How to promote the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Latin America

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Carlos David Carrasco Muro

  • Although Latin America accesses digital tools, there is no strategic vision for their use and an industrial approach to new tech is underdeveloped.
  • Greater efforts in investment and reflection are required to combine the need for economic development beyond the primary sector.
  • To help the generation of new digital skills in Latin America, a strategic plan is presented below to start the process to reduce digital gaps.

The implications of building societies based on information and knowledge are not fully known to most people. Put simply, it is difficult to achieve comprehensive or holistic visions around technological advances.

Latin America is no exception. Although the region accesses and uses digital tools, there is no strategic vision for their use. At present, while the countries of the Global North such as Germany, Norway or Spain design national guidelines to take advantage of the wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0), Latin America continues to depend on the sale of raw materials to maintain their economies without adding value or expanding their knowledge.

Latin America in Industry 4.0

By 2015, Latin America had made significant progress in digitalizing its economies compared to other emerging regions. However, a report by Fundación Telefónica, “The ecosystem and the digital economy in Latin America”, was already warning at that time about gaps in the development of human capital trained in these new digital skills and a deficit in infrastructure development that could provide support for the application of new technologies.

In the Latin American region, there are already experiences of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution wave begins to permeate countries. The cases of Colombia and Chile can be highlighted, which are both already developing policies on artificial intelligence.

For this reason, within the framework of Flaco’s publication, “Innovación y Transformación digital: el devenir del govtech municipal”, which tries to set out comprehensive proposals for the region, a programme to reduce the digital gap is proposed as a public policy to promote Industry 4.0.

Reduction of digital gaps

Any proposal that seeks to reduce digital gaps should be focused on promoting the development of new digital skills, where skills in subjects such as science, communications, technology, engineering, computing and mathematics are located at the centre of a new literacy, not only for students and younger people, but also for current professionals and workers. For as long as this is not applied, the adoption of technologies such as AI or the Internet of Things (IoT) will remain difficult.

In order to contribute to the generation of new digital skills, a strategic plan is presented below to initiate the process to reduce digital gaps. This proposal can be adopted by any country in the Latin American region as a model to follow for comprehensive training in digital skills for societies.

This proposal on how to reduce digital gaps identifies three large groups that require attention: the industrial sector, the public sector and citizens. Under this vision, depending on the context of each country, those actors that require one of the three levels of work should be prioritized. The criteria for this selection can be based on the following recommendations.

Industry: In this case it is recommended to follow the following steps:

1) Select those actors that have the greatest relative weight in the country’s GDP.

2) Select those actors with the greatest relative weight in imports.

3) Select those actors that participate in the most important value chains at a global and regional level.

Public sector: The recommendation for this sector is to apply transversal training in new digital skills at the level of all public officials in the countries. However, in the case that prioritization is required, it should first start with all public institutions of the central or federal government.

Vulnerable citizens and communities: The prioritization of actors within this group will depend on the social contexts of each country. However, considering the structural inequalities in the region, women, youth and older adults should be the first in any plan to strengthen digital skills.

These actors are better defined when the three levels of reduction of digital gaps that could apply are actually applied:

Level 1 – New digital skills:Train previously selected actors in new digital skills. The contents will depend on the group to which they belong.

Strategic allies:

– Universities

– Technology companies

– Civil society

– State agencies

A programmatic proposal of the basic contents in the development of new digital skills that should be offered at this first level include: statistical analysis; audiovisual editing; cybersecurity; computer programming; and cryptocurrency management.

Level 2 – Democratization in the use of technology: Provide access to new technologies to reduce gaps in the development of digital skills.

Strategic allies:

– Defenders of digital rights

– State agencies

– International cooperation agencies

– Technology companies

There are three possible actions that should be managed to promote democratization in the use of technology: advocacy in legal frameworks; promotion of access to technology (knowledge and tools); and spaces for exchange and cooperation.


EDISON Alliance: What is the Forum doing to close the digital gap?

COVID-19 has exposed digital inequities globally and exacerbated the digital divide. Most of the world lives in areas covered by a mobile broadband network, yet more than one-third (2.9 billion people) are still offline. Cost, not coverage, is the barrier to connectivity.

At The Davos Agenda 2021, the World Economic Forum launched the EDISON Alliance, the first cross-sector alliance to accelerate digital inclusion and connect critical sectors of the economy.

Through the 1 Billion Lives Challenge, the EDISON Alliance aims to improve 1 billion lives globally through affordable and accessible digital solutions across healthcare, financial services and education by 2025.

Read more about the EDISON Alliance’s work in our Impact Story.

Level 3 – Development of own technology: Promote the development of proprietary digital technology to increase the productivity of countries and reduce inequality.

Strategic allies:

– Startups

– Government agencies with competence in the promotion of production

– Actors by South-South agreements and regional agreements

A proposal of three possible comprehensive lines of action that should be managed in a coordinated manner among the countries of the region would be: intellectual property agreements in digital technologies; digitalization of strategic industries; and development of industrial parks centred on digital technologies.

Create industrial approach to new tech

In general, when it comes to Latin America, it is possible to notice a tendency on the part of governments to generate greater technological advances within the public administrations of the state than to formulate policies to develop Industry 4.0.

It should not be forgotten that the initial motivation of the forerunners of Industry 4.0, like Germany or the US, was focused on investing in new technologies to maintain productivity and relocate certain economic sectors, since this is what drives the development and welfare of these societies. The application of technological tools in the public sector, although they were also implemented, was not their primary focus.

In the Latin American region, this industrial approach to new technologies remains underdeveloped. For this reason, greater efforts in investment and reflection are required to combine the need for economic development beyond the primary sector and the new technologies of Industry 4.0, in order to move towards a sustainable recovery and a true knowledge economy without leaving anyone behind.

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