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Exponential disruption in the digital economy

Inter-American Development Bank

Last April, at the 3rd CEO Summit of the Americas, the Inter-American Development Bank (hereinafter, IDB) presented a technical report entitled “Exponential disruption in the digital economy”.

The document addresses the five technological developments that are driving economic transformation and whose development and implementation in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) will be key to achieving significant growth and development in the region:

Cloud computing

Considered one of the most disruptive technology trends of the last ten years, the cloud has brought about a radical change for the way that social media companies maintain their Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructures and it has also allowed the deployment of other digital technologies, such as blockchain, big data and artificial intelligence. This disruptive technology does not just enhance economic competitiveness and sustainability, it also fosters business development by contributing quantity, quality and value to the services generated, while at the same time making savings on the expenses that can be ploughed back into new technologies.

Blockchain

This is another emerging technology with enormous potential. The data, grouped together in inter-related blocks, cannot be manipulated; thus ensuring its integrity thanks to the use of encryption techniques and the continuous relations among the distributed blocks. In other words, information is automatically validated in real time, ensuring its veracity, immutability and transparency.

Big Data

Until recently, Big Data was classed as an emerging technology. But it is now a fundamental pillar of digital transformation. It is characterised by the high volume of data it can process at speed, able to cope with variety, variability and complexity. From the public-sector, big data and analytics can be seen as tools for reducing tax evasion and tax fraud by detecting suspicious patterns in financial data. While for the private sector, these technologies help companies to improve their productivity and grow their sales, also driving the creation of new business models.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

This technology emulates human capabilities like voice recognition or visual perception and is designed to interact with the world. According to the research conducted by the Brookings Institute*, only 5% of jobs can be fully automated. However, for LAC, 50% of jobs could be automated as the LAC countries’ workforces are concentrated in a sector that is labour-intensive: manufacturing.

The Internet of things (IoT)

The rapid expansion of broad-band internet will scale up the implementation of the digital economy in all industries. But, its adoption in LAC will depend on the availability of the right infrastructure and a legislative framework to regulate this new technology.

The report concludes by pointing out the need for public-private cooperation to develop a digital ecosystem and attain inclusive economic development able to harness the many benefits offered by these new technological developments.

* “Learning from public sector experimentation with artificial intelligence” Kevin C. Desouza, Rashmi Krishnamurthy, and Gregory S. Dawson Friday, June 23, 2017