Latin American and Caribbean Countries Progress Towards Digital Readiness
President Latin America & Senior Vice President in the Americas
Thought Leadership, Digital Business
Technology is transforming the world at an unprecedented pace. Countries are racing to prepare their infrastructure and their workforce for the inevitable transition to a digital economy. But what does it mean to be ready for this transition?
Cisco recently collaborated with Gartner, Inc. to define digital readiness, review how countries all over the globe score on a Digital Readiness Index, and examine what still needs to be done to move into the digital age. The study measures data in 118 countries – 19 in Latin America. And defines digital readiness using seven aspects or components: technology infrastructure, technology adoption, ease of doing business, human capital development, business and government investment, basic human needs and the start-up environment. Based on how they score against each of these components, countries are placed in one of three categories of digital readiness – Activate (beginning phase), Accelerate (middle phase) and Amplify (end phase or digitally ready).
To recap the meaning of each of these phases and more on the overall study, please re-visit the blog I wrote in June titled LatAm is Accelerating Digital Readiness – and a Better Life for All Latin Americans.
Moving to a Higher Phase of Digital Readiness
In Latin America, each of the countries in the region have different strengths among the components of digital readiness. For example, Argentina and Uruguay lead the region in adult literacy. Brazil and Mexico’s highest-ranking scores are in Business & Government Investment. Costa Rica also scores high in Business & Government Investment and in Basic Needs. Chile is above the global average in both Basic Needs and Business Foundation and Colombia’s highest ranked score is its Startup Environment.
While this is a great start, all of Latin America needs to embrace a digital journey. By connecting the unconnected, people, communities and businesses have more opportunity to succeed.
Human Capital Development
A lack of adequate digital skills can severely limit a country’s potential to digitize and grow economically. Four out of ten businesses in Latin America say they have difficulty finding workers with the right skills, according to surveys from Manpower Group. Traditional academic institutions struggle to keep up with a quickly changing landscape of digital skills.
Schools cannot be solely responsible for bearing the burden of bringing the Latin American workforce into the digital age. Private-public partnerships that teach the most relevant and needed digital skills are more effective. Cisco Networking Academy has partnered with more than 1,800 Latin American institutions of learning to offer coursework in digital skills all over the region. To date, over 2 million Latin American citizens have graduated from the program, going on to fill much-needed job vacancies in the digital and cybersecurity sector.
Basic Human Needs
Without access to the internet, Latin American citizens struggle to improve their quality of life. When disaster struck Puerto Rico in the form of Hurricane Maria, Cisco was there to help restore connectivity across the island by working with the Puerto Rican government and NetHope, an American consortium of non-governmental organizations that specializes in improving IT connectivity in areas affected by disaster.
Access to the internet and digital inclusion is the way forward for Latin America. Several Latin American countries have prioritized digital inclusion as a way to ensure that basic human needs are being met, which will ultimately raise digital readiness scores, and improve quality of life in these countries. Water for People is an international non-profit working to improve quality of life by ensuring a safe and clean water supply. They are empowering communities to build and maintain their own reliable, safe water systems in nine countries, including Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru and Bolivia. With support from Cisco, Water for People has developed two tools that use data capturing and analytics to improve how water projects are monitored and evaluated for success.
Increased technology adoption provides users access to the digital economy, anywhere, any time. Today’s digital technology though, can never be fully adopted, without a secure and reliable network infrastructure. Adoption and infrastructure go hand in hand.
In Mexico, the federal government has mandated access to the Internet for all Mexicans. Its Mexico Conectado program, with support from corporate partners, has deployed telecom networks to provide broadband connectivity in 250,000 public areas nationwide, including schools, health centers, libraries, community centers, and parks. The related “Puntos Conectados” are known as digital inclusion centers. These 32 centers around Mexico are where students can experiment with robotics, take English or networking technology classes, and even senior citizens can take advantage of age-appropriate content. By doing this, the Mexican government has achieved impact by addressing the two levels of infrastructure: physical and digital.
Many countries in the process of digitization seek to create a start-up environment that nurtures innovation and growth, provides employment, and creates valuable new services. To encourage an innovative mindset and develop entrepreneurial skills in young people, the Cisco Networking Academy hosts hackathons and other competitions. Over 1,000 students across Latin America have participated in these events.
Companies taking advantage of new technologies, new business models and new marketplaces are some of the most exciting ventures in today’s economy. These companies can be assisted by access to venture capital, supportive regulations, and capable human capital. Universities and other educational institutions can also play a role by providing an updated technology curriculum.
In Peru, a “Digital Literacy Program” alliance between the Cisco Networking Academy and Peru’s Ministry of Education has provided over 500,000 students with digital skills. The program is reducing digital Illiteracy in Peru by helping youth develop the skills they need to thrive as professionals in the digital economy.
Costa Rica is focusing on digital inclusion at the highest level – it is one of three pillars in the country’s digital transformation strategy. Costa Rica’s Ministerio de Ciencia Tecnología y Telecomunicaciones or Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications (MICITT), has concentrated its efforts on improving quality of life for its citizens through digitizing government and education, providing access to telecommunications services, and ensuring the security of their network. Cisco is also partnering with MICITT to help close the digital divide and develop digital skills by delivering Cisco Networking Academy courses in nationwide community centers.
This creates an environment for new ideas and innovation, which in turn raises a country’s score on the path to digital readiness.
National Digital Readiness
The objective of the Digital Readiness Index was to capture and explore key factors contributing to how well-prepared countries are for the ever-evolving digital economy. This blog has examined just a few of those components.
The study is only a starting point though. It opens the door to a national dialogue on digital transformation. Which ultimately will bring about new jobs, expanded access to education and opportunity, better healthcare to more people, increasing public safety and social inclusion.
The countries across Latin America and the Caribbean are making great strides on the way to true digital readiness, and Cisco is supporting many each step along the way.
To review the full study click here – then scroll down to Modeling an Inclusive Digital Future and download the full report in English or Spanish.
To watch a taped interview in Spanish with myself and Cisco Smart Cities expert, Darren Ware, talking about the importance of digital readiness in Latin America at Cisco Live Cancun 2018 click here.