|Technology to slash government bureaucracy|
"E-government will become the next big thing. Big projects and programs will develop over the next 10 to 15 years in Latin America. Being able to register for identification papers online will be a big opportunity throughout Latin America," says Roger Brown, the President of Intesa, a Latin American diversified research engineering company based in Caracas. Heavily involved in telecommunication and information technology, Intesa is one of the largest employer owned operations in Latin America. As the government aims to loosen the state's hold one many industries it also hopes to improve the efficiency of remaining public services through the use of technology and the internet. Government ministries and major state institutions such as the National Budget Office (OCEPRE) and the Consumer protection office (INDECU) were traditionally places where staff relied heavily on systems that were not computerized, overseeing mountains of paper.
Decrepit typewriters, zero understanding of the Internet and hand written notes were and in many places still are, de rigueur.
Realizing that a modern state must embrace the technologies of globalization in order to compete globally, President Chavez has made the promotion of the Internet a "national priority."
The new telecoms law states that all Venezuelans must have access to the international information network provided by the Internet." A law is to be passed imminently regulating electronic documents and signatures and ensuring that consumer's credit card information and sensitive personal information is not disclosed".
The science and technology ministry now requires all ministries and public institutions to be Internet-friendly. All government institutions will now need to detail plans of how technology will be used to improve efficiency over the next five years.
"The need for technology and knowledge is necessary for the growth of our country," admits Science and Technology Minister Genatios.
|Schools are especially set to be targeted, a program in which the private sector is now actively participating.|
"We are developing with some schools a special program for children of the ages three to seven with low income. They learn math, science, basic education using the Internet using the PC, and special teachers will supervise them," says Marcelo Annarumma, President of IBM de Venezuela.
Venezuela currently has 500,000 Internet users and one million personal computers and trails its Latin American neighbours in terms of Internet penetration and on-line trade.
The use of the Internet for public bidding rounds was also approved in a new public bidding law in the hope that corruption can finally be cut out of the auction process.
"The auction law has been approved and opens up the possibility of bidding on line. It will fight corruption and held control the bidding process," according to Minister Genatios.
The government also hopes that hi-tech industries will locate to Venezuela in order to sustain the local boom in computer technology.
In 1995, western Merida state became a scientific and technological 'free zone' where investors receive fiscal benefits. Imports to be used in free zones enter free of tariffs, internal taxes, sales taxes, fees for customs services while companies can also be granted a 10 year exemption from income tax. Merida's new Governor Florencio Porras hopes that investors will arrive to take advantage of those benefits. "We hope that in 2001 we would in capturing investments for microchip production, software development," Governor Porras says. Web design is also an area that is slowly picking up speed as companies wake up to the importance of a presence on the World Wide Web.
Internet subscription in Latin America is poised to grow by an average 42% during the next five years with Venezuela at the forefront of the boom. "It is something in which we are investing for the future," says Karl Fischer, President of the advertising company Fischer Grey, an associate of the multinational Grey Advertising. "At the beginning of the year we officially launched a database design arm, and Internet web design."