Brazilian multinational IT company, Stefanini, presented an analysis of the potential of Latin America for AI development as part of INSEAD’s 2020 Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) launched in Davos, during 2020’s World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting several weeks ago.
Marco Stefanini, founder and global CEO of Stefanini, and Fábio Caversan, AI & Cognitive Research Director at Stefanini US, highlighted current and future scenarios for AI development, which continues to gain momentum as the single-most-important topic driving digital innovation discussions across the region.
Marco Stefanini talked with Nearshore Americas about the information presented in Davos and also about the company’s plans on developing AI solutions for local and international markets.
Stefanini says that Latin America has been traditionally weak in marketing its technological talents, particularly in the traditional IT model, where India has won notoriety as the leading offshore destination.
“The digital model has different characteristics from traditional IT, and this is where Latin America has a big and strategic window of opportunity. Asian talents are focused on the Asian market. Europe and the US have a massive digital talent shortage, including AI. Africa, unfortunately, still doesn’t have a base to compete in this market,” Stefanini said.
“After that, you are left with Latin America, a region with a big population, if you add up the six biggest countries, we are talking about half a billion people – with a reasonable technological upside and a historic opportunity,” he added.
Considering this, the report presented in Davos pinpointed Latin America as the next generation hub of talent for AI and digital transformation. According to data from the study, Latin American countries took the lead in formulating national AI strategies. Mexico is among the first ten countries to launch such an approach, followed by Uruguay, Chile, and Brazil. The study also said that among the 100 best-prepared countries for AI, 15 are from Latin America.
However, other parts of the report also show regional challenges. In the GTCI index, Chile and Costa Rica are ranked significantly higher than the rest. The GTCI index is divided in quadrants of countries, the best-performing ones are considered “champions”, and the rest, laggards. The only major country – in terms of population – that ranks among the champions quadrant of the index is Argentina, while Brazil and Mexico are in the laggard quadrant.
Facing the Challenges
As a Brazilian company, Stefanini knows first-hand some of the limitations that the country and the region face. “In Brazil, just 3% of university students are in the STEM area, which is far too low,” Stefanini said. “We have a gap in technology professionals, like most of the world. But in this case, it is worse, because in Latin America we need to supply for two markets, the internal and the external,” he added.
In his view, he is calling for a three-point solution: 1) include technology and programming in secondary education programs, 2) improve the social value of STEM careers, and 3) promote the interest of Latin American companies and countries in occupying a space in the much-needed field of AI development.
“The level of this opportunity is huge. Even developed countries are still in the early stages of AI development. Latin America is still a bit behind, but since these technologies are still in their early stages, we have time to catch up and leapfrog. But to achieve this, we need to do our homework,” Stefanini said.
Stefanini and AI solutions
Stefanini’s interest in positioning Latin America as an AI hub comes from its own work in the field. Currently, the Brazilian IT multinational owns a company called Woopi, which commercializes an AI product named Sophie.
“Sophie creates an interface between people and the systems and processes of a company. It makes a connection via voice or chat,” Stefanini explained. “In practice, it is a big brain. It does what we call natural language processing. We have clients around the whole world using this product, including clients in Brazil and Latin America,” he added.
Sophie also captures information from social media, and the company is now working on creating a new version that will make it capable of reading and interpreting text. “The big challenge with AI is training the tools. Making the AI learn is generally expensive. Most of the disappointment with AI comes from the false expectation that you just need to implement a tool, and it will learn by itself,” Stefanini said.
“The major advantage of our solution is that it has a faster learning period than most traditional AI solutions. We are working on releasing a new version in the coming months, which will even faster,” he added.
Stefanini has over 30 years of experience in the market, and it offers solutions in market trends such as automation, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and user experience (UX). It has a presence in 41 countries.