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How Latin America’s digital transformation can be a global model

As originally seen in Contxto on June 25th 2020.

Today’s Soapbox opinion comes from Andre Oentoro is the Founder of Breadnbeyond

Contxto – Latin America’s digital landscape has been growing exponentially over the past few years. In the region, digital transformation is the crucial ingredient for poverty reduction and welfare systems—as well as other social indicators.

When global pandemic strikes, countries across the region are rapidly expanding their technology in various sectors to transition to the new normal.

Of course, the adaptation has been historically difficult. However, Latin America’s transition to a digital-first world would be an excellent model for the rest of the world as every nation is now busy finding their way toward a new normal. Why is it?

1. Digital financial inclusion

Latin Americans used to see cash as king. This region’s economies are cash-based with an excessive range of unbanked and underbanked customers. Since handling cash has now become a public health concern, the region immediately allows cash transactions to be replaced by card or mobile payments.

In other words, the pandemic has accelerated the countries’ need to innovate and search for safer and faster payment methods. The once nice-to-have sector, fintech, is now a necessity.
With cash-less and mobile payments booming, one thing is visible here: the traditional banking system is becoming obsolete.

The companies and organizations found themselves gaining a return on investment faster after they changed their legacy systems prior to the pandemic. One clear example is in Mexico. The government relies on the two cell wallets, Ualá and Cuenta DNI, as a solution to inject money into social layers who either haven’t had access to banks or lost their jobs and income due to the pandemic.

Ualá issued at least 140,000 for pay-as-you-go debit playing cards (doubled their regular monthly issuance) within just the first month after the lockdown. Also, Cuenta DNI successfully reached a staggering 500,000 active users in only 15 days, and now has more than 1 million active users.

2. Growing dependency on technologies for learning

Latin America is an ideal example of how a country can take a model of understanding and adapting the global technologies for local needs and adding some advantages to their own.
As the Internet has firmly reached more than 453.7 million Latin Americans (about 60 percent of the population), the opportunity to provide better learning and training for youth so that they can take full advantage of the digital world is way more significant.

While online learning is having its moment in the sun due to the outbreak, most Latin American countries have developed some methods of self-paced e-learning. Again, the pandemic crisis has only accelerated the regional development of technology for learning purposes.

The governments established Aprendo en Casa (I Learned at Home) or Tu Escuela en Casa (Your School at Home) as initiatives. The students can access the learning materials through the Learning Management System (LMS) provided by the governments.
Tools like WhatsApp and any other social media are used to connect teachers and students. The parents are also being involved in guiding and supporting their children in the learning process.

Countries with large-scale national educational technology like Chile and Uruguay can enjoy the robust, well-structured e-learning system. It ensures e-learning for all children, such as Educarchile and Plan Ceibal (one laptop per child), are fully-developed.

On the contrary, the populations (mostly in rural areas) with the minimum access to internet connectivity, The Ministry of Education takes the initiative to distribute learning guides to all students through TV broadcasts or national educational radio– making sure everyone still has access to learn.

3. Implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHR)

Digital transformation in Latin America includes the improvement of the quality and efficiency of healthcare. Most countries in the region have the opportunity to begin or renew the healthcare system through the implementation of electronic health records (EHR)—which goes beyond implementing an electronic medical record system (EMR).

Over the past five years (2014-2019), the EHR systems market in the region has reached a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.15 percent.

Now that EHR is a key part of the overall health strategy in Latin America, the healthcare providers can seamlessly boost their productivity and improve overall efficiency (including reducing medical errors) as EHR applications automate and streamline the workflow.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, EHR systems are increasingly considered to be one of the most relevant information technologies in improving the healthcare system in the region. Those who live even in the remote areas ensure to have better access to specialist services much quicker.

As the daily infection increases up to four to five percent in some countries (such as Brazil, Mexico, and Chile), an increasing number of hospitals have shifted their preference for cloud-based models of EHR.

For example, one of the largest medical groups in Brazil, Grupo Fleury, has established an accessible telemedicine platform that connects doctors and patients online. With the implementation of EHR, now healthcare providers can monitor positive COVID-19 patients in their homes.

The EHR can help to maintain a patient’s medical data, including medical history, medications, demographics, even the payment records details.
Therefore, EHR contributes to lower operational costs, improve revenue, and enhance profitability. The use of AI in EHR implementation can also speed up healthcare services.

Why Latin America overall?

Of course, with varying levels of economic and social complexity, not all countries in Latin America can enjoy the effect of technology development equally. But, what other countries can learn from this region’s digital transformation is that the governments fully acknowledge that real life is digital life.

The long journey of digital transformation in Latin America creates an opportunity for some areas to be the ripest for leapfrogging, particularly fintech, e-learning, and e-health.
The Covid-19 outbreak makes Latin Americans speed up their adaptation to digitalization even more.

With a proactive, whole-of-government approach, including the civil society, tech community, and other stakeholders, Latin America can shape their digital transformation for its people and society as a whole. But also have the potential to do even more in the future.
Therefore, other third-world countries may look up to Latin America to understand best practices and potential solutions, especially in facing a recent pandemic outbreak.

Andre Oentoro is the Founder of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video company. He helps businesses increase conversion rates, close more sales, and get positive ROI from explainer videos (in that order). You can contact him via Twitter, email or LinkedIn.