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Latin America’s Coming Techlash

Like the rest of the world, Latin America is attempting to thread the needle of the digital revolution, maximizing the far-reaching economic potential of new technologies while limiting social and political disruptions. With a young, highly connected population, there is ample reason for hope, but plenty could still go wrong.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Latin America is going digital, with all the upsides and downsides that this transformation entails. While foreign and domestic investment in digital infrastructure, cloud computing, and e-services are spurring openness, innovation, and economic development, they are also reinforcing digital divides, distorting politics, and exposing governments, businesses, and citizens to cyber threats.

Across the region, broadband and information and communications technology (ICT) is concentrated in wealthy cities and households, and excessive regulation is stifling competition in telecommunications. Cybercrime is off the charts, yet still a neglected threat. And now, a geopolitical battle between the United States and China over the future of 5G puts Latin America squarely in the cross hairs. How the region’s leaders confront these challenges in the coming years will have generational implications.

Viva la Revolución Digital

Latin America’s digital natives have been a force to be reckoned with for some time now. In 2019, more than 450 million of the region’s 626 million residents were online, and a similar number owned a mobile phone, allowing them to engage politically, access digital services, and build businesses. Latin Americans are also among the world’s most avid consumers of social media – especially Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp. And they’re not just posting their favorite music videos, but also accessing jobs in the formal and informal economies.