Innovation and Economic Growth in the Americas and Beyond

Posted by Linda Zecher 
Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector

As head of Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector organization, one of the things that excites me the most is helping government customers find creative ways to address their challenges and priorities.

Right now that means the struggling global economy and that topic was front and center today when we kicked off Microsoft’s Government Leaders Forum – Americas with more than 125 top government leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The facts are sobering:

  • A year ago, the region was enjoying its 5th consecutive year of strong economic growth, which had helped pull 40 million people out of poverty.
  • Today, the Inter-American Development Bank estimates that more than 12 million people in Latin America are in danger of slipping back below the poverty line due to the financial crisis.

One of the key themes that emerged from virtually all speakers today is that technological innovation and public-private cooperation will be critical as governments work to promote economic recovery and address serious problems like health care, education, and environmental protection.

Former President Bill Clinton delivered a keynote address -- watch video below --  on productivity and innovation in the Americas. Expanding on his current and past work, Clinton posed to a challenge to all of the attendees – tackling the “How” question.–. How can companies and government leaders partner to address the world’s most difficult problems in healthcare and social development?


Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy officer, painted a compelling vision of the future, pointing out the opportunities for innovation and new global enterprises that will arise from the current downturn, noting that leading companies like Hewlett-Packard, GE, and even Microsoft were all founded in the midst of severe recessions.  Read the transcript or watch video below.

Internationally renowned economist Augusto López-Claros outlined the direct link between innovation and economic growth among nations. He explained how the factors leading to innovation vary relating to a country’s stage of development—reinforcing the importance of solutions and partnerships that are relevant to the needs of a given country or region’s needs. López-Claros has determined a fascinating methodology that can suggest, on a country-specific basis, specific priority areas to strengthening innovation capacity—which in turn boosts economic potential.

We’ll wrap up the discussions tomorrow, with a focus on building new partnerships to help government deliver services more effectively, build the capacity of their citizens, and find new ways to leverage information technology as a catalyst for economic growth and opportunity. Speakers will include Bill Gates, Governor Luis Fortuño of Puerto Rico, and other innovative leaders from the region.

You can follow more news from the event in the moment at our Virtual Pressroom, or via Twitter as well.

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