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Colombia, China and the Impact of AI

This week, I had the pleasure to be part of the Andicom conference in Cartagena Colombia.

The conference is one of the biggest in South America and had a strong lineup of speakers including the President of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez.

Besides it being a great networking event, two things stood out. Firstly, the massive Chinese presence at the conference, secondly the focus and mainly the concerns about AI.

Growing Chinese Presence

While we are in the middle of US and China trade war, it was very interesting to see that Chinese companies are not taking a rest from expanding their presence outside China. Huawei, DiDi, Alibaba and many other Chinese companies had a very big presence here which completely dwarfed Microsoft and other US brands.

A few years back, no one would know about DiDi, the Chinese company that was the local competitor to Uber and last year acquired the Chinese part of Uber. But now, they were one of the biggest sponsors at this conference. It makes sense that Chinese companies instead of going head to head with US companies on their home turf, instead target South America, in the same way as they have gone into India and South East Asia.

Concerns About The Impact of AI

Besides doing a keynote on Digital Transformation, I had the pleasure of doing a Q&A session with Jeff Maggioncalda the CEO of Coursera. The questions and conversations circled a lot around AI and the impact that AI and robotics will have on Colombia’s economy and especially the workforce.

The overall point of view was:

  1. Yes, even though AI and automation will add production efficiency globally and many tasks will change. Then it will be a challenge for those economies that are reliant on low skilled manual labour. Many jobs will change and it will be easier for contries with a highly trained and educated workforce.

  2. Digital transformation has, to some degree, levelled the playing field for access to education and also to global markets. You no longer need to live close vicinity of a University or library. Now, most people with access to a computer and a decent Internet connection, have access to a huge amount of online learning resources, like Coursera, and that amount is just going to get bigger and better.

  3. But, to be able to make use of these resources, basic skills like reading, writing, math and the access to computers and Internet connection will be the deciding factor. Without basic skills and the ability to connect to knowledge resources the digital divide will only get bigger. Governments should invest heavily in basic education and internet access for everyone.

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