From 6-10 June, government, businesses, civil society, and youth leaders from the Americas convened in Los Angeles, California, for the IX Summit of the Americas. The meeting served as an opportunity to tackle pressing challenges—including democracy, climate change, migration, and the COVID-19 pandemic—while seizing opportunities to drive hemispheric growth, equality, and prosperity. For the first time, digital transformation served as a key pillar in the agenda.
Regional Agenda for Digital Transformation
Government leaders committed to a “Regional Agenda for Digital Transformation,” which makes recommendations in four key areas:
- Digital ecosystems and connectivity: Expand broadband access and promote infrastructure development to ensure interoperable and secure telecommunications networks.
- Digital and open government: Promote freedom of expression, responsible use of the Internet, and ICT use in the public sector.
- Cybersecurity: Strengthen regional cooperation in cybersecurity and promote digital talent development.
- Economic growth and competitiveness: Support ICT entrepreneurship and intellectual property protections and strengthen regional cooperation on digital trade.
Unlocking the Size of the Prize: DX Investment
An array of stakeholders announced investments in the Latam region.
U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris announced more than USD 1.9 billion in private sector investment for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras geared towards inclusive economic development and immigration reduction. These efforts fall within the Biden Administration’s Call to Action, a plan announced in May 2021 to address the root causes of migration by promoting economic opportunity in Central America.
- Millicom unveiled USD 700 million to promote digital infrastructure and skills.
- Visa committed USD 270 million for financial inclusion and digital infrastructure projects.
- Conectividad con Propósito (COATL) allocated USD 35 million to expand rural access to high-speed internet in El Salvador.
Within the Summit’s framework, other companies also took the stand and pledged resources:
- Google announced a five-year USD 1.2 billion investment in four main areas: digital infrastructure, digital skills, entrepreneur support, and sustainable and inclusive growth.
- Mastercard, Meta, and Microsoft partnered with the Organization of American States (OAS) to digitize women-owned businesses, promote women’s digital inclusion, and provide cybersecurity, coding, and AI skills training. This is part of a women economic empowerment initiative led by VP Harris dubbed In her Hands.
While these commitments represent a positive step to ensuring inclusive economic growth in the region, the effectiveness of these investments and programs will depend on the appropriate management and allocation of these resources. Therefore, the role of regional development organizations (i.e., the Inter-American Development Bank and the Development Bank of Central America) and cooperation development agencies will be crucial during the implementation, monitoring, and accountability process.
During the CEO Summit of the Americas, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, business leaders discussed digital and tech issues with government officials. This event kept reiterating the efforts around public-private collaborations toward inclusive growth and digital transformation.
- Education: High-level encounters featured a meeting between President of Peru, Pedro Castillo, with Google to promote digital projects in favor of education.
- E-commerce: In a conversation with Amazon, Mexican Secretary of the Economy Tatiana Clouthier’s intervention on opportunities to achieve e-commerce growth in Latin America. President Ivan Duque from Colombia met with executives from Mastercard and Amazon to discuss e-commerce and economic recovery.
- Innovation and connectivity: Meanwhile, Uruguayan Minister of Industry, Energy, and Mining, Omar Paganini mentioned the importance of public-private partnerships to shape technological innovation and enhance digital connectivity alongside Microsoft.
- Free expression and the Internet: Civil Society Organizations called for creating a digital observatory for the Americas and for governments to refrain from closing or blocking Internet platforms. closing or blocking Internet platforms
The Summit’s legacy can only be measured against tangible results. If leaders are able to catalyze the agreements reached in Los Angeles and transform these into concrete actions, that would represent a move toward success. All eyes will be on the details and specifics around the implementation phase of the Regional Agenda for Digital Transformation, as well as the way countries will draw from the investment announcements touted by the private sector – a sector placed front-and-center in these discussions. International and regional development banks, development agencies, and other private sector players will play a vital role in the process.
Let’s not forget that promoting democratic values and good governance is at the core of the Summit. Strengthening the rule of law and ensuring transparent regulatory mechanisms are needed to spur innovation, create twenty-first-century jobs, close the digital divide, and promote free expression.