Updated: Mar 12
Without a doubt 2020 was a year to remember; it was a year of struggle, raising our voices for justice, and of unprecedented technological innovation. It was a year the world came together to address an unforeseen and colossal challenge. Digital transformation became a fundamental priority in every corner of the planet, from enabling online classes and facilitating remote work to preventing the collapse of hospital systems and saving lives.
While the challenges continue and the pace of technological development speeds up, we won’t be going back to “the good ol’ days”. The new solutions we’ve speedily developed may now become pillars on which we continue working to achieve the UN’s SDGs for a more liveable world.
Have a read at the new trends emerging in different international priority areas and their projected impact on society.
More than ever before, the world's population is looking to be aware of their health and well-being in real-time and doctors are looking for more tools to make better decisions when it comes to diagnosing and treating diseases. According to a Deloitte Publication, this means a boost for technologies such as wearables, imaging, laboratory applications, physiological monitoring, real world data, virtual health assistance, personalised apps, and robotics. If you’re not already monitoring your oxygen levels with your smartwatch, you might soon.
Latin America is already moving forward with such applications. The mexican start-up Aidicare, for instance, developed a wearable bracelet that monitors heart rate, blood pressure, sleep quality, physical activity, calories burned, weight, and glycemia so that patients can monitor their overall health and share the data with doctors if need be.
Beyond MedTech for physical wellness, we’re also likely to see a rise in MedTech for mental well-being. Indeed, the pandemic is taking a considerable toll on public health, leading to an increasing prevalence of common mental illness, overwhelming primary and psychological services. Digital tools can be an incredible ally in supporting individuals through these trying times, for instance by enabling virtual spaces for specialists and their patients. In fact, we are witnessing the growth of digital platforms for this purpose, such as My Online Therapy, an entirely digital psychological clinic, founded by Elettra Bianchi Dennerlein, and Terapify, a mexican online platform that connects psychologists and patients for therapy at any time.
EdTech too has been affected by the pandemic, as children are no longer able to go to school physically. Lucky schools, students, and teachers have benefitted from moving to online platforms and adults are able to take online courses on a variety of topics. The development and deployment of EdTech tools that enable access to quality education are needed to address the inequalities that are found in these regions, inequalities that have become even steeper during the last year.
According to the World Economic Forum, in Latin America and the Caribbean, over 154 million children were temporarily out of school (that’s more than the entire population of Mexico) as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many places around the world might be able to provide classes online, governments in Latin America are facing a specific challenge: that of disparate connectivity. In Mexico, while 92.5% of homes have at least one television, 56.4% have access to the internet and 44.3% own a computer. Countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico, have enabled digital platforms with educational resources to support teachers and students who are now at home. In view of the increasing need for internet access, the Dominican Republic installed more than 1,000 free public wi-fi access points across the country and offered internet plans with special discounts for over 600,000 students. To ensure more equal access to the now digital education sphere, these countries are also testing the use of televisions and radios as teaching devices, an innovative approach that has recently been picked up by the United Kingdom.
According to NOAA and NASA, the 2010 to 2019 decade was the hottest decade on record, and 2020 was the second-warmest year on record, behind 2016. While the pandemic started out looking like a blessing in disguise for air pollution, one of the main causes for climate change, it turned out to be more harmful than beneficial, as the CDC is encouraging the use of transportation that minimize close contact with others and the individual car use has risen in the last few months, together with greenhouse gas emissions; land and ocean plastic pollution is increasing due to the disposal of gloves and masks and, logging and poaching enforcement actions have been affected in key areas such as the Amazon rainforest - just to mention a few examples of the environmental toll of the pandemic -. ClimateTech is a relatively new concept that includes any technology or business model that works to address climate change by attacking its causes and/or mitigating its negative effects.
We are only now discovering how and to what extent it may be used in this field. The Rainforest Guardians on the Costa Rican Rainforest, for instance, install sound-capturing devices in key areas of the jungle or forest, using algorithms to differentiate amongst the natural ecosystem noises and those that point to a threat (a chainsaw or gunshot).
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a growth in demand for new ways to guarantee safe and secure online transactions and hands-free payments. In a world where going to the bank becomes a considerable risk and cash exchanges are reduced due to a drop in the number of physical interactions, it’s also increased the urgency to make digital platforms for financial services more inclusive and accessible than ever before, by enabling collaboration between governments and fintechs to deploy financial programs to help low-income households.
While Latin America has been a paradise for FinTech companies, there are still a lot of challenges to overcome: distrust towards financial institutions, lack of awareness from both users and the industry as well as insufficient infrastructure. That being said, 2020 marks a significant shift for the region. Many cash-only businesses moved to digital payments to reduce exposure to the virus and as many as 13 million visa card owners in Latin America and the Caribbean made online purchases for the first time, as revealed by Visa. That’s a little more than the population of Bolivia or Belgium.
Do you want to know more? Read our latest reports where you can discover from applications of technologies in agriculture, examples of AI use cases for social good in Latin America, and more.