With over 25 years of experience in the information technology sector and a distinguished academic background, Fabricio Lira is Head of Data and Artificial Intelligence at IBM Brasil. In this interview, Mr. Lira discusses the challenges of working with cutting-edge technologies, how IBM Brasil is preparing for Brazil’s General Data Protection Law (LGPD) as well as upcoming trends in Brazil’s technology sector, amongst other issues.
Leaders League. With cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and cloud computing being an essential part of IBM’s core businesses, what specific challenges do these technologies bring?
Fabricio Lira. Technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain, now play a key role around us even when we do not see them. We have entered the era of the digital economy, where all companies, big or small, are undergoing a process of digital reinvention. Adopting these technologies transforms the way in which we work and provides countless benefits, such as reducing the time spent on repetitive tasks and bringing greater safety to the storage and transferring of information, for example. Now, more than ever, technology is an ally to help companies with their most urgent tasks and to prepare them so that they may continue adding value.
However, according to a recent survey conducted by IBM, over the next three years, 120 million workers in the 10 largest world economies will require professional retraining due to the impact of artificial intelligence and intelligent automation being implemented in the labor market. At IBM, we are encouraged to have a mindset of continuous learning so as to develop new skills. To this end, all employees have access to training to develop technical and behavioral skills, such as cloud, AI, blockchain, agile, design thinking, leadership, amongst others, via our cognitive learning platform, Your Learning.
We also promote education by providing content and collaborating with educational institutions to bring the use of these technologies into the academic curriculum. IBM, for example, has created programs such as DigitalEdu, P-Tech, Skills Academy and Iniciativas Acadêmicas, together with over 300 universities and 400 schools. The goal is precisely to enrich the academic curriculum of students with technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to improve their skills and thus, fulfill the growing market demand for professionals qualified to work with these technologies.
How is IBM Brasil preparing itself for the new Brazilian Data Protection Law (LGPD)?
First and foremost, it is important to highlight that, for IBM, privacy is a matter within the context of trust and transparency before being an obligation to comply with local laws. Our first internal privacy guidelines dates back to the early 1970s and we were amongst the first companies to create the position of Chief Privacy Officer, thus our journey to comply with local privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the General Data Protection Law (LGPD), began from solid foundations, supported by the best practices in data security and governance.
Here in Brazil, with the coming into force of LGPD, we created an international working group composed of specialists from IBM Brasil and other international branches, from several departments, including professionals who worked on IBM’s GDPR compliance project in Europe which contributed with several tools and lessons learned. This multidisciplinary team conducted an analysis of LGPD, mapped out the additional controls which must be implemented to render our processes, tools and offers compliant, and is adapting all of our internal privacy policies to the new legislation.
We have also created a local Project Management Office to coordinate the measures required for compliance with legislation and which affect all areas of the company.
From a business perspective, we have supported countless clients in their compliance projects, from identifying the impact of LGPD within the organization and the implementation timeline up to the monitoring, auditing and reporting on the implementation of the measures.
What specific challenges does LGPD present to a technology giant such as IBM Brasil?
Any company or organization which works with data-related activities will have to comply with LGPD, which brings principles, rights and obligations for what is today considered the most valuable asset within companies, which is data and all content related to people.
In light of this, here at IBM we see LGPD as an opportunity for the sustainable development of the country whilst ensuring that fundamental rights and data-driven innovation may coexist in an environment of transparency and trust. We consider it of great relevance that Brazil advances towards a culture of privacy and that public and private organizations continue to adopt best practice and that we soon have a National Personal Data Protection Authority to, above all, advise and educate all industry actors.
Privacy is also an element of competitivity for companies and for the country. By adopting best practices, aligned with the guidelines of regulatory agencies, both companies and the country become more transparent and trustworthy, qualities which will be key not only to improve internal governance but which will also serve as security differentials to attract more external investment. As such, companies should look at progressing towards LGPD as positive, essential and urgent as it could be transformed into a competitive advantage in the near future.
What trends can we expect from the Brazilian technology sector in 2020 and beyond?
Thinking of trends in Brazil’s technology sector for 2020, first we must understand these are unprecedented times. At IBM, we already saw digital transformation as a reality, however, now it is transforming working habits and, mainly, consumer behavior. This transformation will be key in order for any type of company, at any stage of this journey, to thrive in this new context.
As we face this new reality, it is important to have a flexible and resilient IT environment – infrastructure, services and hybrid cloud services – which ensure the continuity of services and business continuity in a robust manner. This environment must be capable of processing data in a fast and efficient manner and support the needs of employees which are working remotely and of clients which need increasing faster answers and real-time customer service.
The current scenario means that applying data in the most efficient way possible is the main and most powerful competitive advantage in the market, and all companies may take advantage of this by using artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Through technologies such as artificial intelligence, it is possible to add value to the simple processes which companies perform to stay in touch with their customers. Virtual assistants, for example, combine different resources to manage the company’s data, provide concrete business results and improve customer service to a totally different experience. Especially in critical moments, when people need support quickly.
Making this process safe will be essential and, in this regard, we believe that blockchain has great potential and is already a reality for many companies and sectors of the economy, from agriculture to port operations, as well as cryptocurrency transactions. Blockchain is a shared database, distributed and encrypted – and with a degree of privacy – which allows everyone, including competitors, to operate in that ecosystem. We believe blockchain will do for secure transactions, what the internet has done for information. Moreover, blockchain allied to IoT prevents major interruptions in the performance of corporate supply chains.
Lastly and looking towards the future, we believe that cognitive computing will get closer and closer to the way in which humans communicate, in other words, it will be increasingly humanized, by developing senses to create the ability to understand the environment and context around it.
All of this will be possible due to cloud computing. The cloud generates agility, scalability and efficiency, simplifying the management of IT infrastructure and offering cost optimization. This combination provides clients a return on investment for this current period as well as for the future.