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The New Age of Digital Democracy in Latin America

March 21, 2016 by Claudio Muruzabal 184

While attending Latin America’s largest technology and business event in Sao Paulo last week, I took a moment to reflect on the transformation happening all around us.

While we are individuals, we are also members of vast networks that are interconnected. We are all part of the political, economic and social changes in the world.

Think about the impact of digitization as it transforms the economic reality of entire regions. In Brazil, for example, 21% of GDP is impacted by the digital economy compared to 30 to 35% in the US and Europe. That means the digital economy of this country must grow by 50% to reach the same level.

I believe that digital improvements in your own enterprise can improve the life of citizens which in turn improves the state of the nation and contributes to economic recovery. Take the example of Stara, a Brazilian manufacturer of tractors and other agricultural machines. Over the past decade, this company has worked with farmers, cooperatives and universities to develop the most influential precision farming project in South America. The project is called Aquarius to reflect the new age of sustainable agriculture practices that reduce waste and minimize environmental impact, thanks to Internet of Things (IoT) technology and realtime data analytics.

Stara exemplifies a mid-sized enterprise that has transformed itself from a manufacturer of machines to a business focused on improving the output of their customers, the farmers. Using state of the art technology they have leapfrogged into a position where they now have a competitive edge over the largest global players in their industry.

Opportunity for All

The beauty of technology is that everyone has the same chance. This democratization of markets has leveled the playing field as never before, opening new possibilities and creating paradigm shifts that are revolutionizing the way we do business, impacting the lives of people everywhere and driving economic growth in ways never seen before.

Stara’s example is particularly relevant in Latin America where small, mid-sized enterprises represent the economic backbone of the region. Smaller companies make up almost 99% of all Brazilian enterprises and contribute 25% to the country’s GDP. While these companies face many challenges, in one respect they have an enormous advantage over large, established enterprises: 90% of small businesses start their digital journey in the cloud. Startups and entrepreneurs don’t carry the weight of legacy systems that were required for doing business just a decade ago.

Transcending Old Models

It’s impossible to address all the pressing needs in business and society at once, so in my role as Regional President of SAP Latin America and Caribbean, I focus on three priorities that will help drive digital transformation and economic growth in the region.

Education is first and foremost. We must equip young people with the right tools and skills now to secure our future workforce. Next, I believe we must support entrepreneurs in every way possible, from mentorship to technology to infrastructure, to enable them to become the engines of the economy.  And finally, I support advances in healthcare because it impacts every person in our society. By supporting the digital transformation of education, entrepreneurship and healthcare we are not only facilitating economic growth but taking responsibility for our social impact as well.

Digital transformation is not a future vision, but a fact of life. I am very excited about helping Latin American companies transform, so they can reinvent themselves and transcend old paradigms and outdated business models to become true disruptors in the digital age.

Claudio Muruzabal is president of  SAP Latin America and Caribbean.
Top image via Shutterstock

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