Let’s talk about Uruguay as a market for nearshoring, specifically their technology and engineering talent as a resource for US companies and others seeking value for money.
Uruguay has strong development and engineering talent, particularly if you’re looking for a nearshore location as a tech company. The country’s education pipeline places special emphasis on STEM and computer science. Coupled with an affordable college education system and strong tech ecosystem in the capital city of Montevideo, the country punches above its weight when it comes to development talent metrics like involvement with open source.
People will generally compare Uruguay with its “big brothers” in Latin America—Brazil and Argentina — but Uruguay itself has a lot of unique advantages when it comes to technical talent.
Governmental and Educational Roles in Tech Development
There are two big benefits at play in Uruguay, and they’ll demonstrate their impact on factors I mention later on as well.
The government encourages technological development. Uruguay’s economy was traditionally based on farming, but for the sake of sustainability, their government chose to start investing more heavily in technology. You can see the evidence in the form of subsidies, tax advantages and other tech-related policies over the past decade. These were designed to make Uruguay a net exporter of technological services—and it worked. Uruguay has been successful in transforming itself from agrarian to technological, increasing its wealth and standard of living and ultimately making a real impact on the global stage.
The educational pipeline rivals those of its neighbors—and even beats America’s. Argentina and Brazil have solid education, but it can be hit-or-miss at times. Varying degrees of quality arise in bootcamps, and that’s a problem American developers tend to have, too. Uruguay formalized “Laptops in Cribs” to make sure an entire generation of the population, who would likely have become farmers, are now becoming highly competent software developers instead. And the education follows into adulthood: a stringent six-year software engineering degree, rather than a 10- or 15-week bootcamp, is what’s required of Uruguayan developers. And it’s not just academics teaching theory to aspiring developers. The professors in Uruguayan colleges are actually senior software engineers themselves, bringing the experience to teach a more practical, hands-on side of development to their students.
The infrastructure in Uruguay also makes it a compelling place to find value, and there are two types of infrastructure I’ll talk about with regard to Uruguayan development.
Physical Infrastructure: You really can’t understate the need for physical places where people can work, and well, Uruguay’s got the buildings for it. Uruguay was one of the first to concentrate on “coworking spaces”, gathering the best and brightest into shared spaces for ideation to encourage further technological development as a region. Pre-COVID, these were used for developers and digital nomads who would otherwise work remotely; the spaces enabled them to avoid the regular downsides of remote work—namely isolation. After coronavirus subsides, these spaces will become popular again, and perhaps even more so than before. Furthermore, Uruguay’s economic free zones contribute a lot to its infrastructure. Certain regions of Uruguay receive specific tax incentives or subsidies to use certain buildings for commercial use, especially in technology. It gives young developers room to grow in their education, and it makes their jobs easier for them once they’re done with school.
Technological Infrastructure: It all boils down to the internet. We need fast internet in order to perform efficient and effective dev work, and Uruguay has so strongly invested into telecommunications infrastructure that their average internet speeds are almost on par with those of the United States, which makes them an ideal location for a nearshore partnership. Compared to some of the other Latin American countries, or Central American locations like Mexico, Uruguay’s average internet speed is 50% faster. Imagine waiting 50% longer for loading times and you’ll realize just how valuable the difference is. Apart from being talented, educated, and provided with spaces to work, Uruguayan developers have easy, stable access to the internet, a tool that’s hard to come by in other offshoring locations.
Focuses Within Uruguayan Education System
The focal point for the education system in Uruguay is getting tech into the hands of budding developers early. And when I say early, I mean early. The policy I mentioned earlier of ‘Laptops in Cribs’ is more formally known as the One Laptop per Child program.
Designed to help introduce computing to developing nations, Uruguay wholeheartedly embraced the program leading to it being the first country in the world to provide a laptop to every primary school-aged child.
This promotion of cutting-edge STEM education flows onto the tertiary level and throughout both government and private sectors. A notable example is Stanford University’s close ties with National Research and Innovation Agency (ANII), a government body that promotes tech, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Most notably, ANII sponsors the Innovation Center for Engineering Innovation (CII), an entity organized by the three primary universities in Uruguay: Universidad Católica del Uruguay, Universidad ORT Uruguay and Universidad de Montevideo. In this sense, Uruguayan engineering graduates receive an education that marries the most up-to-date knowledge from both academia and the private sector, as well as receiving a first-hand glimpse at the trends from tech powerhouse region, Silicon Valley.
- Ruby on Rails
- React Native
Quick note: When you build a mobile app, you have two options—to make native builds for each platform you’re releasing it to, or to make one cross-platform application. In recent years, native builds are declining in popularity, since it’s always going to be more expensive to develop two apps rather than one.
But cross-platform apps tend to suffer from limited functionality, since they aren’t built specifically for the system the end user is working on. New technologies like React Native solve this problem well, and in my experience the tech talent in Uruguay is uniquely engaged with the React ecosystem compared to other nearshore locations.
As a result, there’s been a skyrocketing in the popularity of cross-platform technology, meaning Uruguay has made a massive impact on the globe, technologically speaking.
Pricing development talent in Uruguay
The average developer’s salary in Uruguay is around $30,000 to $35,000 per year, whereas in the US, it’s about $85,000—and for developers from major metropolitan areas like LA or San Francisco, rates can even reach up into the early six figures. This huge discrepancy in price, as well as the tendency of Uruguayan developers to be of higher quality in general, is crucial. The United States certainly has a dedicated talent pool when it comes to technology, but the fact remains that it’s much harder to get at an affordable price.