Op-Ed: Puerto Rico needs to jump on developing C&IT

Written by  //  December 30, 2013  //  Biz Views  //  1 Comment

Author José Joaquín Villamil is founder of the Estudios Técnicos Inc. analyst firm.  (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

Author José Joaquín Villamil is founder of the Estudios Técnicos Inc. analyst firm. (Credit: © Mauricio Pascual)

I was glad to see the story on H. Calero’s views on the IT industry. The communications and information technology (C&IT) industry has been the focus of attention in a number of studies at least going back to the 1999-2000 A.D. Little/Estudios Técnicos Inc. study on S&T based economic development strategies.

Subsequently, the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. sponsored a report on a Roadmap for C&IT development in Puerto Rico and the subject was brought up in a number of private sector sponsored reports as well as in the PR 2025 Report.

As Ms. Calero mentions, the recently completed Boston Consulting Group report for the Economic Development and Commerce Department once again deals with the subject. Yet, there has been relatively little action in terms of placing the sector at the core of economic development strategies.

In 2010, Estudios Técnicos Inc. completed the first and, as far as I know, the only study on Cloud Computing for the Puerto Rico Science and Technology Trust. Microsoft provided support, including providing access to a similar report it sponsored in Ireland. Cloud Computing could have major impacts on the local economy and would be particularly important for strengthening the capacity of local firms to compete in a much more competitive global environment.

Puerto Rico still has a long way to go in terms of laying the basic infrastructure for a knowledge based economy but there are signs of progress. Every two or three years Estudios Técnicos completes a study on Internet use for the Sales and Marketing Executives Association.

The most recent one found, as Calero mentions, that 51 percent of adults had access to the Internet, a huge advance over the 35 percent a few years back. It also concluded that access to broadband was almost 100 percent among Internet users.

There is a small but growing local C&IT sector that can provide the foundations for movement toward a knowledge-based economy. This group of local emerging technologies firms has been developing rapidly and many of them are already exporting services and establishing operations in other countries. My contention for some time has been that they can provide the foundations for the island’s economic development strategy.

Obviously, Puerto Rico needs to act aggressively to reach the level of our key competitors in C&IT. We still don’t have a clear blueprint on how to migrate to a knowledge based economy and looking at “best practices” makes it clear that such a strategy blueprint is essential.

A change in culture in agencies related to the C&IT sector is also needed. With respect to C&IT (as well as in other advanced services) a regulatory orientation has to be substituted by an emphasis on promotion of the sector.

Articles such as H. Calero’s will hopefully generate movement toward designing that much-needed blueprint.

Author José Joaquín Villamil is founder of the Estudios Técnicos Inc. analyst firm.

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One Comment on "Op-Ed: Puerto Rico needs to jump on developing C&IT"

  1. David R. Martin January 11, 2014 at 5:39 PM · Reply

    I commend and sincerely respect the aspirations of Mr. Villamil, Ms. Calero and others in proposing the C&IT sector as a leading strategy for Puerto Rico’s economic development. Yet for a very long time I have struggled to find substantial evidence that Puerto Rico has the baseline core competencies, institutions and technological traditions to be truly competitive in this sector.

    If one closely examines the resources and activities in which Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans stand out, these have very little immediate relationship to C&IT. Puerto Rico is known for its spectacular tropical scenery and climate. Puerto Ricans have distinguished themselves at the very highest levels in the arts (including the culinary arts), music, fashion, literature, acting, entertainment, and professional sports.

    In my view, these resources position us as a world-caliber contender in an economy focused primarily on tourism, entertainment and professional sports. But this sector is currently grossly underdeveloped (only 14,500 hotel rooms?) and must pursued on a massive scale. This means many things, but mainly that we need significant (and sorely needed) investments in lodging and transportation infrastructure to host millions of visitors for entertainment and sporting events on a regular basis. For this purpose, I have proposed an entirely new city on the former grounds of Roosevelt Roads.

    After we’ve made the Island the exciting, dynamic and vibrant place it can be, then we might attract other industries such as C&IT. Scientists, techies and other talents from around the world will come because they can think of no better place to be than Puerto Rico.

    Details of my opposing view to PR’s “conventional thinking” on the high-tech sector can be found in my book “Puerto Rico: The Economic Rescue Manual” (2013).

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