“It is essential to understand that, just like not all work requires a meeting, not everything has to be a videoconference. Instead of scheduling dozens of “meetings” a day, many times a good exchange of e-mails is much more effective. We need to remember that videocalls or chat messages are fleeting, e-mails and collaborative documents are asynchronous and provide lasting evidence.”
For Leo Prieto, technology is available so that people can work remotely if they want to, but this requires a cultural change that has been driven by the current crisis.
Will it be temporary or will there be a perspective shift on telecommuting in Chile?
As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said, “we saw two years of digital transformation in two months.” This pandemic has definitely required a large majority of the world to change the way we work. This led many to realize that they could operate in a way that before seemed far-fetched or impossible. Without a doubt, there will be few who go back to working exactly as they did before, which is why I am convinced that from now on, telecommuting will become a normal part of our lives. This does not meant that we will have to choose between 100% face-to-face or 100% remote, but a combination of the two will become the norm for most jobs.
Is it a technological challenge or a cultural one?
Fortunately, technology stopped being a barrier some time ago. In Chile, over 85% of residents are connected, 78% navigate the Web by smart phone and over half on 4G networks. Some still feel overwhelmed by technology, yet our private lives are tremendously digital. Therefore, the only barrier to bring down is the cultural one. This is what has been forced down during this crisis, requiring individuals and organizations to realize that technology has been waiting for years, they just needed to take the leap.
The importance of Data
Today, data have been defined as “the fuel of the 20th century.” At the global level, companies with greater stock capitalization base their business on data management. For Prieto, advanced data management and artificial intelligence-run analysis are powerful tools that can benefit people, but they must be treated responsibly in order to not produce harmful effects.
What are the challenges posed by the current crisis, and how should they be addressed?
The current crisis has several facets, and it is impossible not to consider the health and economic challenges we have to address. But I will focus on personal data. It is clear that the only way to fight an “invisible enemy” like a virus is with data. Since we cannot see the virus, data on testing, contagions and deaths can help us “see” where there is a focal point of contagion and where we must focus our mitigation and hygiene efforts. However, authoritarian governments can use this as an excuse to further invade the privacy of their citizens, and unscrupulous organizations can do the same as an excuse to spy on their employees or customers.
“Today, more than ever, it is important that we raise awareness about the handling of personal data, to gain transparency and release the data collected and how they are being used, while also guaranteeing people’s right to privacy.”
You are the founder and CEO of Odd Industries. Tell us about your company.
At Odd Industries, we are obsessed with data, with the possibility of measuring things to understand them and improve or resolve them. Although most people are digital, most organizations are still analog. For this reason, most industrial processes operate with very little data or data generated manually, with all problems of low resolution and high precision that this implies. Therefore, we develop computerized viewing platforms that allow us to observe offline processes and convert them into online data that can be analyzed and optimized, using artificial intelligence. We are a young company, but things are happening very quickly. We have been contacted by some of the largest companies in the world to help resolve their problems, and the Google AI global team has recognized our technology as a leading use of artificial intelligence in Chile with global impact.
What advice would you give those in the world of innovation?
It is terrible that this humanitarian crisis is also providing a blow to the economic livelihood of so many people. But in these moments of frustration and impotence, many entrepreneurs are being driven to take on challenges and find a solution. Ultimately, this means to undertake, to address a challenge that has not been resolved, and find a solution to big problems. These are the opportunities many refer to when they talk about “opportunity in every crisis.” As we observe the problems that have come to light as a result of this crisis, nearly all industries, from education to tourism, are going to have to change after this and will need solutions that today nobody is offering.