FRIDA Program , an initiative of LACNIC, the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry , devoted to contribute to the information society development of the region, through financial support to research projects and innovative initiatives in the use of ICT for development.

We spoke with Lara Robledo, head of institutional cooperation for FRIDA Program.

P: In what context is born this initiative?

R: The FRIDA Program emerges in 2003 as a result of shared interests and concerns. On one hand, the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC) had the concern of the lack of research and people able to develop research in networking. As an organisation which arises from a collective process to work from and to Latin America and Caribbean, we were interested in implementing initiatives that support the development of the region incorporating lnternet and ICT in the different society scope. On the other hand, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), an organisation of the Canadian government with a large trajectory of research support was also working these new thematics for a regional project in Latin America and Caribbean. There were previous experiences supported in Asia that serve in some way, as a reference model for creation of FRIDA.

P: What are your goals?

R: The FRIDA Program is an initiative headed to strengthen the capacity to develop and apply new technologies for innovation in Latin America and Caribbean. It pretends to boost the excellent human resources that exist and to apply their creativity in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for problems solution and in particular the creation of capacities for research and innovation in the ICT fields.

P: Which organisations and members integrate the FRIDA program?

R: As we mentioned, FRIDA is a LACNIC initiative, the responsible organism for Internet Directions Register in Latin America and Caribbean. In addition, our program includes the following partners: IDRC of Canada, that has contributed with resources and ongoing support to improve program activities performance and the Internet Society (ISOC), that is one of the three stable partners of the program.

Recently, we have conformed a global alliance with our colleagues in Africa, FIRE/AFRINIC, and Asia Pacific’s, ISIF/APNIC, to strengthen and exchange experiences. This alliance is called Seed Alliance and also joined in 2012 the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Source: Team Seed Alliance (Program FRIDA)

P: In what consists the FRIDA Program?

R: In the early years (2004-2009) the FRIDA Program provided small grants for innovation projects. The work consisted of a wide call for proposals, evaluation, selection and monitoring of the selected projects. In this we delivered more than one million dollars in 60 projects of 15 countries throughout the region.

Since 2010 we created the FRIDA Award, which was no longer provided to research, but to recognise and give visibility to successful initiatives in application of ICT. With the FRIDA Award we already have recognised 23 initiatives, which you can consult in our web page. In addition, in 2013 we have incorporated new modalities for participation, this year we call them Awards+, to look not only to recognise successful projects, but also to those who pretend additional funds for deepening their activities. Currently, the announcement is open.

Source: Prizes+ (Program Frida)

We have also developed some training activities designed to strengthen the quality of research proposals and to improve its communications impact. And finally, there will be opening announcements for grants in the coming months.

P: Which kind of public can participate in your activities and benefit from the social potential of this program?

R: The Program FRIDA is oriented to researchers that are embedded in academic, governmental, private companies or organisations of the civil society, that develop ICT research. The Award modality is also open to community training practices. The participating institutions are of very diverse nature.

P: Which are the main values guiding your interest?

R: The values that orient the FRIDAProgram are the same that those that orient LACNIC. LACNIC is a non-profit regional organisation, with more than 3.000 members in all region, it was born 10 years ago with the aim to add value to the region and to develop more and better services. We work articulating and collaborating with all the actors, generating new projects or supporting existent valuable initiatives, always with the concern to contribute effectively to the economic, social and cultural development of Latin America and Caribbean.

Source: LANIC

P: Which activity would you point out as relevant?

R: The most important actions that are developed from FRIDA Program are those oriented to contribute to the development of the information society in the region. In all these years we have had very prominent projects, as for example, in 2009 was funded for the second time a project oriented to the implementation of robotics in the education for disadvantaged socio-economic contexts, promoted by the Omar Dengo Foundation of Costa Rica. As mentioned, the projects and its reports are available here:

P: Which current possibilities have nowadays ICT to boost Latin America and Caribbean development?

R: Since 2003, the reality and problems that FRIDA Program tried to resolve, such as lack of funding for research, or even lack of the experience in the use of ICT, have changed completely. The economies of the region have strengthened and the use ICT is no longer a promise but a reality. Obviously this overview should not ignore the differences between countries and regions. That’s why the current focus has shifted to the recognition of initiatives (to know the regional asset) and replication, promoting the application of those successful initiatives to another subregions and contexts. In this way there is a lot to do, the strengthening of networks and horizontal collaboration.

P: Some reflections on the present and future challenges….

R: Today the FRIDA Program, as part of the Seed Alliance, seeks to adapt to the new reality, providing solutions and appropriate tools to contribute after eight years to strengthen innovation in the Region.

More information: Program FRIDA