Is EdTech enough for the educational future in Latin America?

In the final part to our EdTech series, Cristina Gamboa Peralta, LBS MBA2025, investigates the limitations of technology for development in the Latin American education sector.

Educational technology (EdTech) has the power to transform Latin America and the Caribbean, home to more than 180 million students in 33 countries, and 300 million professionals aiming to upskill and reskill in a competitive economy (IADB, 2021). However, the region is also facing one of the worst socioeconomic crises in more than a century; chronic skills gaps, one of the lowest performing educational systems, and financial constraints. At Brett 2024, the concept of EdTech was widely discussed, and how it can revolutionise a region like Latin America, where half a billion people are demanding literacy and numeracy innovations, as well as the skills and knowledge needed nowadays. Nevertheless, we should ask ourselves, are devices enough?

The intersection of EdTech and infrastructure constraints demonstrates the complexity of the landscape and its impact on the quality of education. While there have been promising advancements in digitalization adoption since COVID-19, the pandemic also revealed profound inequalities regarding effective connectivity access, digital and socioemotional skills required for continuous and autonomous learning, adequate study spaces at home, and lack of learning support and engagement from parents and caregivers. Most importantly, there are gaps in the educational offering and the ability to adapt teaching methods (ECLAC, 2019).

Unequal access to devices and limited internet connectivity

In 2022, Latin America reached a 70% mobile subscriber penetration rate (560 million mobile subscriptions), with Chile expected to be 4 percentage points above the Latin American average by 2030 (Statista, 2023). While the proliferation of smartphones has increased access to digital services, there are disparities in device ownership among socioeconomic groups that extend beyond mere phone ownership. On average, the percentage of students with access to a computer differed by more than 25% between the top and bottom socioeconomic and cultural quartiles (Statista, 2023). So, while panelists at Brett2024 discussed how countries like Australia and the UK are exploring ways to enhance education through initiatives such as providing one computer per student, the reality in Latin America is that many children in public schools lack even a single computer per classroom, or even access to electricity.

In the beginning of 2022, 60% of the population had access to mobile internet users, and 36% were covered by mobile broadband networks but did not use mobile internet services (usage gap) (GSM Association, 2022). Investments in the provision of information and communication technology (ICT) for schoolchildren have been extensive. Students from low socio-economic backgrounds make substantially less frequent use of digital devices both at school and at home than those from more advantaged backgrounds. Furthermore, disadvantaged students are less likely to have access to digital devices or an Internet connection at home, or they may have digital devices of lower quality (OECD, 2020).

Is PedTech the solution?

Despite numerous investments being made in Latin American countries to narrow these gaps between the public and private schools, as well as between advantaged and disadvantaged students, discrepancies will persist in how students utilise ICT at home. This is because having devices alone is not sufficient; it is crucial to provide guidance on how to use them effectively. Presently, less advantaged students, whether by choice or by necessity, engage in fewer activities with their digital devices. These differences in usage are of paramount importance, as they often perpetuate non-digital inequalities and may even exacerbate existing ones (Van Deursen et al., 2017).

Technology should not be the primary objective but rather, it should be viewed as a tool to facilitate more innovative pedagogical approaches. Empirical evidence from PISA reveals that in both Latin American countries and OECD countries, factors such as connectivity, the presence of software or computers in classrooms or at home, do not inherently lead to improved education or enhanced workforce skill sets (Bulman and Fairlie, 2016; IADB, 2011). Over-reliance on digital devices in school settings, the substitution of teachers with computers, delivering content solely through technology, or replicating traditional pedagogical methods are not only unlikely to improve education but are also associated with lower student performance (OECD, 2023). While investing solely in the availability of ICT can enhance students’ digital competence, literacy, and navigational skills, schools must integrate technology into teaching and learning processes to truly enhance outcomes. This integration should focus on building upon existing skills, fostering digital resilience, and promoting critical use of new technologies among students. Moreover, schools should prioritize fostering positive relationships and learning behaviors among individuals using technology, shifting the focus from mere systems and processes to creating a sense of community and social welfare, emphasizing values and prioritizing people over mere results.


  1. ECLAC. (2022). The Pandemic is an Opportunity to Transform Education in Latin America and the Caribbean. Available at: (accessed February 16, 2024)
  2. GSMA Association. (2022). The Mobile Economy Latin America 2022. Available at: (accessed February 16, 2024)
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  4. IADB. (2011). Education and computers: Lessons from Latin America. Available at: (accessed February 16, 2024)
  5. Share of 15 year-old students with a laptop at home in selected countries in Latin America in 2018, by quartile. (accessed February 16, 2024)
  6. Van Deursen, A. et al. (2017), “The compoundness and sequentiality of digital inequality”, International Journal of Communication 11, pp. 452–473, (accessed February 16, 2024)
  7. Bulman, G. and R. Fairlie (2016), “Technology and Education: Computers, Software, and the Internet”, in Handbook of the Economics of Education, (accessed February 16, 2024)
  8. OECD (2015), Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, PISA, OECD Publishing, (accessed February 16, 2024)
  9. OECD. (2020). Making the most of new technologies in initial education in Latin America. Available at:
  10. OECD (2019), OECD Skills Outlook 2019 : Thriving in a Digital World, OECD Publishing, Paris,
     Open DOI (accessed February 16, 2024)

About the author

Cristina Gamboa Peralta, MBA2025 is an Outreach and Communications Intern at the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development. Cristina holds both a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Laws from Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia. Before LBS, she worked as a Senior Associate at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), where she co-led a range of social impact projects with Compartamos con Colombia and various social enterprises, and initiated BCG’s first podcast for net-zero, social impact, and sustainability. Cristina has a keen interest in social impact and business solutions as a force for good, particularly in developing countries.

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