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Inclusion and technology will be key to improving social services, IDB stresses

At the event "Lessons for after the pandemic: Rebuilding in an inclusive way", international experts talked about the opportunities to reduce inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean, redesigning social services to improve their quality and effectiveness.

BARRANQUILLA, Colombia - Will the world change or not after the pandemic? With this question, the discussion panel of “Lessons for the post-pandemic: Rebuilding in an inclusive way” was opened at the Annual Meeting of the Boards of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and IDB Invest. The event addressed the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the social services and how to improve their quality to move towards recovery in the region.

Latin America and the Caribbean has been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other region, and the impact on social services has been enormous. Only four countries in the region have fully open schools. Women have loss twice as many jobs as men, and they are getting them back at a much slower rate.

However, new opportunities have also emerged to redesign social services and help solve problems that plagued the region long before, such as inequality, low quality of social services, and lack of good job opportunities.

“We have to take advantage of this moment to develop solutions that give us greater access and better quality to services such as health, education, labor markets and social protection. The time to redesign more inclusive public policies is now and, at the IDB, we are prepared to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean to advance in this transformation,” explained Marcelo Cabrol, Social Sector manager at the IDB.

At the event, experts from different areas presented the main challenges of improving social services in each area, what is needed to make them truly inclusive and what changes they have made during the pandemic. Juliana Londono-Velez, professor at the University of California in Los Angeles and a GiveDirectly contributor, talked about the impact of technology on cash transfers, taxes and the type of services that should be considered after the pandemic. "The pandemic has forced us to renew the social contract," said.

Cecilia Gordano, general manager of Mercer for Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, talked about the impact of the pandemic and the use of technology in the private sector, and how it can be applied to the public sector. "We have to look at who, what, how, where and when you can design a hybrid organization," explained.

Lucia Dellagnelo, president of the Centro de Inovação para a Educação Brasileira, focused on the lessons for the education sector and learning systems. "The region cannot afford to miss the opportunity to redesign education systems to make them more inclusive and relevant," emphasized.

And, Walter Suárez, executive director of Kaiser Permanente, talked about the growth of health technologies as a tool for inclusion and the need to move towards a health financing system with a more equitable, accessible and effective management approach.

In addition, James Scriven, general manager of IDB Invest, called on companies to work together on these changes: “We have the opportunity, and the responsibility, to build back better. There is a clear path to recovery in Latin America and the Caribbean: the private sector must be the engine of sustainable recovery, and it must be green and inclusive,” said.  

Solutions for inequality

The panelists also talked about inequality in the region and presented possible solutions to reduce it from the social services. Londono-Velez explained the importance of correcting the failures of the tax benefits that generate unequal treatment: "A tax reform that promotes equity is necessary," said.

Suárez raised the need to create an entity that establishes intersectoral programs that allow the elimination of inequality barriers, both in governments and organizations. "It is essential that all organizations incorporate a person dedicated to implementing elements of equality at all levels," he explained.

In education, Dellagnello talked about how moving towards a hybrid system that facilitates access to technology could help improve access and quality. "From public policy, we have to commit to making public schools a place where everyone can access to technology, that would reduce inequality," said.

Meanwhile, Gordano talked about the importance of including gender equality in organizations' business strategies and as a priority for boards of directors, to close gaps. "We have to work on a holistic approach for diversity and inclusion to achieve equality," explained.

Since the start of the pandemic, the IDB has made more than US$1 billion available to respond to the emergency caused by COVID-19 and reformulate social services in the region. To learn more about how social services can be more inclusive with the help of technology visit:

For more information visit the Annual Meeting website.

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

External Contacts

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Additional Contacts

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