Latin America Lags in IT

Yesterday, I wrote about Greece and neighboring Bulgaria, contrasting two seemingly similar nations and their respective commitments to ICT. The verdict, based on research I’ve been conducting for the past 18 months, was that Bulgaria is doing much better than lagging Greece.

Today, let’s take a look at a lagging region: Latin America. When thinking of the region, people often think first of Brazil, the Portuguese-speaking giant in a sea of mostly Spanish-speaking nations. Brazil ranks fifith in the world in area, and is in fact larger than the continental United States. It also has the world’s fifth largest population.

Brazil was identified years ago as one of the world’s great developing nations; it is the “B” in the BRICs (joining Russia, India, and China). Its popularity as a tourist destination is matched these days by its popularity as a business-first destination. In our business, there is not a major IT company that doesn’t have a presence and key annual event in Brazil.

Yet the country is a laggard in my research, which integrates raw IT expenditures, per-person income, local cost-of-living, income disparity, bandwidth, and other societal and economic factors. I use openly available data from the World Bank, United Nations, and other global organizations as the basis.

Brazil’s commitment to IT is not stellar, coming in at 4.7% of GDP. Compare this to 8.0% in world leader South Korea, or even to the 5.1% of neighboring Bolivia. Brazil also has a very high level of income disparity, and relatively slow bandwidth.

Among the 14 Latin American nations I researched, Brazil finished 9th; Honduras led the pack, followed by Mexico. Venezuela and Paraguay trailed the pack.

A World View
Latin America as a group trailed many regions of the world, including Asia and Europe. Its top performer, Honduras finished 29th in the world among 82 nations researched. Its next best performer, Mexico, finished 42nd.. Latin America as a region had an average placement of 60 on the list.

Compare this to Eastern and Central Europe at 22, the US & Canada at 28, Asia at 36 (a group that includes Korea in 1st place and Indonesia in 76th), Western Europe at 40, the Middle East at 48, and the five African nations surveyed at 59.

My research seeks the most dynamic places, so it can be almost as difficult for highly developed nations to score well as it is for developing laggards. So, for example, the United States finished 33rd. Yet Canada cracked the Top 25, finished 22nd, and you’ll also find Sweden, the UK, the Netherlands, and Singapore in the Top 25. Russia and China (two of the other BRICs) also made the Top 25.

As far as size, I’ve found no correlation between population size or area size in my research. Top performers range from low-population Sweden to high-population Bangladesh, from small Senegal to large Ukraine.

My view of Latin America is that it remains full of opportunity, and despite overcoming huge economic and political obstacles as a region in recent decades, must re-fortify its commitment to IT and the economic development it can bring. The contrast of Latin America with Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe is instructional, in my opinion.

As we approach the upcoming Cloud Expo, this global view of IT may be valuable to decision-makers who are considering not only new technologies, but new locations, sources, markets, and investments.

I think it’s worthy to survey the global dimension of IT and what IT means to the world, am glad to enter discussions on this topic, and to share how my rankings are derived and how they can be used.

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