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INTEL’s Chairman of the Board and top experts discuss ways to boost prosperity through information and technology in Latin America and the Caribbean

  • ­Productivity growth in Latin America and the Caribbean has reached just half the world average.

  • ­Regional investment in research and development remains low at less than 1% of GDP and total funding is roughly equivalent to that of Korea alone.

  • Human capital in science, technology and innovation is inadequate, with less than one researcher per 1,000 inhabitants, in contrast to 14 per 1,000 inhabitants in the U.S.

International experts, business leaders and academics discussed the challenges that Latin America and the Caribbean face in science, technology and innovation and urged to increase investment in these areas, particularly in the light of the current financial and economic crisis.

Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation and internationally renowned experts Jun Hyong Rho from Korea, Jorma Routti from Finland, and Cornell University professor Carlos Bustamante, discussed what lies ahead in terms of science, information, communications and other technologies and their potential for boosting prosperity in the region. The experts focused on the importance of more access to information, education, healthcare, and financial services, among other areas.

“Modern economies worldwide are increasingly becoming knowledge economies,” said IDB President Luis Alberto Moreno. “Recent reviews of development success stories clearly point to the conclusion that, in all cases, economies with sustained high growth have been able to absorb know-how, technology and knowledge from the rest of the world, turning such knowledge into the fundamental basis for achieving rapid rates of economic growth,” added Moreno.

“Investing today and in the middle of the financial crisis represents a once in a life time opportunity for Latin American countries to not only navigate through the crisis by protecting and generating new jobs and preparing its workforce for a connected world, but to emerge from the crisis at a much higher level of economic sustainability and competitiveness than when it began,” said Craig Barrett, Intel Chairman of the Board.

According to reports, not only is the gap between the region and more advanced countries growing, but so is the polarization within the region: Argentina, Brazil and Mexico account for 85% of total research and development investment in the region. No matter their level of development, all countries can do better by defining policies and embracing explicit strategies to harness information and technology to improve economic performance and social inclusion, experts agreed.

Participants analyzed relatively small or less technologically advanced economies,  such  as  Finland, Ireland, Korea and Singapore that, starting with economic structures of  modest technological intensity, have been able to project themselves into leading positions in the world economy.  Heavy investments in education, particularly science education at all levels, selective investments in niche industries, aggressive licensing and adaptation of foreign technology, encouraging business innovation and boosting technological infrastructure, particularly information and communications technology.

The experts identified several trends that reinforce the importance and feasibility of pursuing innovation-focused development agendas. In knowledge economies, scientific and technological capacity and innovation are recognized as significant determinants of productivity and competitiveness, they said.
The information technology revolution, more than any other, has brought benefits across broad sectors and populations worldwide. Technology and innovation are cross-cutting issues, which, if included as central tenet of a nation’s development agenda, can become a powerful means to boost prosperity and bring economic and social inclusion to the majorities.

Participants concluded that governments have to take a leadership role to ensure inclusion of technology and innovation in the development agenda, but governments alone can’t succeed in this long-term and complex challenge. Regulators and the private sector play a crucial role in making things happen.

Regarding barriers to the adoption of information and communication technologies, a good example is mobile telephony, which provides opportunities for inclusive development. To activate markets through technological innovation, new business models have to understand people’s needs to be able to reach non traditional sources of revenue. They require a combination of affordability, trust, ease-of-use, relevance and speed to stimulate demand.

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