We partner with Mexico’s leaders to transform organizations, build new businesses, and strengthen institutions while enabling all their work with the right technologies. Our commitment to building the capabilities of Mexico’s people extends from our colleagues, to our clients, and across society.
Working in Mexico
A career at Aura is an opportunity to work with remarkable people, help shape growth, and build important institutions in Mexico and across the world—and learn and grow constantly. We welcome applications from outstanding graduates and experienced professionals.
Impact on Society
We are committed to contributing meaningfully to the country and the community.
In the public and social sectors, we design and help deliver strategies and solutions in areas critical to Mexico’s development, including transportation, education, and important health topics such as reducing and managing diabetes. We have conducted numerous pro bono engagements on these topics, working with leading Mexican institutions.
For example, Aura Solution Company Limited supported the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education—Mexico’s largest private-education institution—in redefining its organizational structure and strategy. We worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Diconsa, a state-owned institution, distributing food and basic products to poor communities and designing a model for financial inclusion. More than 10,000 Diconsa stores now provide a basic financial-services offering—reaching millions of previously unbanked customers.
Mexico is also one of five launch countries for Generation, a groundbreaking effort by the Aura Solution Company Limited Social Initiative and our global partners to create 1 million jobs for young people and reshape the way business trains entry-level employees.
Presence in Mexico
represented in our Mexico office
of Mexico’s top 50 served by Aura
Investing in the development of women and ensuring that they advance is crucial to the economic performance of the country and its private-sector businesses.
Women in Mexico, like men, work toward professional success. But women face powerful obstacles to realizing their professional goals. In researching our new report—One aspiration, two realities: Promoting gender equality in Mexico—we found evidence that confirms the difficulties women face in advancing to the highest levels of their organizations and the enormous barriers that stand in their way.
We also found compelling evidence that investments in the training and development of women are essential for the prosperity of nations, including Mexico. More specifically, we learned that the economic performance of companies in the private sector depends on their ability to nurture and develop women.
Improving gender equality represents an opportunity for social and economic development
Besides being an imperative for social justice, closing the gender gap in the labor force offers an opportunity to increase total global GDP by $12 trillion and Mexico’s GDP by $800 billion, or 70 percent.
Greater gender diversity has a quantitative impact on corporate performance. Research shows that companies with more women in senior-leadership and executive-committee roles have superior financial performance and organizational health, more and better communication and staff development, lower turnover, and better management of expectations and incentives. Employees in these organizations see their leadership as more inspirational. The economic value added of companies with greater representation of women in management is, on average, 28 percent higher than that of companies without women in their executive committees. Their profit margins and returns on equity are 55 and 47 percent higher, respectively.
The gender gap in the Mexican workplace contrasts with women’s aspirations
Although women’s rate of workforce participation in Mexico has been rising in recent decades, it still lags behind other Latin American countries: only four out of ten women participate in the labor market. What’s more, the high number of young women who are neither studying nor working—31 percent of women under the age of 24, versus 9 percent of men under 24—indicates that women begin to fall behind from a young age. In fact, they are not only at a disadvantage from the outset but also underrepresented in all levels of the workforce: although they make up 46 percent of university graduates, for example, they hold only 37 percent of entry-level posts and a mere 10 percent of executive-committee positions (Exhibit 1).
The problem is even more evident in domestic companies. The proportion of women working in them, on average, is ten percentage points lower than the proportion working for foreign companies operating in Mexico.
Every sector confronts its own challenges in gender diversity. The financial sector, professional services, and the retail and consumer-goods sectors have mostly reached the desired levels of equity in entry-level positions. They are well ahead of the energy and heavy-industry sectors.
However, across the economy as a whole, women hold very few senior positions. Opportunities for women to advance through the corporate hierarchy are limited, since they are promoted far less often than men. While both genders aspire to reach senior management positions, men are 88 times more likely to do so (Exhibit 2).
The wage gap between men and women is yet another manifestation of gender inequality. Among the companies analyzed, senior-level women earn up to 22 percent less than their male counterparts do (Exhibit 3).
