"The market has exploded in Latin America," said Hernan Rincon, president Microsoft Latin America, describing the speed with which sales are growing in the region. He told Latin Trade that of the thirteen regions into which the company divides the world, his is the one with the highest growth rate, expanding by rates of 3 percent to 6 percent over the past 10 years.
It hasn't always been like this, says Rincon, who has seen the transformation of the technology market from the special vantage point of his Fort Lauderdale office.
Adoption of computer technology over the last two decades has come in waves (see box). Financial firms were the first to invest in systems and communications, with ATMs and with the installation of new systems for processing and administering information. Governments and state-run companies followed. At that time, most of Latin America's oil companies and public service operations were in state hands.
Privately-owned Latin American companies started to compete on the world stage after 2000.They had to become more efficient to be successful against India and China, Rincon said. "It was (comparatively) easy to compete against the Europeans." To do this they lowered costs by boosting productivity, which they achieved through investing in software, communications and manufacturing technologies.
Some sectors, such as mining, made fast progress. Chile's Codelco and some Peruvian mining companies have drilling and extraction technologies, as well as IT systems, that are on a par with the best in the world, he says.
Other areas, like agriculture, education and healthcare, have lagged behind. With healthcare there is some investment in medical equipment, "but in the administration of patients, hospitals and medicines it has yet to be made," he said. "Healthcare ranks back where banks were 20 years ago," he says.
He expects the next big step for the region to involve wide use of cloud computing. With the cloud, users can always be connected and have access to as much information and computer capacity as they require. "The cloud breaks forever the barrier that capital investment used to impose," he said. "Now a family doesn't need to...