Argentina has beat its South American brethren to become the best country in the region at providing services to its citizens via the Internet, according to a new United Nations study. “Argentina surpassed Chile and Brazil to lead the South American region. This was done primarily with an increase in the infrastructure index, with a major increase in cellular subscribers and an increase in the number of PCs,” the study reported.
The study, which ranks Argentina 39th in the world, largely based its ranking on three factors: 1) The quality of government web pages; 2) The state of each country’s e-infrastructure (that is, Internet connections, cellphone usage, broadband access, etc.); and 3) The education level of a country’s population. By these measures Argentina, which has steadily been improving broadband Internet access, jumped to the top of the list. European nations led the rankings, though some Asian countries and the U.S. also scored very well.
“This year Sweden surpassed the United States as the leader. Three Scandinavian countries took the top three spots in the 2008 Survey, with Denmark and Norway in second and third place respectively. The United States came in fourth.”
“The United States scored the highest on the e-participation index. This was primarily due to its strength in e-information and e-consultation, which enabled its citizens to be more interactive with their government. It was closely followed by the Republic of Korea, which performed extremely well in the e-consultation assessment. Denmark and France were tied for third place.”
Argentina’s online information services typically have been far better than those offered in nearby countries. However, the quality and reliability of some information services has declined notably over the past year. This appears to be related, at least in part, to the government’s reticence to reveal data that could be interpreted negatively.
Consider the recent and ongoing controversy related to the collection and disclosure of inflation by the formerly impressive National Statistics Agency, or INDEC. The agency was once a perfectly reliable source of information on a wide range of information from consumer prices to trade data and supermarket sales. However, since last year, when Argentine President Nestor Kirchner sought to suppress the release of controversial inflation data, the agency has continued to become an increasingly unreliable source of information.
Nonetheless, the publication of data related to uncontroversial issues continues to be impressive and an interested observer can find all kinds of information about life in Argentina. Though not included in the UN study, the web pages run by the City of Buenos Aires offer a veritable treasure trove of information on everything from the location of certain tree species to the location and timing of a drive-in movie. Meanwhile, a curious cat can find out how much beef Argentines eat (about 67 kilograms or 150 lbs per person annually) by turning to the Agriculture Secretariat site. There is plenty of information available for those who seek it.