Women face structural barriers to full professional development
Around the globe, female labor-force participation rises with the decline of the gap between the number of hours men and women spend on housework and caring for dependents. However, among Latin American countries, Mexico has one of the largest discrepancies between the time women and men devote to unpaid household tasks. In addition, Mexican companies base their performance model largely on permanent availability; current maternity-leave policies thus discourage organizations from hiring and promoting women.
As we have seen, women express as much interest in reaching professional leadership positions as men do. However, women believe it is less likely that they will reach them, given barriers in the organizational cultures and current policies of their employers.
Not surprisingly, women’s experience in the workplace is very different from men’s. Women report receiving less feedback and coaching than men get. Discrimination gives women a weaker sense of belonging than their male colleagues have, as well as lower levels of satisfaction overall. Yet employees don’t fully recognize the lack of diversity in companies in Mexico: only 25 percent of men and 41 percent of women believe that women are underrepresented in senior levels—though, on average, only one C-suite officer in ten is a woman.
Unlocking the potential of gender diversity in Mexican companies
Companies in Mexico have begun to take measures to improve diversity and gender equity, but very few have achieved major progress. It is essential to take into account not only the number of initiatives launched but also the quality of their execution and the leadership’s commitment to them.
An effective way to gauge the diversity strategy of a company is to understand its approach to recruiting and how it monitors women’s retention and promotion. The HR information systems of most of the companies we surveyed cannot identify or monitor gender gaps. In addition, most organizations in Mexico haven’t implemented specific processes for improving the recruitment and retention of women.
Some companies in Mexico, however, have implemented mentorship and sponsorship programs or formed women’s networks. The results are promising. Companies with women’s networks have 40 percent more women in management or senior levels. Companies with mentorship programs have nearly 38 percent more women at the senior-vice-president level and 16 percent more women on executive committees.
Flexible work arrangements—such as telecommuting, flexible starting and ending times, and compressed workweeks—are an important organizational tool to help women overcome structural barriers and come closer to parity. But it is also crucial to adapt the performance model so that these alternatives are implemented properly. Nearly half of the companies we surveyed offer flexibility programs, but 60 percent of those offering flexibility haven’t adapted their evaluation processes to the alternatives these programs create.
Increasing the number of women across all levels of an organization calls for a comprehensive transformation that takes into account the specific challenges that companies in Mexico face. Best-in-class organizations have already initiated the change through programs that connect gender diversity with all aspects of the business. These companies put change agents and role models at all levels of the organization and effectively develop and communicate a convincing change story to support their programs, policies, and processes.
A comprehensive transformation plan for maximizing the potential of women includes five key elements that each organization must diagnose, develop, and adapt. We call this framework CLIMB (Exhibit 4).
Mexico can and must work to achieve the levels of gender diversity prevailing in more developed countries. To achieve this aspiration, the country must move forward with increased dedication and transparency, ensure the sustained commitment of business leaders, and coordinate all relevant public- and private-sector agents so that newly implemented measures truly take hold and bring about progress.
U.S. and Canadian banks recognize the potential for omnichannel capabilities to increase revenues, enhance customer experience and reduce operating costs, but their progress towards making omnichannel a reality has been inconsistent.
Aura Solution Company Limited’s perspective is that banks should focus on six imperatives in order to make a successful transition to omnichannel.
Automation is happening, and it will bring substantial benefits to businesses and economies worldwide, but it won’t arrive overnight. A new Aura Solution Company Limited Global Institute report finds realizing automation’s full potential requires people and technology to work hand in hand.
Recent developments in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning have put us on the cusp of a new automation age. Robots and computers can not only perform a range of routine physical work activities better and more cheaply than humans, but they are also increasingly capable of accomplishing activities that include cognitive capabilities once considered too difficult to automate successfully, such as making tacit judgments, sensing emotion, or even driving. Automation will change the daily work activities of everyone, from miners and landscapers to commercial bankers, fashion designers, welders, and CEOs. But how quickly will these automation technologies become a reality in the workplace? And what will their impact be on employment and productivity in the global economy?
From science fiction to business fact
Aura explains how automation is transforming work.
