Digital Transformation and Resilience in the Americas

From public-private partnerships to plans of innovation, learn about Uruguay’s success in leading digital transformation in the Americas.


Air Date: June 9, 2022

Moderator: Juan Carlos Lopez, Correspondent, CNN en Español

Featured Guests: Omar Paganini, Minister of Industry, Energy, and Mining, Uruguay, Rodrigo Kede Lima, Corporate VP and President for Latin America, Microsoft

In recent years, each country in the Americas has been hit with challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain shortages, and country-specific issues. To foster growth amidst these challenges, government officials and business leaders gathered at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Department of State’s IV CEO Summit of the Americas to discuss the vital partnership between the Americas.

On Day 2 of the Summit, Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN en Español moderated an engaging panel between Omar Paganini, the Minister of Industry, Energy, and Mining of Uruguay, and Rodrigo Kede Lima, Corporate Vice President and President of Microsoft Latin America, about digital transformation and resilience in the Americas, particularly in Uruguay.

Uruguay Has a History of Success in Private-Public Digital Partnerships

No stranger to innovation, Uruguay has decades of success in public-private partnerships that formed a digital transformation in the country and international markets. Since 2007, Uruguay has provided every child in the public school system with a laptop — a program that morphed into seamless e-learning during the pandemic. A government-supported app revolutionized pandemic life, too.

“This app was built by 15 Uruguyian startups in one month,” said Minister Paganini. “There is a very good [digital] ecosystem in Uruguay

“There was a drive forward from the telephone operator [and] a regulatory push from the government,” he said of the history of public-private partnerships in Uruguay. “There is an agency for electronic government … The providers from the technology sector are 100% private, and they [are partners in development].”

Kede Lima noted that, as one of Uruguay’s private partners, Microsoft intends to build a new IoT and AI lab in Uruguay, joining the company’s two existing ones in Shanghai and Munich.

The Pandemic Shaped Technologic Innovation Across Uruguay

Uruguay’s commitment to digital innovation resulted in record vaccination times during COVID-19 shutdowns and enabled students to keep learning.

“When the pandemic arrived, we could build an integrated information system for the pandemic [of] all the electronic clinical records of the citizens in a centralized database, integrated with all the healthcare providers,” said Minister Paganini. “We achieved a record-time vaccination of the whole population with an integrated system using digital technology.”

The panel discussion showcased pandemic solutions as examples of how digital transformation acts as a keystone for resilience.

“[We have] one laptop per child [and] internet connectivity for all children in the public school, and that allowed us not to close down the education system during the first year of the pandemic,” said Minister Paganini of the country’s education system.

Skill-Building Among Young People Will Unlock New Talent Pools

With existing public-private partnership success and a thriving avenue of digital connectivity, Minister Paganini and Lima both agreed that finding skilled talent in digital spaces remains a global hurdle to overcome.

“I used to make a joke about talent, about training – that coding is going to be the new math,” remarked Kede Lima. “It’s becoming so important. We’re going to see kids at some point having a mandatory class on coding. We believe we have the right combination in Uruguay … [but] it’s still a lot to catch up [on] because the demand for technical talent and for digital skills is much higher than what we’re producing every year.”

Kede Lima suggested skill-building in schools and universities and reskilling workers in the labor force to meet the demand for open technical positions.