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“We have been continuously involved in training a group of 4,000 technical experts, here in Latin America,” says Sandra Benítez proudly. She is part of Escuela Latinoamericana de Redes (EsLaRed), an APC member in Venezuela. Interviewed by APCNews, Benítez talks about the major achievements of APC in the past 25 years, and the ways in which the network has promoted collaboration among its members.

APCNews: Could you tell us your views on what you would highlight as APC’s main achievements over the past 25 years?

Sandra Benítez: APC has managed to coordinate different organisations in the region for a common purpose. Its main achievement, as I see it, is the connections it has built between organisations that are all in some way promoting telecom development, ICT development, in different areas. One of the key projects I have seen is reaching out to underprivileged communities, such as rural areas. In my organisation, the Escuela Latinoamericana de Redes (EsLaRed), we have carried out projects to develop wireless networks in different Latin American countries, and we have even advised network development projects in African countries. This has helped to strengthen us. APC is a showcase for the organisation, making known the projects that my organisation has been carrying out, which are mainly to do with training human resources, that is, technical experts responsible for network management. Our target audience is not end-users, but technology experts who will facilitate telecom infrastructure development in different countries. In the last 10 years we have participated in projects together with APC, we have developed Latin American schools for networking in specific areas such as wireless networks, online security, network administration and management, etc. We have been continuously involved in training a group of 4,000 technical experts, here in Latin America. In some of these events we developed, APC has been a participant but also a faciltator of some of the tracks in the Escuela Latinoamericana.

APCNews: What have the main gains been for EsLaRed as part of the APC network?

SB: We feel truly honoured to be a part of APC, and we are always keen to take part in research projects for APC’s observatory, GISWatch. I personally participate every year, “watching” over what is happening in Venezuela in connection with the issues that APC identifies. We have worked on internet rights, women’s rights, climate change and different kinds of issues, and we have assessed Venezuela’s case in particular, to serve as a window on what is happening in our country. We are very grateful, and actively promote and support any changes that can improve the organisation and the alliances that can be established today. At this kind of meeting of member organisations we have proposed specific projects such as assessing the sustainability of APC member organisations. A major consequence of this has been the recognition of the need to create strategic alliances, and the need for a research project bank that member organisations can contribute to and have access to, so that actions can be better coordinated. Another of our proposals was to take part in multistakeholder groups, in order to support APC actions at internet governance forums. We have also proposed, for example, that member organisations facilitate links with civil society, by approaching groups of organisations in each of our countries, in order to draw up an agenda of civil society needs and then collaborate on them. In this way we would take on the role of intermediaries, enabling APC to have more reliable, timely and accurate information of what is going on, in my case, in Venezuela. These possibilities have been proposed and are being explored, and today we were talking about very interesting projects to do with online security and infrastructure development. EsLaRed’s view is that we can contribute to them, especially on the training side where our expertise lies. But the key thing is that APC has served as a central hub where we meet other organisations and discover their skills and capacities, which may be complementary to our own. This is a great achievement for APC, which can position its members in such a way that they are in touch with each other and can coordinate their efforts towards the development of our countries. So here we are, with all the good will in the world, to contribute to and achieve more sustainable development in our region.