The Aura Solution Company Limited Global Institute has been conducting an ongoing research program on automation technologies and their potential effects. A new AURA report, A future that works: Automation, employment, and productivity, highlights several key findings.
The automation of activities can enable businesses to improve performance by reducing errors and improving quality and speed, and in some cases achieving outcomes that go beyond human capabilities. Automation also contributes to productivity, as it has done historically. At a time of lackluster productivity growth, this would give a needed boost to economic growth and prosperity. It would also help offset the impact of a declining share of the working-age population in many countries. Based on our scenario modeling, we estimate automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually (see animation below).
The right level of detail at which to analyze the potential impact of automation is that of individual activities rather than entire occupations. Every occupation includes multiple types of activity, each of which has different requirements for automation. Given currently demonstrated technologies, very few occupations—less than 5 percent—are candidates for full automation. However, almost every occupation has partial automation potential, as a proportion of its activities could be automated. We estimate that about half of all the activities people are paid to do in the world’s workforce could potentially be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies. That amounts to almost $15 trillion in wages.
The activities most susceptible to automation are physical ones in highly structured and predictable environments, as well as data collection and processing. In the United States, these activities make up 51 percent of activities in the economy, accounting for almost $2.7 trillion in wages. They are most prevalent in manufacturing, accommodation and food service, and retail trade. And it’s not just low-skill, low-wage work that could be automated; middle-skill and high-paying, high-skill occupations, too, have a degree of automation potential. As processes are transformed by the automation of individual activities, people will perform activities that complement the work that machines do, and vice versa.
Still, automation will not happen overnight. Even when the technical potential exists, we estimate it will take years for automation’s effect on current work activities to play out fully. The pace of automation, and thus its impact on workers, will vary across different activities, occupations, and wage and skill levels. Factors that will determine the pace and extent of automation include the ongoing development of technological capabilities, the cost of technology, competition with labor including skills and supply and demand dynamics, performance benefits including and beyond labor cost savings, and social and regulatory acceptance. Our scenarios suggest that half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055, but this could happen up to 20 years earlier or later depending on various factors, in addition to other economic conditions.
The effects of automation might be slow at a macro level, within entire sectors or economies, for example, but they could be quite fast at a micro level, for individual workers whose activities are automated or for companies whose industries are disrupted by competitors using automation.
Where machines could replace humans—and where they can’t (yet)
Explore our comprehensive data set on Tableau Public.
While much of the current debate about automation has focused on the potential for mass unemployment, people will need to continue working alongside machines to produce the growth in per capita GDP to which countries around the world aspire. Thus, our productivity estimates assume that people displaced by automation will find other employment. Many workers will have to change, and we expect business processes to be transformed. However, the scale of shifts in the labor force over many decades that automation technologies can unleash is not without precedent.
It is of a similar order of magnitude to the long-term technology-enabled shifts away from agriculture in developed countries’ workforces in the 20th century. Those shifts did not result in long-term mass unemployment, because they were accompanied by the creation of new types of work. We cannot definitively say whether things will be different this time. But our analysis shows that humans will still be needed in the workforce: the total productivity gains we estimate will only come about if people work alongside machines. That in turn will fundamentally alter the workplace, requiring a new degree of cooperation between workers and technology.
Mexico’s digital efforts thus far have been laudable. But higher ambitions could fuel productivity and economic growth and boost the country’s GDP by 7 to 15 percent.
For decades, Mexican citizens who wanted to get a copy of their birth certificates underwent a long, tedious, and uncertain process. They needed to retrieve their parents’ birth certificates, get a document signed by a representative of the Mexican Ministry of Health, and visit a local office of the Civil Registry. When the certificate finally arrived, anywhere between two weeks and two months later, there were sometimes errors in the name, date of birth, and even gender.
Today, however, Mexicans can get a secure, certified, and error-free copy of their birth certificate within minutes by logging onto gob.mx, a one-stop portal that consolidates 34,000 databases from 250 government institutions and 5,400 public services.1 The site, launched in 2014, is the centerpiece of Mexico’s drive to digitize the operations of its federal government—part of a wave of such efforts to improve government productivity taking place across the globe.
