Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

What Can Artificial Intelligence Bring to Latin America?

Picture of healthcare in Chile Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly popular globally. Some of its benefits include improved healthcare, writes Mijail Popov.

ChatGPT, Open AI’s popular chatbot released last November, is estimated to have reached 100 million monthly active users in January, setting a record for the fastest-growing user base for a consumer application, according to a UBS study. Over the past decade, artificial intelligence (AI) has moved from the periphery of policy attention to the center of investment and political focus. In Latin America, AI is forecast to boost GDP by 5 percent by 2030, according to PwC. What benefits could AI bring to the region, and what are the main risks associated with it? To what extent should it be regulated, and which countries in the region have implemented the most significant policies related to AI?

María Paz Hermosilla, director of GobLab UAI in the School of Government of Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez: “The challenge is always how we use technology, because it is not morally good nor bad by itself. Artificial intelligence can bring important benefits in solving major social problems through the use of data, for example, by expanding the coverage and scope of certain public policies and making them more effective in reaching those for whom they are intended. But just as the opportunities are enormous, so are the ethical risks involved: how do we ensure fairness and non-discrimination, how do we protect people’s privacy and how do we guarantee transparency? That is what we are working on. Chile is leading the way in Latin America. At the Adolfo Ibáñez University we are executing the Ethical, Accountable and Transparent Algorithms project, an unprecedented multi-stakeholder partnership in Chile, funded by IDB Lab, to develop models and standards that incorporate ethical considerations for the design, procurement and use of automated decision-making algorithms in the public and private sector. Among other milestones, earlier this year the National Procurement Agency published standardized bidding terms for AI public purchases including ethical considerations, and during the second semester the Chilean Transparency Council will approve the first binding regulations on algorithmic transparency in the region.”

Wally Swain, principal consultant for Latin America at Omdia: “Economists have long complained about services-sector productivity in the region, especially in healthcare and government services. ChatGPT and related technologies could facilitate a great leap forward in cost and effectiveness by mechanizing painful transactions still based on paper (or low-level digital analogues). AI-based bureaucrats should be free of graft or ‘acceleration fees’–although these platforms evolve so quickly, this last comment may be naïve! Unfortunately, these low-level government posts are often important sources of quality employment in many countries so, as in many regions, the policy issue will be managing the shift of the workforce from those posts displaced by AI to those posts enhanced by AI. Such a challenge tempts politicians to regulate and avoid labor conflict. Officials will also want platforms to manage culturally sensitive issues like bias and politically sensitive issues such as personal data storage or local jobs. Unfortunately, countless examples in the Internet age have shown the difficulty—if not impossibility—of doing so. At best, bureaucrats can block unwanted platforms (and this is easily circumvented); governments have no chance of forcing global platforms to conform to local policies. John Gilmore’s famous quote ‘The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it,’ has an equally valid corollary: ‘The Net interprets regulation as damage and routes around it.’”

Mijail Popov, analyst at Americas Market Intelligence: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to bring significant benefits to Latin America, including improvements in healthcare, agriculture, education and public services. However, one of the most controversial debates surrounding AI is the associated risks, such as job displacement, privacy concerns and the potential for bias and discrimination in decision-making algorithms. It is important to note that many AI developments are still in the early stages, as well as regulation. Latin American countries have adopted different approaches to AI regulation. For instance, Brazil has developed a national AI policy that prioritizes promoting innovation and building human capital in the sector. A national AI ethics committee has been established in Mexico to offer recommendations on the moral use of AI. Colombia, on the other hand, established an AI observatory to research how AI is affecting society and to suggest public policies. As AI continues to evolve and become more prevalent in the region, it’s crucial for policymakers to find a way to support innovation while also safeguarding the rights and interests of the people. The governments in the region must take responsibility in guaranteeing that AI is utilized and created in an ethical and accountable manner, with adequate measures in place to handle potential hazards and preserve confidentiality.” 


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