Currently, no one doubts that digital transformation is necessary for Latin American countries to remain competitive. However, for Gonzalo Alonso, Google’s first CEO for Latin America, the region is missing the last chance to join the digital transformation of society and business. If Latam doesn’t take it, it will not curb the distance that separates the area from European countries.

A few decades ago, investment in infrastructures such as airports, railroads, ports, and roads was vital to the economic development of a country. Nowadays, digital infrastructure such as data centers and communication networks are key to boost economic growth.

Latin America has strong points to take advantage of technology and close the gap that separates it with the most developed countries. Despite this, little progress is observed.

Small businesses are not moving to digital transformation.

The big companies are the ones they have received with open arms to the digital transformation. However, small businesses have failed to adapt to the new pace of the world, in the opinion of Gonzalo Alonso. The Google executive believes that it is necessary to motivate SMEs to know the most important steps to participate in the digital economy. Digital transformation will give them economic stability so that they can expand their business model without having to create a large corporate bureaucracy size that does not benefit in the productive processes.

Latin American companies can take advantage of digital transformation to improve several areas of their business. They can eliminate the use of paper at work and maintain only the strictly necessary, creating systems that manage digital copies for the rest. They can also take advantage of a single database arranged to centralize all the useful information for the business that is being built, in addition to creating a unique identifier per customer, something essential to be able to advance in systems that help sell more and better, also identifying needs and creating profiles.

Latin American governments must also be involved in digital transformation.

Digital tools make businesses more efficient and scalable, but they also manage to do the same with governments. However, in Alonso’s opinion, in Latin American governments, they only make up the current processes to give it a digital appearance, without solving the administrative problems currently generated by the country’s bureaucracy.

“There is no Ibero-American digitalization strategy.” 

Gonzalo Alonso, Google Executive

The e-government, as the use of technology by government institutions, is known, is necessary to improve governance procedures and promote citizen participation. 

“Governments exist to improve the lives of citizens, and the right technology is key to bringing that mission to a rapidly changing digital world,” said Mia Reyes, global director of industry, product marketing for the government at Microsoft. 

“This is no truer than in the case of providing services for citizens who need accessible services. Digital transformation is a pressing problem for most governments, and the imperative to modernize workplaces and services brings with it an opportunity to boost every citizen with technology that is designed with accessibility and inclusion in mind”, commented Reyes.

For the Microsoft executive, building citizen trust motivates digital transformation among governments. “As most government organizations know, citizen confidence is complicated to build and, in a rapidly changing landscape, it is even harder to maintain.” 

Citizens are more likely to trust a government institution that provides incredible digital experiences. When most people are used to doing their daily tasks in an efficient digital environment from online banking to shopping, they expect their experience with governments to be the same. When government organizations meet this demand head-on, by providing positive and more efficient digital experiences for citizens, that important citizen trust is generated.

Currently, there are digitally directed government innovation courses, for example, in Riverside County, where employees use Microsoft Power BI data analytics. With these tools, they learn how to make government spending more efficient and transparent. 

Microsoft offers tools for digital transformation in Government

For Microsoft, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the vanguard of a commitment to developing technology that meets diverse needs. Through Microsoft Cognitive Services, “IA has the potential to break down barriers, particularly in the government space, where people of all abilities need to be informed and make the most of civic life” Reyes said. Increasingly, citizens demand services that are digitally directed and user-centric, and governments that can meet these demands with intelligent services are well placed to gain the trust of citizens and create unique and permanent bonds.

The need to meet citizen demand is a fact. This need means adopting the digital transformation as well as optimizing services for all citizens and making accessibility a top priority. Some cities have already begun to make positive changes. With the help of the cloud and AI platforms, people with disabilities in Guadalajara use an urban mobility application called Moovit to help navigate public transport and gain independence. Moovit, together with Microsoft, partners with cities around the world to help create more accessible transit solutions. Azure Maps supports these mobility solutions as a service for governments, to help produce more accessible traffic applications.

Even so, the acquisition of new technology can remain in the background to leave the lights on, especially in the face of tight budgets and limited resources. Governments need to do more with less. Instead of acting as a barrier to digital transformation, the need to optimize processes and conserve resources should be seen as one of the most compelling reasons to adopt a more modern, cloud-enabled approach. The digital transformation provides an opportunity to use more efficient technologies – to do more with less. The statistics are astounding: AI and automation in government space can save up to 96.7 million federal hours per year, representing a potential savings of $ 3.3 billion. By adopting cloud computing and data analytics, governments can increase total revenue from 1 to 3 percent. And, all the benefits of digital transformation include the ability to maximize accessibility for government offers.

Creating a robust strategy for digital transformation is a way in which governments innovate to meet the unique demands of their industry. These strategies seek to face key problems for governments, such as how they can relate and connect with all citizens, how to modernize their workspaces, and how to improve their services. When these critical problems are addressed, a more mature organization emerges digitally, one that is capable of providing better and more modern facilities, which can boost productivity, and keep citizens of all abilities involved.

To better understand how digital transformation can help your specific organization achieve more, Microsoft offers a digital evaluation designed for governments.

The cloud, key to digitization

Cloud computing services are of importance to expand the digital transformation in Latin America. In the last seven years, these services have increased in the region. Both companies and Latin American nations have adopted this technology to receive applications and services, while they can access through devices of all kinds from anywhere in the world. Only in Brazil, the adoption of cloud computing has grown since 2012 to double digits. Just last month, three different companies in the country decided it was time to expand their operational capabilities with new data centers.

The improvement of the infrastructure that will make possible the Internet of Things (IoT) will promote the Internet to reach environments that were not considered by information technologies, such as the field. With extensive rural areas, Latin America has the potential to create AgTech startups that have a worldwide impact.

The digital divide in Latin America needs to be closed.

The digital divide in the continent has played against the use of new technologies. Most of the Latin American population has access to the internet, but there is limited device availability in the region. The forms of acquisition are through credits provided by the suppliers themselves and that generate interest that can cause the device to cost at the end three times more than its initial price.

“Therefore, the base of the pyramid is still without access, it can have access to the internet, but it does not have the devices,” that is, the digital divide runs parallel to the social one, Alonso said.

Alonso mentioned the need to “reinvent capitalism and democracy.” The Google expert pointed out two bases that can allow this transformation: education and end corruption. 

The technological speed is unstoppable, and Latin America is “outdated” with the services it currently provides. When these critical problems are addressed, a more mature organization emerges digitally, one that is capable of delivering better and more modern facilities, which can boost productivity, and keep citizens of all abilities involved. 

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