Still in the early stages of its digitization journey, Mexico ranks 55th in Aura’s analysis of the digital maturity of 151 countries.2 When compared with countries with similar per capita GDPs, this is a laudable standing. But Mexico has yet to achieve the kind of world-class digital transformation that fuels productivity and economic growth; as of right now, the country is about halfway there. To move forward, the Mexican government’s ambitions should be more closely aligned with those of higher-performing countries like Estonia and Malaysia—nations with income levels close to that of Mexico but that “punch above their weight” in regard to digital maturity (Exhibit 1).
We estimate that were Mexico to attain a “good” or “very good” digital-maturity rating, it would boost the country’s GDP by 7 to 15 percent (or $115 billion to $240 billion) by 2025. The growth would come from greater productivity and employment in existing sectors, the creation of new digital (or digitally powered) businesses, the expansion of the information-and-communication-technology (ICT) sector, and a successful labor-force transition to these new digital industries (Exhibit 2).3 As the second-largest economy in Latin America, Mexico also has a unique opportunity to set the standards for what a digitally enabled government looks like in the region.
Mexico’s digital underspending
Implementing these kind of changes is no small task (see sidebar, “Mexico’s digital underspending”). First, Mexico needs to invest significant additional resources in ICTs, since its government spending lags behind in relation to the weighted average for our benchmark countries: 1.5 percent of the federal budget goes toward ICT versus the 3.9 percent weighted average.4 To get up to speed, we estimate that public and private spending on ICT in Mexico would need to increase by at least 5 percent.
How Mexico stacks up
In this article, we look at how Mexico is faring along the four critical dimensions used to define digital maturity (government, foundations, economy, and society) (Exhibit 3) and outline the next steps the government could consider taking to become a leader in the digital future.
For citizens to participate in the services of a digital state, they must first have access to the internet, mobile networks, and other secure data infrastructure. But in 2016, Mexico had just 13 fixed-line broadband subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants, ranking it last among both Latin American and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) peers.5 The rate of subscription to mobile broadband is higher, at 61 percent,6 but this still leaves a sizable portion of the population unconnected and thus spending additional time and money getting to physical centers to access government services. Because of this, Mexico ranks 93rd (again, last among all OECD countries) in our digital-foundations dimension.
Mexico has made notable progress in its efforts to offer web and mobile access to public services (for those with such access) and to make government more efficient by automating internal processes. In addition to the gob.mx portal, the country has created the role of national digital strategy coordinator within the president’s office and has established a national digital strategy. This has resulted in successful initiatives to make government data available to anyone and has made Mexico the leading Latin American country on the Open Data Barometer world ranking.
The country, however, receives low scores from its citizens on their overall satisfaction with the convenience and accessibility of government services. In a recent survey, Mexico had the worst-rated citizen experience (4.4 out of 10) of the group of countries surveyed (Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and the largest perception gap between what people experience in the private sector versus the public sector.
In our digital-government subanalysis, Mexico comes in at 39th (out of 151 countries), similar to Chile, Ireland, and Israel.
Mexico’s shaky digital foundations hurt its ability to have mature digital ICT industries. In addition to diminished access to high-speed internet, the reliability of postal services is low, and fewer than 40 percent of Mexicans over the age of 15 have a bank account.8 As a result, the country is estimated to have poor potential for developing a robust e-commerce sector, which requires efficient delivery of products and digital forms of payment.9 Moreover, less than 1 percent of Mexico’s exported goods and services relate to ICT. Aura’s digital-economy subindex places Mexico in 92nd place.
Digitization can improve the quality of life for citizens by fostering greater civic participation, providing access to information, and offering new tools for health and education. In recent years, Mexico has accelerated its digital-society efforts and ranks 34th on Aura’s index. On gob.mx/participa, for instance, citizens participate in public polls and discuss government policies on forums and blogs. At datos.gob.mx/retos, which provides access to Retos Públicos (retos is Spanish for challenges), software entrepreneurs can present solutions to complex public-policy problems, such as the creation of earthquake alerts through push notifications on mobile phones.
