Uruguay the Technological Spearhead of Latin America

Posted April 27, 2019

Uruguay is a small country with a population of only 3.46 million, squeezed in between enormous countries Argentina and Brazil. The country is known for its beautiful beaches, cattle farming, and home to the famous footballer Luis Suárez. Overshadowed by its massive neighbouring countries, together with its low population, made it very easy to count Uruguay out of the global technological race. That was where we were completely mistaken.

Uruguay is the leading software exporter per capita in South America, and it is the third worldwide. It is Latin America’s most advanced country in the degree of penetration of Internet and mobile phone users, with 79.6% of penetration of LTE lines in population and 77% of households with broadband connections. With the installation of optical fiber, it has the continent’s fastest Internet download and upload speed. Uruguay hosts one of the biggest and most modern data centers of Latin America and the world. The country has become an international supplier of high-quality IT solutions, with more than 700 tech companies in 2016. It is a mature tech market, surrounded by experienced talent.

uruguay graph shows strong growth

Notable Tech Milestones

One Laptop Per Child

Uruguay was the first country in the world to provide laptop computers free of charge to all students and teachers in public schools and high schools. The Ceibal Plan is an initiative promoted by the Uruguayan government in 2007, based on the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). With this initiative, Uruguay has 100% of schools, high schools and universities to have fiber optic, and the digital gap has been reduced from 35% to 8% of households from 2005-2015. The Ceibal platform is implemented in English, to encourage the bilingualism of the population.

Meat Traceability

Uruguay is the only country in the world that has been able to track their entire meat production chain through the implementation of a national traceability system. With this, diseases could be caught early and buyers could be assured of the quality of their beef. This system combines the country’s mature agriculture sector with its advanced IT industry, contributing to the increase in beef exports, which number has passed Argentina’s.

Stability

The country has high income value and the highest GDP per capita in Latin America, with US$ 16,639 in 2018. Since 2003, the economy has had positive growth rates averaging 4.1%. This has remained positive in 2017 and 2018, even during the recessions experienced by Argentina and Brazil, proving Uruguay’s economic independence from its main neighbours. Its macroeconomic policies and the government’s commitment to diversify its markets and products within its major agriculture and forestry sectors have increased the country’s ability to withstand regional shocks. In addition, Uruguay have a high income per capita and a low level of poverty.

bar graph shows strong growth

Uruguay stands out amongst other Latin American countries as it has a low level of inequality, low level of corruption, public trust in the government, high democracy and high transparency. These contributes to both political and social stability of the country.

Home-Grown Talent

Highly skilled and multilingual talent is available in Uruguay. This is due to the government support of its population, with 6% of the country’s GDP invested in education. Free education is provided from kindergarten to university, which results in 98% literacy rate the highest in Latin America. It is compulsory for high school students by the age of 15 to have already completed at least 3 years of English, and 2 years of computer science.

Government Support

Government Support is crucial in the development of the tech industry in Uruguay. The government strongly encourages innovation and technology, which is evident from the One Laptop Per Child Project and E-Government Development index of 0.7868. Furthermore, the Free Trade Zone Law can grant companies set up in the Free Zones 100% exemption from Corporate Income Tax, Wealth Tax and any other current or future domestic tax.

The open, stable, safe environment with government support and talented population, Uruguay is definitely ready for foreign investments. It is becoming a country to watch for in Latin America, and a major contender in the global technological innovation.

Sources: Contxto, LaunchWayMedia and Uruguay Siglo XXI

Come to LatAm Startups Conf 2019 to learn more about Uruguay

Don't miss the presentation of Agustina Sartori, she's the Founder and CEO of GlamST, a software company focused on creating virtual makeover solutions combining augmented reality, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. GlamST was acquired by the biggest beauty retail chain in United States, Ulta Beauty in November 2018, the team is now part of Digital Innovation at Ulta Beauty and Agustina is Director of AR Innovation. Agustina is originally from Uruguay, she received her Telematics Engineering degree from the University of Montevideo and presently resides in San Francisco, where she remotely oversees the technology team in Uruguay.

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