carry on, good man

According to the website of the Presidency, on June 8 the president, Luis Lacalle Pou, met with Meta’s Global Affairs representative, Nick Clegg, within the framework of the IX Summit of the Americas, in Los Angeles, United States. In that instance, the president stated his intention to turn Uruguay into a “regional pole of technological development.” He also discussed “the possibility of launching a Meta program in our country to train young people in the creation of augmented reality effects.” The information indicates that Lacalle and Clegg discussed the “importance of creating a regulatory environment that stimulates innovation based on advanced infrastructure, favorable conditions for investment and support for companies and entrepreneurs in the knowledge industry.” The document indicates that the president sees “with great interest the participation of leading companies, such as Meta, in our innovative ecosystem”, for the exploration of the Internet or immersive technology (that is, the one that tries to replicate experiences from the world in the digital world). real). What Meta calls a metaverse.1

Lacalle Pou also held a meeting with Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. The Presidency recalled the company’s intention to set up a datacenter in our country. And he also highlighted Google’s involvement in the Coronavirus UY app. (This point may draw the reader’s attention, since the information that originally circulated when said tool was launched indicated that it was “voluntary work” by companies associated with the firm Genexus. At the height of the pandemic, we all remember, even, the role of the CEO of the company, Nicolás Jodal, as active as the Minister of Health, Daniel Salinas.) In any case, the information from the Presidency indicates that, during the conversations with Pichai, the leaders referred to the launch, in 2023, of Google’s Firmina submarine cable, which will link the United States with Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

If you visit the website (which shows a map of all the submarine cables that cross the oceans), you can guess that when Google was contracted by ANTEL to lay the Tannat underwater fiber (which connects Uruguay with Santos , Brazil) and Monet (which completes the fiber linking Uruguay with the United States to Boca Raton, Florida), the technology giant took advantage of the flow to lay its own submarine cable. As a consequence, when Google settles in Uruguay, it will not use the cable of the state-owned ANTEL, but will be connected by its own fiber, Firmina, which calls into question the romantic discourse that the arrival of this big tech in our country would have to do with the ease of our technological resources, thanks to which we will obtain large revenues.

In the midst of the 15-year waltz of Plan Ceibal, it is appropriate to remember that it was at Ceibal’s own request that Uruguay’s first agreement with Google was carried out. As a result of this agreement, students and teachers had to create accounts on the company’s platform to be able to access different spaces of the plan. This matter was strongly questioned by most of the actors related to education and digital rights in our country. And it was synthesized in a letter from the Central Board of Directors of the University of the Republic.2 While we are here, let us remember that, in its beginnings, Ceibal was the only implementation in the world of the idea of ​​Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab , which proposed One Laptop per Child. By the way, in the program Legitimate defense

Broadcast on YouTube on June 5, the former president of the Technological Laboratory of Uruguay (LATU) and of the Plan Ceibal Miguel Brechner said that Negroponte “was in directories, he is a very connected guy, he is the brother of the other Negroponte,3 that everyone associated because he was Undersecretary of State. But [Nicholas] Negroponte was always a liberal, who was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and threw out many very advanced ideas. Brechner also recalled: “I moved everywhere, Lilian Amy, an embassy official, helped me a lot. [de Estados Unidos]; she started hunchbacking too.” In short, these types of agreements are not new. With Monday’s newspaper, of course, we can say that Plan Ceibal is similar to the Connect Equality plan in Argentina or the Canaima Educational project in Venezuela. But with the exception that in both countries special emphasis was placed on national developments based on free software and it was required that the hardware (laptops) strictly comply with the compatibility parameters, without hardware or software devices that would allow monitoring, tracing or control , as both Google and Microsoft do in our Plan Ceibal.

The day after the meeting with Google, Lacalle Pou met with the head of Microsoft for Latin America, Rodrigo Kede Lima. There he announced that Uruguay will host an artificial intelligence laboratory and the Internet of Things (AI & IoT Insider Lab), in partnership with LATU. As anticipated, the lab will host projects, it will be Microsoft’s third outside the United States (after those in Shanghai, China, and Munich, Germany) and “will help solve various technological challenges of organizations in the region, as well as Get expert guidance and recommendations to realize the full potential of AI and the Internet of Things.” The lab appears to be the first major implementation of the memorandum of understanding signed by Industry Minister Omar Paganini last year in the United States.4

Before the meetings led by the president – ​​but also within the framework of the summit – Paganini had reported on June 7 from his Twitter account: “We have had excellent meetings with high-level executives from Netflix and Amazon, with a focus on deepen the investments of these companies in production in the country». The official information, in this case, indicated that they were “excellent meetings” for

to strengthen the Uruguay Audiovisual Program, created in December 2018, executed by the National Development Agency and with the participation of the Ministries of Education and Culture, Industry, Energy and Mining, and the Uruguay XXI Institute. The meetings with Netflix and Amazon had the task, as explained, of “deepen the investments of these companies in the production of content in Uruguay and in the generation of specialized jobs.” It was not reported whether the meeting with Amazon delved into the terms of the agreements signed in September of last year regarding cloud computing services for public and private institutions.

When we talk about the dangers of handing over data and metadata to transnationals, it is enough to remember that, since 1996, the Social Security Bank (BPS) has outsourced, via million-dollar contracts, a large number of its computer services, in particular with the companies IBM and Bull . The first controls the information of companies and their workers through employment history. The agreements also include the transfer of BPS buildings to these transnationals. Explained in a simpler way: the database with the largest amount of information on Uruguayan men and women is in the hands and under the control of transnationals. The labor history contains labor data for the entire country; Affiliate ties are also crossed there, since daughters and sons of workers are registered, among other valuable personal data. There are no computer counterparts of the BPS that control these companies, and on repeated occasions it has been said that there is no capacity for the Uruguayan State to take control of all the information that is handled there.

The dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines sovereignty as the “supreme and unlimited power, traditionally attributed to the nation, the people or the State, to establish its constitution and adopt fundamental political decisions, both internally and externally.” the international level”. There is still no definition of technological sovereignty for the RAE. However, for several years it has been defined as the sovereignty of data or sovereignty over information and its subjection to the current legislation of a country, regardless of the form and place where it is stored (whether in binary format or not). The definitions of food sovereignty are taken as sources of inspiration, such as the right of peoples to determine

their agricultural policies and to produce food at the local level. It also borrows a lot from the philosophy of free software, as well as from energy sovereignty or the social economy.
Mark Zuckerberg calls the shots at Meta. Jeff Bezos on Amazon. Bill Gates at Microsoft. Larry Page and Sergey Brin do it at Google, Ma Yun at Alibaba and Elon Musk at Tesla. If we continue without reflecting on the space occupied by technology transnationals or big techs in the management and control of data –without local or supranational legislation to frame them–, most of them, without even being on the side of a country power, but exclusively on the side of the power of capital – where very few people make decisions – we will be leaving nothing less than national sovereignty in its hands.

  1. See «What is the metaverse about?», Brecha, 26-XI-21.
  2. See “Hacking the Machine,” Breach, 6-V-22.
  3. Nicholas Negroponte is the brother of Republican John Dimitri Negroponte, a member of the Skull & Bone secret society, a member of the CIA, former US ambassador to Honduras and director, from there, of the counterrevolution in the 1980s. During the government of George W. Bush he was ambassador to the United Nations and, after the invasion of Iraq in 2004, he served in that country. In 2005 he was named head of the US Intelligence Community. He has been declared persona non grata by the Congress of Mexico (a country where he also served as ambassador).
  4. See «A lightning bolt from above?», Brecha, 21-X-21.

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carry on, good man