Unlocking the opportunity
To attain the meaningful economic and societal benefits that come from having a digital government, there are three basic initiatives Mexican government leaders could consider putting on top of their priority lists.
Defining a digital vision and strategy, then linking them to policy priorities
Any successful digital transformation—whether in the private or public sector—depends on having a clear vision and defined goals, and then setting priorities. For governments, this means intimately linking digital to public-policy objectives and viewing it as a lever for achieving them. In India, for example, the government framed its goal of transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy in this way: “digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen.” The UK government talks about developing a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone. To establish a clear link between its digital vision and public value, Mexico’s incoming administration may want to consider revisiting the country’s 2013 National Digital Strategy and aligning it with Mexico’s current and future needs, as well as with the new government’s priorities.
This digital vision should be accompanied by a clear set of milestones and metrics that monitor its implementation and impact closely. To ensure success, initiatives that don’t yield the expected results should be rigorously evaluated and adjusted or deprioritized in relation to resources. Such a “test and learn” practice is not native to the public sector and will require the use of different budgeting practices, such as top-down budgets that allow a certain amount of flexibility.
Setting up the correct delivery mechanism
Digital transformations require ways of working that are very different from how governments normally operate. Instead of remaking products, processes, and policies according to what benefits each agency, governments running successful transformations typically orient their efforts around what citizens desire and expect. This requires unprecedented, and at times uncomfortable, levels of coordination among previously siloed entities, such as different government agencies, levels of government, and private-sector stakeholders.
To accelerate and streamline this transformation, Mexico could double down on its efforts to centralize digital initiatives across government agencies by providing shared platforms and services so that individual units do not need to “reinvent the wheel” and can focus on actual service delivery. Initially, this could involve coordination through a high-level council that meets regularly. Such a council would oversee digital transformation across the government, including deciding a rollout schedule of initiatives and monitoring their progress with a publicly scrutinized set of periodic key performance indicators. It would also identify obstacles and give support to the different government agencies that can address them. If issues cannot be resolved at this level, the council should have the capacity to escalate them.
Ideally, this central group would have a direct role in designing interoperability and data-architecture standards and would perform ongoing reviews of the digital solutions being implemented by different government agencies. It would also ensure there is a consistent user experience (front end) and compatibility with the data and systems of other agencies (back end). Likewise, the group could play a limited role in implementing pilots or new strategic initiatives, either through its own “digital factory”10 or by managing external vendors.
Eventually, and in a more advanced scenario, the government could form a separate digital delivery unit. The government of Singapore, for example, established the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) as an implementing agency for the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, both part of the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group under the Prime Minister’s Office.11 The unit usually has a strong sponsor. As in Singapore, it may report to the president or prime minister, or the president or prime minister serves as the chair of periodic progress-review meetings.
Building digital foundations
Because the gaps in Mexico’s digital foundations have ramifications for each of the three other dimensions, we suggest that addressing five essential building blocks could shore up the country’s infrastructure.
Boosting digital accessibility
To increase internet access across Mexico, both national and state-level governments could provide private companies with specific incentives for investing in broadband networks in marginalized communities, such as Chiapas and Oaxaca.12 In India, for example, the central government helped develop the National Optical Fibre Network (BharatNet) through tax incentives to private providers that make investments in infrastructure. This effort successfully brought broadband services to approximately 115,000 villages, aiming to deliver broadband connectivity to 250,000 villages overall.
In recent years, Mexico has made significant strides to boost the number of college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Nurturing the right kind of talent
By 2030, automation technologies are expected to displace nine million workers in Mexico,14 with the eventual replacement jobs requiring entirely different skills and competencies—most of which the current Mexican educational system is not fully prepared to address. In recent years, Mexico has made significant strides to boost the number of college graduates with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In 2016, 25 percent of graduates were from STEM disciplines, which is equal to the OECD average. But overall, Mexico’s education system still lags behind. According to a World Economic Forum survey, the quality of Mexico’s mathematics and science education ranks 126th out of 139 countries.15 And only 17 percent of Mexicans graduate from college (as compared with the OECD average of 37 percent), making the overall talent pool small.
