Delving into “Latin America: The Next Big AI Talent Pool?”

January 24, 2020 by Stefanini

In “Latin America: The Next Big AI Talent Pool?” both Fabio Caversan and Marco Stefanini explore the scope of artificial intelligence (AI) science and technology in Latin America, as well as Stefanini’s vision. The result is an article that informs, engages, and overall, educates.  

AI readiness in Latin America
Timeline of AI strategies and policy statements
Main challenges to AI development in Latin America
AI skills penetration, by country

Current Landscape

In the current landscape, entrepreneurship is vital when it comes to evolving the AI field. By utilizing creativity and hard work, it is possible to become a player on the world stage. Both Caversan and Stefanini cite the most recent Global Talent Competitiveness Index report, which showed entrepreneurial talent is quite modest in Latin America, though robust in Mexico and Chile. The index evaluates AI readiness globally, merging information from several sources such as the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Global Open Data Index, World Bank, Gartner, and others. The ranking system takes into account:

Governance

Shows whether or not a country has privacy laws in place and an imminent AI strategy·

Infrastructure and data  

Indicators include the government’s procurement of advanced technology products, data capability within the government, and the availability of open-sourced data

Skills and education

Indicators include the number of registered AI start-ups, innovation capability by the private sector, and digital skills among the population

Government and public services

Indicators include availability of digital public services, government effectiveness, and the importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to government vision for the future.

This system includes skills and education pillars that are critical to understand. The article outlines the details as technology skills, private sector innovation capabilities and the number of AI start-ups:

1. Technology skills 

Serves as a stand-in for AI skills in the general population. This allows us to discern skills in the public sector and in the available pool of local talent.

2. Private sector innovation capabilities

Measures the capability of the private sector in developing AI tools the government needs.

3. Number of AI start-ups

Measures, like the previous indicator, the readiness of the private sector to develop solutions and AI tools for government.

 

Figure 1 shows the AI readiness rankings for Latin America, with the top four countries being Mexico, Uruguay, and Chile, followed by Brazil. On the other hand, the bottom half of the list shows countries with very low rankings for AI readiness, emphasizing the gap between leading and trailing companies in the race.

Opportunities and Challenges

There are several challenges cited when positioning Latin America as a global player. These challenges include:

Lack of specialized AI talent

This is not an exclusive Latin America problem, but a worldwide problem.

Lack of data to use in AI systems

The region must start to think more about data gathering. This is a challenge that top-ranked AI countries realized a while ago and are working harder to improve.

Incorrect understanding of AI technology in the marketplace

The belief that AI will solve a problem magically is fiction. Society must be educated on the realities of the technology

Insufficient funding

Investments of this kind require a leap of faith and significant financial resources, which are hard to find in the region.

 

Figure 3 makes plain that the two main challenges are technology adoption, which is related to the lack of understanding of AI technology, and investment.

 

Figure 4 demonstrates that AI skills and talent among the workforce in Brazil and Mexico require more people. Recruitment opportunities are available for those from Latin America – if they have the right skills – to companies like Google, Amazon and Microsoft. So, Latin America faces the challenge of losing its innovators to outside countries and competitors. Further, there needs to be an analyses of the activities of the majority of the workforce.  While it is clearly a huge challenge to expand the field of AI in Latin America, there are also several opportunities presented:

·         A few countries in the region are well positioned in terms of infrastructure, skills and governance in the AI field.

·         Investments and market adoption are still low in terms of volume.

·         AI systems could replace much of the region’s workforce.

·         While talent exists, it is not enough to handle the need.

Looking more deeply at what AI skills are currently most prevalent in the region, analyses from Endeavor reveal that the majority of the companies in Latin America applying AI technologies in their businesses are working primarily with classification (58%), prediction (58%), and natural-language (52%) related technologies.

There still is potential to transform Latin America into a large AI talent pool. Opportunities can be evaluated for their short- and long-term effects and grouped into three aspects: people, infrastructure, and science, technology and investments.

People

People are a crucial aspect of the technological revolution. And the most important skill for modern-day workers to develop is to learn and adapt, which will decrease the ever-widening knowledge gap. Further, while researching AI, people also need to be convinced of its value.

Infrastructure

As mentioned before, having access to the internet is paramount to Latin American workers’ success in the field of AI. Once talent with the right skills to work in AI solutions is available and accessible, prepared companies can quicken the process of building out their AI capabilities. Furthermore, many businesses in Latin America have not taken the first steps of collecting and storing data digitally. Governments and companies have much to gain if they prepare themselves with the foundations that can speed AI initiatives

Science, Technology and Investment

The path to successful AI development begins with internet access that can enable the population to obtain basic skills. A few countries in Latin America are already at this initial stage, although internet access does not yet reach the entire population. Beyond internet access, people will need access to devices or cloud services that provide admission to proper AI-specific tools. The final stage is to work and research with state-of-the-art platforms and equipment. Ongoing development of the region might enable access to more advanced technology in the future

Conclusion

As the AI revolution takes off in Latin America, people will be driven towards the field. We believe that will help to reduce social inequalities and increase the likelihood of basic research flourishing throughout the region. If institutions take this opportunity now, they will not only be able to apply the technology to properly develop the region, but also effectively participate in the creation of new science fields and technologies that will shape the future of humankind.

 

 

To view Fabio Caversan and Marco Stefanini’s chapter in the INSEAD GTCI 2020 report, please click here.

To download the infographics, please click here.

For more information: www.gtcistudy.com

 

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