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ESADE report: Improvements in healthcare, education and finance are the challenges best addressed by digital social innovation in Latin America

The study lists 100 digital social innovation initiatives that are transforming Latin America and impacting an estimated 64 million people (11% of the region’s population)

Link to the Executive Summary of the "The Digital Revolution and the World's Great Challenges" report

“What we are seeing is that a series of digital social innovation initiatives, mostly for-profit in nature, are successfully meeting society’s needs,” explained David Murillo, Lecturer at the ESADE’s Institute for Social Innovation and co-author of “The Digital Revolution and the World’s Great Challenges”. As Mr. Murillo explained, the study shows that “digital social innovation is booming and the largest impacts are being seen in access to education and health and the promotion of financial inclusion through various fintech initiatives.”

The study by ESADE Business & Law School lists and analyses 100 digital social innovation initiatives that are transforming Latin America and impacting an estimated 64 million people (11% of the region’s population). The report highlights the impact of these initiatives in terms of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations and notes that for-profit initiatives are responsible for the greatest impact. Specifically, 85% of the people who have benefited have been impacted by a for-profit initiative.

Exemplary cases: Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil

The entrepreneurial ecosystems of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil have allowed numerous digital social innovation initiatives to develop and scale up. These initiatives present a great opportunity to address the challenges facing the region. “This has helped to create fertile ground for innovation and social entrepreneurship in these countries,” commented Mr. Murillo. “In Brazil, there have been lots of initiatives focused on improving education. Mexico has had many initiatives dedicated to improving healthcare in particular. Chile and Colombia have had notable examples in a wide range of areas.”

The report contains an in-depth analysis of success stories such as Cumplo (Chile), Capital Foundation (Colombia), Extensio (Mexico) and MGOV (Brazil). The Chilean initiative Cumplo, for example, has disbursed a total of $222 million to cover short-term financial needs for more than 1,270 small and medium-sized enterprises at affordable interest rates.

The study notes that more than 5 million people in 17 countries have benefited from programmes developed by Colombia’s Capital Foundation, which works to promote the financial inclusion of people in situations of vulnerability. Similarly, more than 3 million people have benefited from public policies supported by the Brazilian initiative MGOV in the field of education: its application, EduqMais, has had an impact five times larger than other programmes and has managed to reduce school absences by 3%.

The report also highlights the Mexican initiative Extensio, which focuses on helping farmers, producers and technical professionals to develop more effective and sustainable practices. The initiative now operates in 20 Mexican states, with 7,000 users directly benefiting from the platform and 28,000 people being impacted indirectly.

The digital gap: a major challenge in Latin America

“Digitalisation allows us to scale up as never before and reduce the cost of initiatives of this sort, making it possible, in many cases, to generate sustainable businesses,” commented Mr. Murillo. “Despite the progress that has been made, there are still many challenges ahead, mainly having to do with the digital gap.” According to the report, around 40% of the Latin American population has no Internet connection and therefore cannot access these proposals.

Moreover, although education, healthcare and economic growth are challenges that have received considerable attention through digital social innovation, very few initiatives of this sort have addressed the issue of gender equality or taken action against climate change.