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

9. How does ISTEC hope to make a difference?

The ultimate goal of ISTEC is to enhance human resources in Ibero-America and in this way to contribute to regional development in science and technology by attracting industries, universities, foundations, governmental and international agencies, and other organizations. Together these organizations can work toward improving educational opportunities, disseminating technology, developing research programs, identifying new business opportunities, and providing access to talent. This partnership will lead to:

Enhancement/creation of graduate and undergraduate programs. An increase in the number of degrees in Ibero-America.

Development and accreditation of degree programs within the Consortium’s network of universities.

Distance Education programs, with Internet course preparation and delivery by ISTEC member institutions, using multimedia production centers and additional telecommunication equipment for course design and production.

Development of areas of expertise at each member university in order to minimize repetition and maximize resources.

Creation of critical mass to address challenging problems.

Dissemination of information technology in a rapid manner throughout Ibero-America in a cost-effective manner.

Access to high-skill resources.

Conduit for intellectual creativity.

Early warning of potential technology breakthroughs.

Access to research and literature.

Market development.
Worldwide the demand for Information Technology (IT) personnel far outstrips supply. In the USA, this causes the delay of development schedules, projects to go over budget, and inhibit expansion plans. Vacancies affect more than 10% of IT jobs in an organization; turnover represents 10% on average in a company in the USA, and in the Silicon Valley turnover represents 20%.1 The shortage of IT personnel will last ten to fifteen years. Potential job openings for IT workers total 450,000 and the universities are producing 1/6th of what is needed in the USA.2 Many university programs in the USA have been slow to react to changes in the marketplace, and their degrees focus on outdated technologies. In the rest of the world, this situation is exacerbated. ISTEC is a mechanism through which this situation can be addressed.

In the work place, Latin American companies spend as little as 2% of their budget on training and development, while Asian companies spend as much as 17% on training.3 “Without efficient educational systems, companies throughout Latin America will continue to see shortages of qualified labor. The number of Latin Americans capable of starting their own companies or running others will remain minimal.” 4 In order to counteract this trend and foster growth in the region, ISTEC focuses on the availability of IT to facilitate entrepreneurship in the region.

For students, the most meaningful aspects of the Consortium’s work are the real-life opportunities it creates in their participating countries. Latin America has the talent and the human potential to turn out the first class engineers that are in high demand by high technology firms. The exchange of personnel is of fundamental importance. Participating universities and related institutions facilitate and encourage these exchanges. Educational institutions determine any special conditions that govern the matriculation of students, and the transfer of course records.

One of the specific needs of Latin America is to address the shortage of qualified university faculty. According to CONACyT and NSF, in México, only 28% of faculty have a Master in Science and only 6% hold a Ph.D. Only 30% of researchers hold a Ph.D. and 7% of those are in science and technology. 5 Through ISTEC’s distance education program, faculty will have access to post graduate study without having to leave their jobs. Additionally, this effort will contribute to an increase in the number and quality of scientific publications from the region. It is interesting to observe that where the U.S. contributes 35% of all scientific publications, Brazil’s contribution is only 0.47% and the rest of the countries in Latin America are not even on the list.6 By not getting international exposure, there are serious limits to the impact of innovation and discovery, and thus economic growth. Conversely, many scientists in Latin American countries do not have fast, reliable, and affordable access to international science and technology literature, and thus lack innovative ideas on which to build.

In order to deal more effectively with this educational situation, ISTEC aims to reach out and work with educational organizations in under-served countries by utilizing discounts available to the Consortium to obtain inexpensive access to electronic journals. Furthermore, ISTEC has created its own S&T journal on-line, actively seeking collaborations from member institutions. By involving Latin America as a region, the Consortium has made its presence felt and gained negotiating leverage with industry and other organizations.

Industries that participate in ISTEC have been able to enhance their presence in Latin American markets and tap into the enormous potential of human resources. The overall IT services in Latin America grew by 14.8% between 1997-1998, reaching $8.45 billion. That market will nearly double in two years, reaching $13.9 billion by 2002, according to IDC. By joining ISTEC, industries gain exposure to the scientific community and access to a vast network leading universities and research centers that work in Ibero-America. Initial investments in human resources and equipment have also resulted in a number of spin-off projects and other applications of the technology. If industry leaders continue to provide the necessary resources to universities, students will be better educated, and industry will gain an invaluable source for knowledgeable employees, creative minds, and new business opportunities.