Opinions expressed by invited speakers or program participants do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the U.S. government, its affiliates, or the Atlantic Council GeoTech Center.

The fourteenth AI Connect webinar, hosted by the U.S. State Department and the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center on June 29, 2023, spotlighted the Western Hemisphere and its AI ecosystem. The event brought together a panel of experts who delved into Latin America’s latest developments, challenges, and opportunities in the responsible development of AI in both the private and public sectors.

Following opening remarks by Rich Holliday of the State Department and Dr. Jerry Mechling of Harvard University, GeoTech Center Assistant Director Emily Sespico moderated a panel highlighting two AI Connect participant use cases in the region. Rodrigo Durán, the Outreach Director of the National Center for Artificial Intelligence (CenIA) in Chile, presented the preliminary findings of the region’s inaugural Latin American AI Index. The comprehensive index measures AI progress across 12 countries by examining indicators like AI research and development investment, adoption rates, and governance frameworks. Durán highlighted the significance of CenIA’s Index as an initial measure to identify regionally-specific best practices, while emphasizing their forthcoming actions to establish committees, expand regional coverage, enhance gender analysis, and engage with institutional counterparts to propose country-specific action plans for improvement in the index. Durán also underscored the importance of heightened multilateral coordination, particularly fostering collaboration among academic communities across Latin American countries. Afterwards, María Isabel Mejía Jaramillo, a Senior Executive in the Digital Transformation Department at CAF – Development Bank of Latin America – highlighted the diverse implementation prospects of AI in the public sector, emphasizing its potential for enhancing policy formulation, personalizing citizen services, and improving efficiency. Furthermore, she underscored the importance of responsible AI deployment in alignment with ethical guidelines outlined by OECD and UNESCO and the forthcoming launch of a regional AI council, which will serve as a governance body for AI in Latin America.

The webinar’s second panel, moderated by GeoTech Center Program Assistant Caroline Thompson, discussed the general AI ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. Participants included Thiago Moraes of Brazil’s National Data Protection Authority, Priscila Chavez of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Michael Masuda of the State Department, Spencer Milian of USAID, and Cristina Martinez Pinto of The Public Interest Technology (PIT) Policy Lab. Moraes discussed the critical pillars of the AI regulation proposed in Brazil, as well as some of the debate around the legislation. Chavez shared IDB Lab’s fAIr LAC initiative in Costa Rica and spoke about the initiative’s pilot programs to address healthcare and poverty issues, as well as its partnerships with other organizations to develop a national AI strategy. Masuda discussed smart cities and how to harness AI to optimize for objectives such as community safety and natural disaster prevention. Milian highlighted USAID’s municipal government efforts in Guatemala to support AI development, create digital tools to empower citizens, and construct more effective financial management systems. Finally, Martinez Pinto shared PIT Policy Lab’s recent collaborations with USAID and the Mexican state of Guanajato to mitigate bias in a student drop-out early detection system, as well as PIT Policy Lab’s resources for public use. The Q&A emphasized that promoting responsible AI must be community-driven to be effective, and that frameworks and guidelines should be regionally-specific as opposed to globally-standardized.

Additional resources

Richard Holiday
Recent U.S. AI Developments:

Rodrigo Durán

María Isabel Mejía Jaramillo