Digital Life in Latin American Cities

At the end of last month, the 2016 Strategic Innovation Symposium took place in Miami, with this year’s focus on the “Digital Life in Latin American Cities”. The event was the next in...

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 Eduardo Salido, 

Public Affairs and Policy Manager, Telefónica

At the end of last month, the 2016 Strategic Innovation Symposium took place in Miami, with this year’s focus on the “Digital Life in Latin American Cities”. The event was the next in Telefonica’s series that saw discussion and debate over issues raised by the Index on Digital Life.

With an audience of influencers and leading global thinkers packed into the InterContinental in Miami, the two days of discussion spanned policy improvements and innovations in technology that will help stimulate further growth in Latin America.

The first day saw a number of leading speakers, including Luis Malvido, Telefonica Hispam General Manager and Christian Van Der Henst, Co-founder of Platzi – a live-stream education platform.

Luis Malvido highlighted the importance of Telefonica Index on Digital Life as a knowledge tool to improve people’s digital experiences. “Connectivity is a critical enabler of digital life. It provides the backdrop to the future of our cities and regions.”  Mr Malvido remarked. But connectivity is just the beginning. “Rich cultural values, levels of openness and the crucial entrepreneurial spirit all play a part in the digital economy. These factors are often not considered when measuring digital prosperity.” Raul Katz (Columbia University) analysed the conditions for digitization to achieve a significant impact in the economy and society. Individuals, enterprises and societies need to use and produce digital products and services. Digitization needs to be embedded in processes of delivery of goods and services and public services need to adopt these technologies. There are 4 conditions for the digital technologies to be fully adopted: Affordability, ubiquity, accessibility and reliability.  

Christian – a Guatemalan entrepreneur – highlighted the importance of openness and how, for his business to prosper, he needs better interoperability between platforms which in-turn provide better services to his customers. Latin America, according to Christian and Raul Katz, is a great place to seize the digital opportunity. Colombia is one of the largest online video consumers in the world. So, what prevents Colombia to become one of the world’s most creative countries in the world? Maybe the lack of a payment system sound enough to make local business thrive? Maybe the education system? Despite all these bottlenecks, Platzi founder Christian left a very positive message: “Today, you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley to launch a global business”.

Another shining vision came from Chris Lewis, from Lewis Insights, an advocate of the benefits of technology for the people with disabilities. 1 billion people are a huge market to be forgotten. Connected technologies can help to improve the lives of people with different sort of disabilities. Smart watches and glasses, internal chips or brainwave readers are just some of the existing technologies that can massively improve people’s lives today.  “Smarter individuals need smarter homes, that create smarter cities which leads to smarter societies” was one of the latest statements from Mr Lewis, showcasing that smarter cities will drive us to better societies.

The second day of the Symposium went on to focus on the areas of security, privacy and funding policies for innovation and new technology. From the security angle, Nikoloas Tsouroulas, Global Head of Cybersecurity Product Management, ElevenPaths (a subsidiary of Telefónica) discussed how telecommunications companies needed to go above and beyond on cybersecurity to help customers achieve a safer digital experience, as they start to embrace the internet of things.

On a similar topic, Dr. Yuri Quintana, Director at Global Health Informatics and Assistant Professor at Harvard, explored the emerging online healthcare networks, alongside the resulting privacy and policy challenges.

The second day, and Symposium as a whole, ended with a panel discussion on ‘A Better Digital Life’. The discussion stretched across a number of areas addressed throughout the symposium and examined which policies, cultural norms and regulations need to be in place to support openness, confidence and entrepreneurship.

Summing up the discussion, Jose Juan Haro – Head of Regulation and Wholesale services at Telefonica Latin America – re-stated the importance of considering digital development beyond connectivity and the importance of putting in place the right policies to foster and promote a broader digital life – one which fuels and stimulates innovation, investment and growth. You can see Jose Juan’s contribution to the Symposium here

Over the coming weeks, we will be able to see some of the talks from the event, which we’ll publish here and share on our social media channels. You can also keep up with ongoing discussion and future events involving the Index by keeping an eye on the hashtag #MyDigitalLife on Twitter.


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