Artificial Intelligence gains momentum in the Latin American region
Artificial Intelligence or AI is creating hype globally – and things are no different in Latin America. Here, we’re seeing businesses of all sizes and industries starting to implement AI technology to boost efficiency and tackle critical issues. Of course, as it is with any major technological innovation, there’s bound to be roadblocks when doing so. In this Pacific Latin America article, we’ll break down the key points about AI’s uses, implementation, as well as pitfalls.
Using AI technology to solve existing problems
Many Latin American countries already struggle with food security, but the COVID-19 crisis is predicted to worsen the situation. According to the World Food Programme, the number of people with severe food insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean may rise from 3.4 million in 2019 to about 13.7 million in 2020.
This will affect different countries differently:
- Haiti could see more than double the number of people suffering from food insecurity, from 700,000 to 1.6 million.
- Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru are vulnerable, with the number of food insecure people estimated to rise from 540,000 to more than a million.
- In the Dry Corridor of Central America, we could similarly see a spike in numbers from more than 1.6 million to almost 3 million.
Experts believe AI technology can tackle food security problems, amongst many others in the region. But, what is AI technology and how does it work? Put simply, AI involves the creation of algorithms (set of rules) to classify, analyze, and draw predictions from data. There’s also an element of acting on data, learning from data, as well as improving over time.
Coming back to how AI can help fight COVID-19 related food security problems, it’s about using data to transform agriculture. These include analysis of, but not limited to, things like weather conditions and temperature, soil condition or water usage, and many more. Leveraging this can help farmers be more efficient and reduce risks, thus increasing crop yield and food supply.
Growth in organizations adopting AI technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a leading academic institution, and Genesys, a customer experience software company, found that both startups and large companies are turning to AI technology in Latin America. Many countries, such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina, even have developed or are in the process of developing national AI strategies.
Some notable AI trends are:
- 79% of businesses have AI projects underway, compared with 87% in North America and 95% in Asia-Pacific.
- Less than 2% of respondents have found their AI investments to make less than expected returns.
- AI projects will accelerate with almost two-thirds of respondents expecting 21% to 40% of their processes to use AI in the coming three years.
Challenges in AI implementation
Even though the above-mentioned trends are indeed promising, with a range of tangible benefits to AI investment like improved cost savings, increased revenue, and compliance, and much more, the region is still plagued with a myriad of obstacles in implementing AI technologies and solutions.
These issues include:
- Low quality and lack of availability of data. This results in difficulty for businesses to adapt their processes to harness the full utility of AI technology.
- A brain drain or not enough talent to utilize AI as talented people move abroad for better opportunities. There is also a disconnect between academia and industry.
- Political fragmentation and lack of centralized structure, making resource allocation and regulatory coherence for AI difficult in Latin America. This is unlike the EU, the US, or China.
Latin America certainly stands to gain from regional collaboration, but despite this, many national governments are making strides in their AI policy. One example is Brazil which is committed to AI research and development, with the University of São Paulo winning the tender for Brazil’s largest AI research center.
While national governments can implement their own strategy, businesses still need to consider data privacy. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is often cited as the “inspiration” of data privacy legislation worldwide – including in Brazil, where the parliament adopted its own version called the LGPD.
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