From Israel to China, countries around the world are vying for position as the next Silicon Valley, touting their tech savvy, and lauding their best and brightest startups as the next game-changers. While their offers may be enticing, the majority of countries in the global North and South feature similar incentives for luring foreign investment, making for a crowded space with little way to differentiate between opportunities.
This week, Colombia joins its peers with the launch of "Colombia Bring IT On," the first national technology campaign seeking to build on the growth spurred by national demand for services like business risk and supply chain management solutions. But instead of touting itself as the next Silicon Valley, Colombia is pushing its services sector, calling on companies to follow the likes of IBM and HP that earlier this year opened multi-billion dollar data centers in the nation.
Colombia’s decision to launch this campaign comes from the tourism surge of recent years. Increased visitation for business and leisure has furthered the demand for domestic technology development. To assist in this development, rather than attract entrepreneurs and companies from other parts of the globe as its neighbors have done, Colombia has focused on creating homegrown developments.
For Latin America, attracting assistance -- monetarily and otherwise -- from more technologically developed regions is crucial. However, it is equally as important to train domestic populations to lead the technology and services growth. Colombia has responded by forming initiatives such as “Vive Digital” to provide broadband Internet access to rural communities across the country. This, accompanied by education programs to train the workforce in software development, are designed to make Colombia better equipped to meet national and international demands for tech services.
The world has already seen the role the services sector has played in India and the Philippines. Now it's Latin America’s turn. Developing Latin American countries have the opportunity to further their export capacity by building up a strong services industry, something that will be crucial as the region urbanizes further. In the case of Colombia, the country is ripe with natural resources and high-quality manufactured products, such as fruits and vegetables and textiles. It must seek to consolidate production into more efficient, technology-enhanced platforms, or risk becoming obsolete compared to the equally opportunistic production countries in Southeast Asia. With its technology campaign, Colombia seeks to fulfill its responsibility and the opportunity for technology growth.
To date, foreign players like IBM, HP, and Sykes Enterprises have invested heavily in enormous Colombian development and data centers. Colombia’s US$3 billion in sales in 2013 demonstrates the need for even greater growth in all tech industries, though, not just manufacturing and exportation. Although Latin American countries like Brazil and Mexico have emerged with budding innovations in the aviation and automotive industries, Colombia has pledged to modernize all of its sectors, including human capital, telecommunications, financial services, and the government.
The region’s need to develop the tools possible for modernization and the connections provided by the free-flow of goods (outlined by free trade agreements) spur further sector growth. The tools will come in part from foreign investment, but also from the countries themselves. Investors should not only consider Colombia and Latin America for their next move, but must provide both the capital and the means for these countries to develop and progress further. But move quickly. Colombia is ready and has already asked the world to “Bring IT On.”Maria Claudia Lacouture is President of Proexport. Lacouture earned her Bachelor's Degree in Finances, Government, and International Relations from the Universidad Externado de Colombia, and then went on to acquire a Masters Degree in Economics and Marketing from Cornell ... View Full Bio