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Startups Stories: Desafío Latam Aims at Solving a Digital Gap

Startups Stories: Desafío Latam Aims at Solving a Digital Gap

Posted by PanamericanWorld on March 26, 2016

This week, our Startups Stories bring Desafío Latam, a Chile-based startup that has taken seriously its goal of supporting the transformation of Latin America into an economy of digital services, where designing and developing software is the main pillar.

- When did the idea of Desafío Latam come up?

This week, our Startups Stories bring Desafío Latam, a Chile-based startup that has taken seriously its goal of supporting the transformation of Latin America into an economy of digital services, where designing and developing software is the main pillar.

- When did the idea of Desafío Latam come up?

Desafío Latam was conceived in 2014 as a response to the need to foster digital talents in Latin America, since it´s the region with the lowest number of programmers in the world and this fact has been an obstacle when it comes to creating technological startups to transform the economy.

-What matters is Desafío Latam trying to tackle?

We mainly aim at reducing the digital gap and lack of people trained to develop and use cutting-edge technology. We do it by means of intensive programming courses, thus giving people the possibility to become software developers with the skills to make up their own projects, or work as programmers.

- Desafío Latam stands for the transformation of Latin America’s economy from a model based on raw materials to a service economy. What do you think about the progress of the service economy in the region?

It’s slow. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL is the Spanish acronym) has been pointing it out over the past 3 years. Raw materials are going down and that’s going to trigger a serious problems in our economies if we don’t start providing services that generate true value added, and we have already seen that the forecast turned out to be right.

The key to keep growing as a region is to insert technology on our economy, so we need to count on people that can develop those technologies.

- How about the progress in the education of developers of mobile apps and videogames in Latin America?

This is one of the slowest aspects. This industry is evolving too fast for the academy to be able to follow the pace. Technical university studies take 4 - 6 years, and these technologies completely change every 5 years, so when you graduate everything you learned is obsolete.

So far, 10 years after the beginning of boom in terms of mobile apps, you don’t see courses specialized in that field, and we’re recently hearing about the first course related to videogame development.

- What is Desafío Latam’s goal in 2016?

We are going to organize two new boot camps, the first one on videogames and the second targets mobile development with Android, new courses are going to begin in Peru in late 2016, as well as in  Argentina and Brazil in the early 2017.

- Latin America has moved forward in terms of Internet access and the use of ICT, but what should the region do to reduce the digital and cultural gap?

This is a multidimensional problem and you have to divide it in order to analyze it. The access matter is not universal. For example, the estimated population of South America is nearly 400 million people; however, only 250 million of them have access to the internet, so we’re saying that 40 percent of the population has no access, and that’s serious. Working out this problem is a complex matter of infrastructure, which will require significant public and private investment.

Solving the digital gap also requires access to equipment and the training to use it. Here, in Central and South America, the people are mainly surfing the web by means of mobile devices; nonetheless, the educational plans are still focused on desktop computers.

We are targeting a more specific segment: training people to create and work in technological project, which solves out part of the digital gap, yet there is a lot to be done. This change can be achieved by understanding the importance of programming and the opportunities it provides. People in many countries still believe that programming is nerds’ thing, very complex, and there are even sexist popular ideas that label programming as a an exclusive specialty for men, so there is a lot of work to be done in terms of inclusion initiatives.

We have to make the most of the growing access to the internet, since it allows people to learn at their own houses and generate business ideas with low cost. They only need a good project and a computer to develop ideas that can change the world.

- What’s the current situation of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chile?

The government of Chile has given support funds for entrepreneurs and several initiatives have been fostered in an effort to encourage people to do something, an action that has been very helpful and forged a positive ecosystem of enterprising talent. It’s very important to have more cases of successful startups, so they can fund and support other startups.

The problem is that, after all these years, these initiatives usually assess the pitch and “paper business models”, but they put implementation aside. We still need to focus on promoting and supporting these startups beyond the initial fund and we have a lot of space to grow and evolve.

, since it´s the region with the lowest number of programmers in the world and this fact has been an obstacle when it comes to creating technological startups to transform the economy.

-What matters is Desafío Latam trying to tackle?

We mainly aim at reducing the digital gap and lack of people trained to develop and use cutting-edge technology. We do it by means of intensive programming courses, thus giving people the possibility to become software developers with the skills to make up their own projects, or work as programmers.

- Desafío Latam stands for the transformation of Latin America’s economy from a model based on raw materials to a service economy. What do you think about the progress of the service economy in the region?

It’s slow. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL is the Spanish acronym) has been pointing it out over the past 3 years. Raw materials are going down and that’s going to trigger a serious problems in our economies if we don’t start providing services that generate true value added, and we have already seen that the forecast turned out to be right.

The key to keep growing as a region is to insert technology on our economy, so we need to count on people that can develop those technologies.

- How about the progress in the education of developers of mobile apps and videogames in Latin America?

This is one of the slowest aspects. This industry is evolving too fast for the academy to be able to follow the pace. Technical university studies take 4 - 6 years, and these technologies completely change every 5 years, so when you graduate everything you learned is obsolete.

So far, 10 years after the beginning of boom in terms of mobile apps, you don’t see courses specialized in that field, and we’re recently hearing about the first course related to videogame development.

 

- What is Desafío Latam’s goal in 2016?

We are going to organize two new boot camps, the first one on videogames and the second targets mobile development with Android, new courses are going to begin in Peru in late 2016, as well as in  Argentina and Brazil in the early 2017.

- Latin America has moved forward in terms of Internet access and the use of ICT, but what should the region do to reduce the digital and cultural gap?

This is a multidimensional problem and you have to divide it in order to analyze it. The access matter is not universal. For example, the estimated population of South America is nearly 400 million people; however, only 250 million of them have access to the internet, so we’re saying that 40 percent of the population has no access, and that’s serious. Working out this problem is a complex matter of infrastructure, which will require significant public and private investment.

Solving the digital gap also requires access to equipment and the training to use it. Here, in Central and South America, the people are mainly surfing the web by means of mobile devices; nonetheless, the educational plans are still focused on desktop computers.

We are targeting a more specific segment: training people to create and work in technological project, which solves out part of the digital gap, yet there is a lot to be done. This change can be achieved by understanding the importance of programming and the opportunities it provides. People in many countries still believe that programming is nerds’ thing, very complex, and there are even sexist popular ideas that label programming as a an exclusive specialty for men, so there is a lot of work to be done in terms of inclusion initiatives.

We have to make the most of the growing access to the internet, since it allows people to learn at their own houses and generate business ideas with low cost. They only need a good project and a computer to develop ideas that can change the world.

- What’s the current situation of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chile?

The government of Chile has given support funds for entrepreneurs and several initiatives have been fostered in an effort to encourage people to do something, an action that has been very helpful and forged a positive ecosystem of enterprising talent. It’s very important to have more cases of successful startups, so they can fund and support other startups.

The problem is that, after all these years, these initiatives usually assess the pitch and “paper business models”, but they put implementation aside. We still need to focus on promoting and supporting these startups beyond the initial fund and we have a lot of space to grow and evolve.

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