Argentina’s AI strategy imagines a much more commercially focused approach, whereas its Uruguayan counterpart places much more emphasis on improving the use of AI in government. These divergent priorities are reflected in our Index scores. As explored further below, Argentina scored higher public sector readiness indicators.
Creating a market for AI growth: Argentina (for now)
According to our index, last year Argentina outperformed Uruguay when it comes to AI readiness in the tech sector. This is based on data which indicates that Argentina has over 6000 tech start-ups, compared to only 185 in Uruguay. Similarly, an analysis conducted by the Banco Interamericano de Desarollo also concludes that Argentina has a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem, since it is home to several technology unicorns, such as Mercado Libre (a Latin American equivalent to eBay), Despegar (a travel booking website), or Globant (an IT and software development company).
Argentina’s fluctuating economy is no stranger to high levels of inflation and economic crashes, meaning the country is sometimes regarded as a difficult business environment in which to operate. Nonetheless, the 2019 AI strategy places significant emphasis on easing the path for tech giants and startups alike, potentially contributing to Argentina’s success in this dimension. The strategy references several initiatives in this regard, including;
The creation of the National Fund of Entrepreneurial Capital (FONDCE) to support start-ups.
Changes in legislation which make it possible to start a business in 24 hours.
Tax benefits for individuals who invest in startups and SMEs.
Meanwhile, the Uruguayan strategy makes little mention of the economy, given its focus on public administration. The Agenda Digital 2020 is slightly more commercially orientated, but focuses on “sustainable economic development” and reducing the economic risks associated with AI, adopting a much safer tone than its growth-led Argentine equivalent.
Despite this, many have noted that the Uruguayan tech sector is thriving, with new unicorns like dLocal poaching executives from companies based in Argentina, particularly since the Fernández administration introduced more interventionist government controls on the economy. Therefore, whether Argentina will be able to hold onto this lead in the coming year remains to be seen.
Public sector readiness: Uruguay
Whereas the Argentine strategy performs well under an economically focused lens, the Uruguayan government outstrips Argentina when it comes to the government indicators in our index.
Argentina’s AI strategy does propose some government-centric reforms, stressing the need for the digitalisation of government services, and highlighting existing initiatives, such as Boti, a virtual assistant which allows citizens to interact with local government in Buenos Aires.
However, public sector reform hardly shines through as a central focus of the strategy, as in the case with Uruguayan AI strategy, which is primarily focused on AI reforms in the public sector. From the outset, the Uruguayan strategy explicitly sets out to “consolidate a closer relationship between the people and the state” and “provide more efficient and innovative services” to citizens, by increasing digital capacity within government. To achieve this, the Uruguayan strategy proposes to:
Create a training programme around the use of AI in public services;
Train all government departments using the aforementioned programme;
Define standards, guidelines, and recommendations for auditing of the decision-making algorithms used in government; amongst other initiatives.
Feasibility and implementation: Uruguay
Having a high-reaching vision for change is one thing, but as our initial ‘What makes a good AI strategy?’ blog sets out, AI strategies need to set out measurable goals if they are to translate ambitious ideas into practical change.
This is something the Uruguayan strategy and its accompanying initiatives do particularly well. Uruguay Digital’s website allows visitors to search for particular digital initiatives proposed in the Agenda Digital 2020, and see how close they are to full implementation, measured in percentage points. Elsewhere, AGESIC, the ministry for digital government and society responsible for creating Uruguay’s AI strategy, places significant emphasis on ‘actually making things happen’ and ‘improving the improvable’ – suggesting that the Uruguayan government’s digital departments have considered the importance of a culture of tangible change.