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The leaders of the founding members of the Pacific Alliance, from the meeting in July 2018 where cybersecurity was a hot topic. Photo: Cuartoscuro.
The leaders of the founding members of the Pacific Alliance, from the meeting in July 2018 where cybersecurity was a hot topic. Photo: Cuartoscuro.

The Unknown Consequence of Latin America's Tech Boom

The nascent but fast-growing tech boom on the continent has done wonders for the economies of many Latin American countries—but how have they handled its…

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In an Oct. 23, 2018 article on Forbes, Argentinian tech entrepreneur Nacho De Marco praised Latin America’s technological surge of the last decade.

“Fifteen years ago, ‘Latin America’ and ‘technology’ were not often used in the same sentence,” he wrote before detailing his own journey in the tech world to places like Silicon Valley and Brisbane, Australia.

Nowadays, Latin America is home to a burgeoning tech community that is more resistant to the draw of global companies. Instead of outsourcing its talent completely, the growing community now demands respect and is selling its services on the global tech market.

De Marco knows a thing or two about that. He is the co-founder and CEO of BairesDev, a technology services company that outsources software from Latin America to global tech companies. Its clients are some of the biggest in the world, and include Google, Netgear, Viacom and IBM, to name a few.

However, the biggest investors in the Latin American tech community are Chinese. 2019 marks the final year of China’s president Xi Jingping’s five-year plan to complete $500 billion of trade with Latin America in addition to contributing another $250 billion of direct investment. As of 2017, Chinese investment in Latin America continued to grow, with many tech companies taking advantage of the boom of mobile devices and their accompanying services.

In 2016, GSMA, a representative trade body of mobile network operators, predicted Latin America’s mobile internet users to grow 50 percent by 2020. It also has the second fastest growing market of mobile internet users in the world.

While the positive results of this decade-long technology boom are massive influxes of investment and an easier life for those affected by them, the negative impacts can be just as damaging.

An area that is reactionary in nature to threats is cybersecurity. An end of year survey of risk and non-risk professionals in 2018 ranked cybersecurity at the top alongside trade tensions as the biggest threats to markets. According to Symantec’s 2018 Internet Security Threat Report, Brazil and Mexico rank seventh and eighth in the world regarding the most ransomware attacks. The report also ranks Brazil third, Argentina eighth and Mexico tenth as countries where the most cyberattacks originated.

This development in Brazil and Argentina has made South America a new hotbed of identity fraud according to a 2018 report by ThreatMetrix, which also names Colombia as a new source.

In his report titled “Cybersecurity Challenges for Latin America,” cybersecurity and international relations writer Christian Schreiber says countries in Latin America are “slowly” creating their own cybersecurity strategies. Argentina created its own Programa Nacional de Infraestructuras Críticas de Información y Ciberseguridad, while Mexico and Chile published their cybersecurity strategies last year. Brazil is also doubling down on its cybersecurity policies through consolidation, but still faces threats to its critical infrastructure and emerging devices part of the “Internet of Things” (IoT).

Chile also took it a step further and signed an agreement with the U.S. in Aug. 2018 to collaborate when combating cybersecurity threats. For Schreiber, a partnership of this kind is ideal and necessary for Latin America moving forward in regards to cybersecurity. In addition to U.S. collaboration, Schreiber mentions the European Union as another valuable partner.

He also mentions the Organization of American States (OAS) as a solid facilitator of cybersecurity collaboration between Latin America and the rest of the world. As more Latin American countries absorb advanced technology, it will become the important role of the OAS and leading Latin American countries to quickly bring the fledgling tech nations up to par, or else risk a world of trouble.

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