Mexico aims to be the world’s second biggest provider of Information Technology services by 2024 federal Economic Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal announced at the 2014 World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) in Guadalajara on Monday.
This lofty aim is possible if federal government strategies can maintain the sustained growth that the sector has experienced over the last ten years, he said, noting that the value of Mexico’s IT sector more than tripled from around US$4 billion in 2012 to $14 billion by the end of 2013.
Held in Latin America for the first time, the WCIT took place at the Expo Guadalajara convention center in the capital of the western state of Jalisco. State Governor Aristoteles Sandoval presided over the opening ceremony and used it as an opportunity to unveil Jalisco’s latest Digital Strategy.
The Benefits of Expanding Internet Access
A cornerstone of that strategy is expanding Internet access in more remote areas of Jalisco and one of its aims is for 70% of the state’s population to have Internet access by 2020. “The Internet has become a right that governments must guarantee,” Sandoval told the international audience in the vast auditorium.
“We are driven primarily by the belief that the greater access to technology we have, the higher the standard of living becomes and the citizens’ opportunities multiply, making growth in our communities more viable.”
As of this year, all 125 of Jalisco’s municipalities now have free Wi-Fi in their main public squares thanks to Jalisco’s Digital Strategy, which also provides online educational content and resources for entrepreneurs. Jamie Reyes, the State Secretary for Innovation, Science and Technology, said this policy will prove that there is a direct relationship between expanding Internet access and growth of GDP.
As of this year, all 125 of Jalisco’s municipalities now have free Wi-Fi in their main public squares.
“We’re estimating that every 10 percent of connectivity can give us an extra 1.2 percent of GDP, but there is a tipping point, once you increase connectivity by 50 percent then the GDP will rise by 3.2 percent,” he explained.
“The scope of Jalisco’s Digital Strategy is very large and it has been used by the federal government as an example for other digital agendas,” added Benjamin Huerta, Director General of Information and Development in the Department of Innovation, Science and Technology.
Huerta acknowledged that one of the challenges is to encourage more productive use of the Internet as data shows that Facebook is currently the most downloaded app by those who use the free Wi-Fi points. “If people come to check Facebook and YouTube, well, we’ll put our content on those platforms and every time they come to these pages the first thing they’ll see is our content,” he added.
Beyond simply expanding Internet access, Jalisco aims to become one of Latin America’s top three high-tech hubs in the next decade and a leader in the fields of e-commerce and digital entrepreneurship. The state is already home to 700 new technology businesses that provide employment for over 100,000 people, Gov. Sandoval said. The aim is for that figure to reach 130,000 within the next ten years.
Much of the state’s growth has been focused around the development of high-tech clusters and innovation centers, led by an alliance of the public and private sectors and Jalisco’s academic community and civil society. Further growth will be stimulated by the construction of the Creative Digital City – the first of its kind in Latin America – in Guadalajara.
Building and Sustaining a Thriving ICT Sector
Outside the auditorium, the Expo Guadalajara was brimming with an array of stalls promoting IT service providers from Mexico, Latin America and beyond, as well as government agencies, medical service providers, data center hosts, video game producers, a Latin American sports network and 3D printer manufacturers. The theme of using technology to spur development and growth continued on Monday afternoon with a conference on “Building and Sustaining a Thriving ICT Sector in Developed and Emerging Markets.”
Alexander Mora, Costa Rica’s Minister of Foreign Trade, said that technology is now “at the center” of most countries’ development. However, he added, in many cases there is a significant gap between where countries are and where they should be. In order to close that gap, greater awareness of the importance of technology is required across all areas of governance – not just in the departments of science and technology – Mora said.
Jalisco aims to become one of Latin America’s top three high-tech hubs in the next decade and a leader in the fields of e-commerce and digital entrepreneurship.
In order to prosper, many developed and emerging markets need to see greater coordination between central and municipal governments, while other challenges they face include improving infrastructure, business environments and competitiveness, and the available skills and people, he added.
Just as the Jalisco government has prioritized bringing more of its citizens online, such measures are key to unlocking the economic potential of developed and emerging markets, noted Dan E. Khoo, the Chairman Emeritus of the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA). Small and medium-sized enterprises represent over 99% of all businesses in Malaysia, but only contribute around 22% of GDP. Bringing these SMEs online and introducing them to e-commerce is key to making them more productive and would prove beneficial not only to those businesses, but to the entire country, Khoo said.
Ultimately, “governments must set the right standards,” Mora continued, applauding Mexico’s policy of establishing Internet access as a human right. “There is a lot of room for improvement in where we spend our money,” he said, although he affirmed that all countries have different ways of responding to the challenges they face. Costa Rica, for example, pledged several years ago to spend 8% of its GDP on education. Such policies are “a good starting point” when it comes to building and sustaining a thriving ICT sector, Mora concluded.