The Chilean center CENIA will develop the first artificial intelligence index in Latin America


The National Center for Artificial Intelligence (Cenia, an organization supported by the National Agency for Research and Development, ANID) is working on the development of the first Latin American index to measure the progress of this technology, crucial for the fourth industrial revolution, in twelve countries in the region.

The project is supported by multilateral organizations such as UNESCO, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Latin American Development Bank (CAF), and Amazon Web Services, among other institutions.

The report, which will address more than 100 metrics across dimensions such as education, companies, research, investment and people perception, is expected to be released in mid-2023.

Its goal is to provide local evidence to evaluate the challenges and opportunities of Artificial Intelligence in the nations of the continent, which has not yet existed.

poor local connection

Rodrigo Durán Rojas, director of Linking at Cenia, said that, currently, the discussion on the development of AI in Latin America is marked by themes that come from the northern hemisphere and have little connection with what is happening in our region.

“We believe we need to address the AI ​​challenge from a regional focus, both from collaboration and from promotion and regulation. This project aspires to offer a public good to decision-makers, academics, the private sector and various actors linked in some way to this technological evolution”.

Da Cenia say that one of the main aspects that emerged from the discussion of the National AI Policy is the absence of indicators and metrics to evaluate the process. Durán remarked that the Index represents a new step for the continuity of the actions promoted by the Chilean State for the promotion of the local ecosystem of the discipline.

In this way the report – in which a similar technical body in each country also collaborates – hopes to bridge the gap and build the first reference framework on the subject. For its implementation, four international reports have been defined as a reference, which evaluate the progress of AI basically from the point of view of developed countries.

The National Center for Artificial Intelligence is an organization supported by ANID born with the mission of transforming Chile into the main Latin American reference in AI, contributing through technological progress to improve the quality of life of society and citizens, including, moreover, it is emerging today as a key technology for the development of nations.

More than a hundred parameters

The study, called the Latin American Artificial Intelligence Index, will offer its first release in 2023. Currently, the Cenia team and its counterparts in twelve countries. In total, the report will retrieve data for a matrix of one hundred indicators grouped into three dimensions:

“Latin America has a lack of indicators in many fields and artificial intelligence is no exception. You have to do manual data collection, that is, go and ask certain players, which is why it is important to have focal points and international alliances that we have built. It allows us to have reliable data on the current situation in the region,” Durán explained.

The aim is to develop an index that considers the cultural and local context of Latin America, measuring and comparing performance by country; make the state of the art and practice visible, facilitating the monitoring of indicators; and measure public perception.

The paper, which will be presented at a multi-stakeholder event in June 2023, will address the findings in three dimensions: enablers (the maturity of the elements needed for the development of a robust AI system in the country), development and adoption (state of ecosystem of research, development and innovation and transfer) and governance (institutional environment).

Cenia’s Liaison Director stated that “first of all, we are interested in conveying to decision-makers the importance of making an effort to access data. And the second, to offer conclusions that address the challenges of the material and cultural conditions of Latin America”.

The technical references of the framework come from four international indexes: two from the United Kingdom (Oxford Insights and Tortoise) and two from the United States (Stanford University HAI and IBM HAI). These documents offer an overview of aspects such as the ability of OECD governments to exploit the innovative potential of AI or evaluate the adoption of the technology globally.

A rambling discussion

According to the United Nations, the body that at the end of 2021 led the first global agreement on the ethics of artificial intelligence (signed by the 193 member states of UNESCO), considers this technological field a decisive tool to accelerate the progress of the Goals of sustainable development (SDGs).

However, according to Rodrigo Durán, of Cenia, most of the reflections or analyzes regarding public policies in this sector are made by the level of adoption that developed countries have today.

“All the data we have thinks global north and south is not factored into the AI ​​discussion.”

An emblematic reference in this anomaly is the debate on facial recognition. According to the Chilean specialist, the discourse on AI in Latin America is marked by this type of evolution, even if we are also far enough away from having the hardware conditions to adopt similar solutions.

The representative of the National Center describes that, due to the level of technology development on the continent, a more pertinent discussion would be to address gaps related to public access, connectivity or linguistic patterns typical of local cultures, issues that “today I’m not in the public discussion.

And they’re not there because we’re taking a discussion framework from the global north, which is where the funniest stuff happens, but we’re overlooking the local reality. The case of facial recognition makes it clear that we need a conversational framework that is culturally, economically and socially relevant to the reality of Latin America”. “Otherwise, we will continue to talk about meaningless topics.”

Although the discourse on the ethics of AI is a topic of contingent debate, the regional reality makes two factors much more critical: Internet connection and access to continuous electricity. While this is not a problem in Chile, the infrastructure throughout the region does not ensure that these basic technical requirements for the technology are met.

According to the World Bank, currently less than 50% of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean has fixed broadband connectivity and only 9.9% have high-quality fiber at home. While 87% of the population lives within range of a 4G signal, actual usage and penetration remain low (37%). Conversely, 20 million people lack access to electricity.

Rodrigo Durán Rojas stressed that “the security of the electricity supply is not taken for granted in some Latin American countries. This means that it is not possible to have sovereign computing power to train AI models, or for that matter, it is not possible to have a computer connected to train a small model.

“On the other hand, in digital connectivity, the peripheral areas of some capitals have unstable Internet connection.”

In other parameters of Latin America and the Caribbean, the country best placed in download speed is Chile, which occupies the 27th position in the global ranking, with an average of 89.18 megabytes per second (Mbps). Followed by Uruguay, in position 42 with 59.29 Mbps, and Brazil, three positions below with 53.89 Mbps.

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