We’re always speculating about the next big thing – what will it be, where will it come from, how will it change our lives? But perhaps we’re looking for inspiration in the wrong place. Perhaps the next big thing is not an ‘it’ but a who.
Because when you live and work in Latam, you quickly realize that the vibrancy, creativity, determination and intelligence of young people on this continent is truly driving its future.
When we speak about utilizing innovation to transform our planet’s future and preserve its resources, to allow its citizens a life of unparalleled comfort in their old age and bring the finest healthcare to people who need it most, it is the younger generations to whom we must turn.
And Latin America, with its rapidly expanding youth, holds the key to building the strong societies of tomorrow. For the challenges we face here are a microcosm of those faced by the entire world.
We need a healthcare system that is both efficient and affordable, one that can be accessed by remote and impoverished communities and one that solves immense societal challenges such as teenage pregnancies, the consequences of obesity and caring for ageing populations.
We need innovative, environmentally sympathetic ways to build and grow our cities, making them cleaner, safer and dynamic.
We need an education system that nurtures our youth and provides them with the sorts of benefits and advice that previous generations were deprived of.
We need to utilize the enormous amounts of data generated every day to ensure our initiatives have true meaning – for the professionals whose jobs depend on it and the consumers whose lives do.
These are the challenges that motivate Philips and, with partnerships forged with Latam high-tech start-ups, government agencies, local communities and end-users, we’re even better equipped to meet them.
Take healthcare as one example. The rich geographical culture of Latin America means that solutions must be intricately tied to local issues.
So now, Latam benefits from an integrated network of ultrasound technology designed for people suffering from a variety of diseases, as well as expectant mothers and young children who would once have suffered needlessly. Our mobile scanning units have been deployed in countries such as Brazil and Chile with extraordinary success, giving communities access to certain procedures and medicines for the very first time.
In particular, we – and the medical professionals with whom we work, or partners such as the United Nations Population Fund – have been able to encourage consumers to adopt more preventative health strategies to their lifestyles, from diet to sex education. Innovation doesn’t just save lives at critical moments; it nourishes lives from a young age.
According to the United Nations’ Economic Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, almost a quarter of 15 to 24-year-old Latam women are mothers before their 20th birthday. Early motherhood is linked to higher mortality rates, lower education, higher unemployment and a greater chance of unruly behavior within the family.
By collaborating with in-country specialists and giving problem-solving powers directly to local communities, we at Philips have been able to use our technology and expertise throughout the continent to improve young people’s futures.
Some corners of Latin America were once synonymous with drugs, violence, poverty and political fragility. Today, it is a continent basking in a reputation for enterprise, growth and modernism – only last year Medellin, which has had such a troubled recent history, was voted the world’s most innovative city.
It’s a renaissance propelled by youth, a testament to the human capacity to overcome adversity and tap into our innate talents and aspirations. We can certainly learn a lesson from the mixed experiences of Latin America’s young population. And while the continent saves for its future, it has a golden opportunity to re-imagine its social institutions – better education, innovative home healthcare, telemedicine, access to the latest equipment and improvements in infrastructure.
These are the foundations upon which the future will be built.
Henk started his career at Philips in 1990 as a Product Manager. He worked in Brazil as a Marketing & Sales Manager for Kitchen Appliances from 1994 to 1998, and was instrumental in introducing Kitchen Appliances in China and India.
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