Reviews: Córdoba, Argentina’ (OECD Publishing 2016) <https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264262201-en>.

[5] Dirección General de Estadísticas y Censo de la Provincia de Córdoba, ‘Hogares con acceso a banda ancha’ (Dirección General de Estadística y Censos, 2019) <https://estadistica.cba.gov.ar/marco-de-bienestar-2/>.

[6] Córdoba Technology Cluster and Economic Trends, ‘Monitor TIC’(March edition, 2018)                 <https://files.gfiles.me/uo/aps2812/_u/2018-4/monitor_estadistico_tic_-_2018_04_v02.pdf>.

[7] Connectivity Córdoba Plan, Law no 10,564/2018.

[8] Law no 10,737/2020.

[9] Government of the Province of Córdoba, ‘Memoria de Géstion Gubernamental 2019’ [Government Management Report 2019] and ‘Memoria de Géstion Gubernamental 2020’ [Government Management Report 2020] <https://gestionabierta.cba.gov.ar/>.