Turning to Technology in Latin America’s Pandemic Response
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As the COVID-19 pandemic exposed deep deficiencies in public health and social welfare systems across Latin America, it nudged governments to experiment with new technologies to boost administrative and service-delivery capacity. To address urgent public health and economic needs, the officials responsible for digital innovation took center stage, spurring the rapid adoption of telemedicine, distance education technologies, e-payments, virtual legislating, remote justice, and contact tracing.
As Latin America emerges from the pandemic, the region’s public sector digital innovators can offer lessons about the role of technology in improving government efficiency, transparency, and accessibility, including in times of crisis. The wider adoption of these practices could boost the region’s prospects for post-pandemic recovery and help address inequality and widespread frustration with public services.
To learn about more about Latin America’s most technologically innovative government leaders, the Latin American Program held a discussion on critical technologies for recovery and growth in Latin America. This seminar is co-sponsored by Amazon Web Services (AWS). This event is part of the Latin American Program’s “Going Digital” series, which features CEOs, senior policymakers and other experts discussing the challenges and opportunities of digitalization in Latin America.
“One out of three users using the internet are children according to UNICEF data, so this raised a red flag for each of the actions we needed to take to [make] progress on [Peru’s] digital transformation.”
“We have been working to make the internet a right for the citizens but the connectivity is not only an effort that can come from the government, it is a joint effort from the private and public sector to close the gap.” =
“We have a digital vaccination card and it's important to mention that a couple of weeks ago, under the Pacific Alliance Partnership, [Peru] launched this digital effort along with other regional countries and with the support of the IADB we will start accepting these digital vaccination cards.”
“We faced many challenges regarding financial inclusion during the pandemic. What the Panama government focused on and is still developing is making our […] physical national ID a financial instrument so we can use that to make purchases and deposit [the government’s] financial relief to our citizens.”
“We recently had a new privacy law, ‘Protection of Private Information’ law. […] It went into effect in March this year and We had to understand it and implement it into all of the technology that we developed for the pandemic. Having the informed consent of the public to be able to manage this data [is important]. In Panama, this data is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health, so having this information is a responsibility for us.”
“We want to expand the services that we offer right now end-to-end and we want to make them digital for our citizens. We are willing to work in digital prescriptions; we have a project on that, and building capacity [for that], not only for the Ministry of Health but also other institutions in our country, building confidence in our citizens, in all services with the government. By the way, they are free, they don’t use any data.”
“The federal government in Brazil has been putting a lot of effort into digital transformation even before the pandemic. We started mainly in 2019 when the secretary of digital government focused on the mission to transform public services and to prove most of them online.”
“With this public services [digital] transformation we have saved more than three billion reais per year, not only considering the cost for the state but also for the society.”
“[Regarding digital transformation after COVID-19] I think we are now completely different, we have advanced many years that we wouldn’t. Up to this point the way we work, the way we think, and the way we plan to work with digital—I think— it’s a path of no return.”
“Digitalization in Latin America is a process that has dramatically accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic and a potential driver of the region’s economic diversification and its post pandemic economic recovery.”
“The pandemic has had a devastating public health and economic impact in Latin America and for nearly 20 months now it has upended the rhythms of social and economic life. It has similarly disrupted the way governments operate in Latin America, both the way they provide traditional public services amid social distancing and how they deliver emergency pandemic measures. In response, Latin America’s governments, including many who rarely venture to the cutting edge of digital technology have made strides towards e-governments.”
*The event had simultaneous interpretation English-Spanish available.
Latin American Program
The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin American Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action. Read more
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