Enabling Latin American Organizations

MIAMI, March 25, 1999 — Microsoft this week hosted its sixth annual Enterprise Solutions Conference in Miami, focusing attention on the progress made by Latin American companies and governments who use technology to create their own Digital Nervous Systems. Argentine President Dr. Carlos Sal Menem of Argentina addressed the conference, outlining his plans to make the region a power in the new digital economy.

The Enterprise Solutions Conference, or ESC, is designed to bring customers and partners from the Latin American region together to talk about how technology can enable their organizations to be more agile, to operate and compete effectively under rapidly changing economic and business situations and, in the case of governments, to effectively provide services to citizens.

In his keynote address, President Menem discussed the growing importance of technology to his country’s social and economic future. He noted the advancements Argentina has made in improving its communications infrastructure through $20 billion in investments, the launching of a second satellite, creating of 1,000 technology community centers in the country and updating the government’s technology.

“When I assumed my position in 1989, the state had one computer per 23 agents. Today we have one computer for every three agents,” President Menem said. “We are transforming the state into a digital state as a means to reduce bureaucracy and supply better service to the citizens.”

Clearly envisioning the impact that technology can have on social structure, Menem stated the important role technology must take in creating a pattern of lifelong learning and improved social conditions, calling for computer literacy as an essential skill in the region. He discussed the development of a national “tele-medicine” network to connect provincial hospitals, schools, health centers and medical facilities, and integrating technology, science and medicine to protect the health of the population while reducing the costs.

“You know that my country is very large, but whose population, for various reasons, is forced to move to other cities, far from their roots,” he said. “In the face of this reality, I want to emphasize the role of computers and communications as basic tools for territorial integration within the borders of each country.

“As in the second half of the last century, the extraordinary vision of an Argentine president, Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, inspired the construction of telegraph networks, today I want to inspire the implementation of information networks so that all Argentines can be close to their roots, so that they can be home, even from a distance.”

Earlier, President Menem and Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates met to sign a four-part agreement in which the Argentine government and Microsoft will work together to support the software development community in Argentina, incorporate technology into the educational system, and improve the business climate for e-commerce. The Argentine government agreed to commit to the enforcement of intellectual property rights laws and to promote new regulations preventing piracy – both of which are essential to the develop Argentina’s technology industry and promote investment in the country.

Conference breakout sessions focused on customers concerned with E-Commerce, Knowledge Management, and Business Operations, with sessions led by corporate CIO’s and partners including Volkswagen, DISCO, Comp USA, CorpGroup Interhold, Elktra, Hewlett Packard and Compaq.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates closed the conference with a keynote address entitled “Preparing for the Digital Age,” in which he focused on the increasingly rapid changes in business, the escalation of the Internet and e-commerce, how organizations can use technology to be more customer focused and how organizations must be prepared to respond rapidly to changing circumstances and bad news.

“It’s important for business leaders to step back and think about how they operate, how they relate to customers, how information flows inside their companies,” said Gates.

“Many businesses will find the competitive framework very, very different. The opportunity to sell over the Internet to a global market will make the competition more intense than it’s ever been before. And the traditional model of a company where you have lots of clerks, lots of paper, fairly slow decision processes, the companies that stick to that will be the ones that do not thrive in these years ahead.”

Citing examples of organizations that have done a good job of using technology, Gates discussed Servicio de Administracion Tibutaria (the Internal Revenue Service of Mexico), steel company Acindar of Argentina, and Banco Bradesco of Brazil.

“The successful companies of the next decade will be the one that use digital tools to reinvent the way they work,” he said.

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