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Latin America: No longer an importer of tech, but a creator

By Fernando Arenas (@FernandoArenas), Telefónica One Young World delegate

south-america-74073_640It’s a great time to be living and working in Latin America. Consumption and manufacturing is growing and most of the population are young and want to be part of driving the change in a region that has historically been under-developed. Opportunities abound.

Yet researching the Global Millennial Survey (2013) left me thinking about the goals and dreams of Latin American millennials, especially in the context of the region’s expectations towards technology.

According to the study, LatAm millennials believe more than in the power of internet than other millennials in the world. They see it as their best source of daily content. And contrary to the rest of the world, Latin Americans believe that technology closes the gap between the rich and the poor.

Latin Americans also believe that they are at the cutting-edge of technology. To me, this is very odd to observe, as the region has historically been an importer of technology rather than an exporter, and is clearly outpaced by Asia.
Ironically, Asians see themselves less at the forefront of technology despite the fact that a large number of technology companies are based in Asia, and this is where many of the development labs exist.

Latin Americans millennials have high views and expectations of themselves. The survey identifies millennial leaders who fit special criteria. If we isolate the top 10 countries that have respondents that fit into the millennial leader criteria, we see that 7 of these countries are in Latin America.

Latin American millennials are more concerned by social inequality and the environment for example versus the economy. Millennials all over the world are deeply worried about the transition from school to work.

In general, millennials are a generation of technology aware, education oriented individuals with very high expectations on technology oriented solutions. Latin Americans view freedom from a collective point of view, and are all in for environmentally friendly policies.

In a few words, Latin Americans want it all: they are keen to be part of the brilliant future of the region, soon and fast.

Working at a telecoms company that is transitioning into a digital telco, I see a big challenge for technology companies to fulfil all these expectations from my generation. Companies must act quickly to understand millennial consumer needs, especially in terms of connectivity and access to information.

There must be a guarantee to offer reasonably priced broadband, and this should be done to protect the much appreciated freedom of speech, right to development and right to freedom of assembly (collective rights) that Latin Americans much appreciate. All of this, together with a serious increase in investment on education and better understanding of what technology does for society, is in my view the key to reaching the brilliant Latin American millennials of the future.