Although in the popular imagination Argentina is linked in the mind with the vibrant, populous capital of Buenos Aires, with over 11 million souls, the majority of Argentineans live outside of the big cities, in sparsely populated towns and villages. As Argentina continues to emerge from a major financial crisis, a constant problem for local governments is how to give the citizens in the outlying areas access to the same services as those in the more populous parts of the country.
In the province of San Luis, in the geographical heart of Argentina, it is not uncommon for people to have to make a journey of three hours into town to make an appointment to see a doctor at the local hospital. The government of San Luis realized that an e-government could provide the answer to this lack of access to facilities and information.
NEC worked with the government to coordinate the creation of what is now called the Autopista de la Informacion - an accessible, web-based next generation network that rings the province with optical fiber, radio and satellite links. It took three years technical work and twenty two thousand hours of specialist training to turn the project into a reality.
At the heart of the Autopista is the data center which not only hosts NEC's secure servers, but software solutions specially developed for the San Luis government. But access to the network is still problematic for parts of the province where there are no telephone lines, let alone optical fibre links. In those cases, mobile satellite up-link vans provide internet access to the most outlying districts of the country.
But technology is only one step in enabling the population to access information online. In places with more than three hundred people, community access centers are being built – working with NEC to offer free training in computer skills and access to Autopista.
E-government has transformed the lives of the residents of San Louis by reducing the digital gap between rich and poor, between those in the city and those in the countryside. According to Luis Russo of the San Luis government, Autopista is a success not just because NEC implemented a technological solution, but because it was part of an active collaboration. “At every step along the way,” he says, “we were hand in hand. This assistance with technology has created a close relationship between NEC and the government, which allowed us to get this system off the ground”.