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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Karen Poniachik

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

Multinational companies are increasingly choosing Chile as a base from which to export to --or provide technology and services for-- markets around Latin America and, indeed, in other parts of the world.

Thanks to its solid macroeconomic fundamentals, competitive operating costs, ample supply of qualified labor, first-rate infrastructure, and world-class telecommunications services, Chile has positioned itself as a dynamic, reliable, and extremely attractive business center that also offers excellent quality of life. The country’s growing network of Free Trade Agreements – with the United States, The European Union, Mexico, Canada and, most recently, South Korea-- has also been a key factor behind investors’ decisions.

In 2000, the Foreign Investment Committee, in association with the Chilean Economic Development Agency (CORFO), launched an international campaign to draw attention to the many advantages that Chile offers as a location for IT investments and as a springboard from which to do business in other markets.

As of May 2004, more than forty leading multinational companies had already selected our country as the location for their call centers, IT support centers, back & front-office operations, shared services centers, and regional headquarters.

Delta Air Lines, Air France, and Hewlett-Packard are just three of the companies that have chosen Chile as their location for call centers or help-desk centers that serve customers around Latin America. Software produced by Chicago-based Motorola is exported to the company's divisions around the world and two Spanish companies, Soluziona and Grupo SP, operate regional software development centers, while Texas-based CellStar has an international technical services center that repairs cell phones for its customers in the United States.

A similar phenomenon is seen in the banking sector. Spain's SCH banking group uses Chile to maintain and develop processing systems for its operations around Latin America, while, in Santiago, Citigroup operates a technological help desk for its employees in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as a software development center that serves its subsidiaries across the region. In addition, in mid-2004, Spain's BBVA financial services group plans to launch a software center in Santiago for its Latin American pension industry subsidiaries.

Chile has also come to the fore as international companies have begun to look to "shared services" -the centralization of in-house services, such as accounting and financial management, for subsidiaries in different countries- to streamline operating costs. With its reliable telecommunications services and ready supply of highly-qualified professionals, Chile has emerged as an attractive location for these centers. Companies that already operate shared services centers include BHP Billiton, Zurich Group, Sodexho, and Nestlé.

In 2004, Xerox, which manages its subsidiaries in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay from Santiago, also expects to open a shared services center. And, taking the process further, Unilever -after opening its Santiago-based financial shared services center in 2002- has moved the Latin American headquarters of its Bestfoods division from New Jersey to Santiago. Similarly, Canada's Hydro-Québec has established its headquarters for South America in Santiago, while Netherlands-based Akzo Nobel uses Chile to manage the operations of its Organon business unit in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.

The use of Chile as a springboard for international operations has so far created an estimated 2,000 new jobs, as well as increasing the country's exports. However, there are also less tangible, but equally important, benefits in the form of new know-how and technology, as well as in terms of Chile's increasing prominence in the eyes of the international business community. That is a virtuous circle that furthers Chile's development and, in turn, benefits its foreign partners.

Brief Biography

Karen Poniachik was appointed Executive Vice-President of the Foreign Investment Committee in March, 2000. From 1995 to 2000, she was Director of Business and Financial Programs at the Council of the Americas, a New York based institution aimed at promoting investment and trade in the Americas.

Parallel to her work at the Council, Ms. Poniachik acted as consultant for the Chilean Ministries of Foreign Relations and Finance. From December of 1997 to July of 1998, she was in charge of international communications for the Second Summit of the Americas that took place in Chile in April of 1998. During that time, she was a member of the Board of the North American-Chilean Chamber of Commerce in New York.

Karen Poniachik wrote regularly about political, economic and financial topics: Her articles, interviews and op-eds appeared in publications as Cosas, La Segunda, El Mercurio, Estrategia, Reforma de México and Latin Finance. As political and economic analyst, she was a frequent commentator in CNN-Spanish, Financial-Connection and Reuters.

Prior to joining the Council of the Americas, she worked as international political analyst at ECO/Televisa network, New York correspondent for Channel 13-Chile, researcher for Newsweek International and reporter for United Nations Broadcasting System.

Karen Poniachik obtained her professional title of journalist at Universidad Católica de Chile (1987) and a Master in International Affairs at Columbia University in New York (1990).