Podcast 🎧 & blog: Digitalization in Latin America means solutions to fit diverse needs
The past decade has seen digitalisation efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean area ramp up rapidly. Development has been fast, but not homogenous. Differing approaches across countries have created a map of digitalisation, that sees governments in the region excel at different things. So, what’s the way forward, in such a rapidly moving landscape?
Carlos Vargas is an Expert at the e-Governance Academy, currently based in Chile. In this episode, we explore with him the current status of digitalisation in Latin America, and how diverse challenges and opportunities call for country-tailored approaches to propel digital development in the region.
Diverse approaches to digitalisation in Latin America
Digital transformation in Latin America showcases a diverse landscape, with varying priorities and approaches. Notably, Chile is recognised for its achievements in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and digital identity, making it one of the region’s digital frontrunners. In Brazil, digital transformation projects have yielded significant progress. Meanwhile, countries like Colombia are actively pursuing interoperability initiatives, with a particular focus on the Estonian X-Road model. The region is far from monolithic, as each nation takes a unique path toward digitalisation.
However, as Vargas points out, a stark disparity exists, illustrated by the existence of vulnerable communities and indigenous populations often left behind in the digital revolution. Their access to digital resources and services remains a challenge, adding to the complexity of digitalization efforts in Latin America. Despite the varying levels of progress, a shared common ground revolves around addressing the needs of these marginalised communities, which calls for more inclusive digital transformation strategies.
Contribution from Europe – what would it look like?
The European Union and organisations like the e-Governance Academy have a significant role to play in supporting countries’ digital transformation journeys in Latin America. Their contribution is rooted in collaboration, knowledge sharing, and offering tailored solutions to address the region’s unique challenges. They can also actively foster agreements and research, Vargas adds. However, diversity of contexts and national instances in Latin American necessitates a customised approach, and not one-size-fits-all recommendations.
Collaboration doesn’t entail copying and pasting European models into the Latin American landscape, Vargas warns. Instead, experts from both regions collaborate closely to decipher the root issues and formulate strategies that are adaptable to the Latin American context. In a dynamic mosaic of diverse challenges, flexible solutions and cooperation can pave the way forward.
Addressing gaps, tailoring solutions to specific contexts
For example, no digital transformation story worth telling can afford to neglect the digital gaps that may result from rapid development. “With the main goal to tackle disparities not only across countries in the region, but within nations themselves,” Vargas says.
Take the case of vulnerable and indigenous communities, such as in Easter Island (Chile) – a microcosm of this divide. Isolated populations in remote areas are often digitally underserved and face unique challenges in terms of connectivity and access to digital services.
At the same time, while models and experiences from Europe may provide valuable insights, the Latin American context is far from uniform. The region’s rich tapestry of cultures, economies, and governance structures necessitates a nuanced and adaptive approach. That is way, Vargas emphasises, it is important to adopt tailored solutions to address digital transformation needs.
Engagement for coherent and cohesive development
As Vargas points out, this can be achieved through effective digital engagement tools and strategies. These methodologies aim to not only tackle technological disparities but also navigate the cultural, social, and economic obstacles that might hinder digital progress. By working directly with vulnerable communities and involving them in the decision-making process, this tailored approach ensures that digital transformation becomes a collaborative and inclusive endeavour.
Assisting countries in the region in their digital transformation journeys includes acknowledging and celebrating the diverse fabric of Latin America. It involves gaining a profound understanding of the region’s unique digitalisation landscape. And promising not just advancement in technology but also a stronger, more inclusive digital society.