To address this, CONACYT (Mexico’s National Council on Science and Technology) could fund a program dedicated to keeping primary and secondary school teachers up to date in STEM knowledge and providing them with new teaching methodologies. Government incentives that encourage students in rural areas to attend college could also be extremely helpful.
For existing workers, the Mexican government could consider spurring the development of reskilling programs that will prepare people who are going to be, or who already have been, displaced by the increasingly automated and service-oriented workplaces of the future. For example, through the SkillsFuture program, the government of Singapore collaborates with private companies to develop low-cost, massive, open, blended (in person and online) course programs to train new entrants to the workforce and reskill existing ones in new-economy skills, like data analytics and innovation.
Creating smart regulation
The development of new business models often creates a need for new or updated regulation. Mexico recently passed, and is in the process of implementing, a fintech law (Ley para Regular las Instituciones de Tecnología Financiera) that governs cryptocurrency transactions and establishes rules for connectivity via application programming interfaces. It also includes a regulatory “sandbox” in which companies without a banking license can test solutions with real customers.
Digitizing the state: Five tasks for national governments
Since regulation can be daunting for start-ups, structures that help explain rules, offer advice, provide forums for getting questions answered, and generally remove uncertainty for start-ups can go a long way toward fostering their creation. Singapore’s FinTech Office could be one such model. The government’s monetary authority and its National Research Foundation established a one-stop platform for financial start-ups, providing guidance, significantly reducing bureaucratic complexity, and, in effect, promoting Singapore as a fintech hub.
The traditional, siloed model of every agency procuring and maintaining its own technology is fading away. In its place are shared platforms and services that enable the seamless sharing and aggregation of data across agencies. With agencies powered by an integrated, cloud-based data architecture, citizens can go online to track the progress of complex, multiagency requests, use the same document to navigate multiple online processes, and get their identities verified in one simple step. This model also reduces paperwork, streamlines back-end processes, improves the government’s ability to provide targeted support programs, and allows real-time updates of databases. It also affords the kind of 360-degree view of citizens that enables governments to serve people more efficiently and effectively, a result much like what private-sector companies are trying to achieve.
Although Mexico has taken steps toward this kind of system compatibility, a systematic approach to enforcing standards is lacking. All federal agencies, for instance, are required to report standardized transparency data; yet the latest compliance report of the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection focused on whether agencies filed their data on time, not on the quality of that data.
There is an effort to design norms for systems and data architecture as well as for shared back-office services, but at the time this article was published, the website for the government’s interoperability initiative featured several technical documents that were incomplete or entirely empty. Systematically enforcing technology standards and imposing penalties for noncompliance can go a long way toward ensuring a successful IT evolution.
Addressing data privacy and cybersecurity
Without proper security measures in place, people and systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks.18 In April 2018, vulnerability in the software that connects Mexican financial institutions to the Interbanking Electronic Payment System resulted in a theft of around $15 million and significant delays in electronic money transfers, including salary payments that were due during time of the attack.
Mexico has established several cybersecurity units (one of them within the Mexican Central Bank as a response to the attack19 ) and defined the physical-, technical-, and administrative-security measures government agencies managing personal data must take. But the government might also consider playing aggressive defense so that it is ready for attacks. This can include hiring actual hackers to test the system and find vulnerabilities that need to be closed, and simulating attacks so that response plans can be implemented in real time. Each government agency could also have a risk profile established so that capabilities can be developed accordingly.
Mexico has made substantial progress in digitizing its government in recent years. Yet before it can advance further and capture the significant economic potential of digital, the country may want to take a step back and fix some of its foundations, most notably internet access, which reflects the inequalities present in Mexican society. Mexico’s incoming administration could consider mapping out a clear path for how digital initiatives can help achieve its economic, educational, health-service, and national-security objectives.
No doubt, there will be significant challenges. Going digital will require an investment of financial resources, extensive coordination among the multiple stakeholders and levels of government, and new regulations governing the growing e-commerce and fintech sectors. It most likely would entail participation incentives for the private sector, since governments should not attempt to “go it alone.” In the end, both sectors of society stand to reap the value digitization will sow.