According to a recent Business Monitor International (BMI) report, the software developer profession is the fastest-growing occupation in Latin America, comprising 5.1% of all workers in 2010 and estimated to rise by 3.8% annually up to 2020. Software development is growing quickly because of its “complementary industries,” such as information technology and telecommunications, which are also experiencing annual growth of 4%, according to BMI. The total IT and telecom workforce represented more than 6% of all jobs in the region by 2010, which makes it one of the largest employment sectors on an absolute basis.

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Latin America’s Software Developer IDPs in 2010 (source: Business Monitor International)

This growth is primarily due to the dramatic increase in demand for software developers responsible for creating and improving computer applications, multimedia tools, and other tools to improve business processes. Among the top 12, fastest-growing occupations software developers in Latin America were ranked second after information security analysts – a career that has more than doubled since 2005 (1.2%), according to the Conference Board. The market for new applications has also increased rapidly, with tremendous growth expected for the next 5 years. In addition, new mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets are also increasing growth opportunities in this field.

How Many Software Developers are in Latin America?

Though the workforce profile of software developers is completely different worldwide, it’s possible to get a good idea of the industry’s scale from these numbers. A recent report by BMI puts the number of workers in this field at over 430,000 by the end of 2011. This represents an increase of approximately 67% in six years (from 330,000 workers in 2007). The top countries with the highest number of software developers are Chile (35%), Peru (30%), Mexico (29%), Colombia (27%), Venezuela, and Brazil (26%). Brazil has also seen its percentage increase in this industry by 50%.

Latin American software developer concentration by country (source: Business Monitor International) According to BMI, this number is expected to increase by approximately 3.8% annually up to 2020. This means that we can expect the number of software developers in Latin America to reach almost 900,000 by the end of 2020. So, how does this compare to other countries?

Software Developer IDPs Worldwide (source: Business Monitor International)

As shown in Figure 3 above, the percentage of software developers in Latin America is less than half of what it is in Asia-Pacific or Europe. The United States and India also have a much higher concentration of developers than any country in Latin America. So even if the 3.8% annual growth rate persists and Latin America hits 900,000 workers by the end of 2020, it will still be less than half of Asia-Pacific has.

Keep in mind that although software development is growing quickly in Latin America, some variations exist between countries. A case in point is Argentina, where BMI estimates there will be approximately just 50,000 software developers by the end of 2010. This is much lower than any other country in Latin America except for Bolivia (40,000) and Ecuador (27,000). This variation may be due to whether the country has a large IT or telecom sector.

What is the Future of Software Development in Latin America?

As we saw above, the number of software developers in Latin America is increasing rapidly, primarily due to the increasing demand for new applications. So what are we likely to see in the future? We can look at several key drivers: personal computers, mobile devices, video games, and business applications.

The Market for New Applications:

The global market for new applications is expected to grow at an annual rate of approximately 5% from 2010 to 2015, according to the Telematics Applications Market Forecast, 2011-2015. The market for mobile devices will be a key driver following its rapid growth in recent years. Mobile devices accounted for about 54% of all Internet traffic by 2011, which is forecast to reach over 86% by 2015. The global addressable mobile technology market is estimated at $170 billion by 2020. In other words, this represents more than 100x the size of the smartphone market today.


The demand for software developers worldwide is expected to increase by more than 4% annually over the next few years. Latin America will experience the same growth but on a smaller scale. The total employment of software developers in this region will continue to be less than 50% in Asia-Pacific and less than 25% in North America. The future growth in Latin America will most likely be driven by mobile devices, which have a high technology readiness level and a large market potential.

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