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La Educación
Número: (132-133) I,II
Año: 1999

1. What is ISTEC’s role in this regard?

ISTEC is a non-profit organization comprised of educational, research, and industrial institutions throughout the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula. The Consortium was established 10 years ago to foster scientific, engineering, and technology education, joint international research and development efforts among its members, and to provide a cost-effective vehicle for the application and transfer of technology. By their very nature, these activities will benefit all participants with the enhancement of knowledge and facilitate scientific and technical progress of Ibero-American countries. ISTEC’s objectives are currently pursued in the fields of Information Technology and Telecommunications (IT&T), without excluding future extensions into other areas.

In an effort to improve international collaborations in science and technology, personnel from the University of New Mexico visited several Latin American countries in the summer of 1990 to identify and evaluate opportunities for collaborative projects. Meetings were held with officials from various governments, educational institutions, research facilities, and industrial firms to gage interest in establishing efforts of cooperation in technical fields. The meetings resulted in the identification of areas of common interest for employing hands-on education, research, and technology transfer in state-of-the-art technology and science. As a result of these visits, an organizational meeting was held in December 1990 at the University of New Mexico, involving personnel from universities, industries, governments, and foundations throughout Ibero-America. A number of obstacles that need to be addressed were identified in these discussions:
Lack of current information for planning and developing technology

Lack of expertise in the use of information

Lack of international cooperation in developing the critical mass needed for projects and joint efforts

Lack of interaction (lack of confidence and sometimes lack of information) between universities, industries, and governments

In addition, it is imperative that efforts be made to address these issues concurrently in order to further the technological development of Ibero-America. It was a consensus among the participants in the meeting that traditional mechanisms for collaboration are not sufficient, and new, more effective mechanisms are needed. As a result of the meeting, ISTEC was created, and universities, industries, and other organizations became members by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU establishes a General Assembly, which sets policy and direction, an Executive Committee, which carries out the policies and promotes the Consortium, and an Executive Office, which handles the day-to-day operations.

The goals of the Consortium are to conceive, plan, and carry out activities of higher education, research and development, and technology transfer, for the purpose of facilitating scientific and technical progress of the Ibero-American countries. ISTEC participants encourage the free flow of ideas and access to information in the pursuit of technical excellence. By coordinating eminent personnel and resources from diverse geographical locations, ISTEC has developed a mechanism called the Initiative, which is an organized effort to create activities to address a specific area of concern. In order to confront the hurdles mentioned above, there are currently four Initiatives underway: 1) Library Linkages, providing rapid access to current information for researchers, educators, manufacturers, and policy makers; 2) Advanced Continuing Education, creating competitive human resources through on-site training, distance learning, and non-traditional exchange programs; 3) Research and Development Laboratories, augmenting the shared R&D capabilities of universities and industries with state-of-the-art equipment, flexible network design, and training; and 4) Los Libertadores, developing a network of Centers of Excellence to share expertise and distributed problem solving. Within initiatives, projects are identified, planned, and implemented. They are member-driven, flexible, and run concurrently. Projects are dynamic and expandable, are designed with both short- and long-term goals, and include consideration of social impact. The organization of the Consortium and its distributed structure avoids the duplication of efforts and its coordination maximizes the utilization of available resources. Thus the Initiative concept inherently responds to membership needs and effectively meets the challenges present in Latin America.

ISTEC recognizes that the scarcity of resources can be a catalyst to innovation in education, research, and development. Its multinational membership maximizes resource utilization at the same time that it minimizes repetition, solidifies industrial and education institutional partnerships, and employs state-of-the-art infrastructure for information sharing to address common problems. At the same time, ISTEC creates new investment opportunities, provides support for existing industries, and seeks solutions to local problems using current technologies. Funding for projects comes from a number of local, regional, and international sources. Additionally, each member of ISTEC contributes to operational expenses though annual membership dues. As partners in a win/win endeavor, the industry members of ISTEC benefit from a trained workforce in many countries, new markets and contacts, and ready access to the universities and R&D centers throughout Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula.

ISTEC’s activities bring the latest trends and information in the fast-moving fields of science and technology to educators, scientists, and others who can utilize this information. Countries are seeing their science and technology education programs brought to competitive levels. The work of the Consortium is raising the level and quality of education among the academic institutions of Latin America by providing key links with the private sector and improved communications with other institutions. And, perhaps most importantly, the Consortium is helping people continue to live and work in their own countries by providing real life opportunities for learning and employment throughout the Americas.