The Colombian business community has presented the nation’s President Juan Manuel Santos with a declaration of the private sector’s biggest technological needs. Within its call to action, the alliance presented clear steps — regarding taxation, regulation, education, infrastructure development, leadership, and collaboration — that will transform Colombia into a digital nation.
During the closing session of the ANDICOM 2016 tech conference in Cartagena, the head of state received a copy of the document — the Manifesto on Digital Transformation in Colombia — from David Luna, the nation’s ICT minister, and Manuel Martínez, director of Center of Research and Development in Information and Communications (CINTEL).
Photo: President Juan Manuel Santos greets CINTEL Director Manuel Martínez at ANDICOM in Cartagena. (Credit: CINTEL)
According to the alliance of organizations that crafted the declaration, a collective led by CINTEL and Accenture, there are three pillars that are fundamental to setting up Colombia for the future. More than typical digital needs, these center on how the country can foster an ecosystem of innovation throughout all of society that expands digital infrastructure and promotes collaboration.
“Although, at first sight, digital transformation may be understood as the inclusion of ICTs, it is more a model of thinking — the essence of which is doing things in a different way,” said CINTEL in a statement.
In addition to laying out the steps that must be taken now, the manifesto is intended to serve as a mechanism for ongoing dialog between businesses, institutions, schools, and other stakeholders to continue to demand improvement in the future.
“If we as a country manage to articulate an agenda for integrationist transformation — jointly constructed by the different actors — the productive sector will have better tools to take advantage of the great opportunities of the so-called fourth industrial revolution,” said Martínez. “And citizens will have better conditions of well-being as gaps of inequality are closed and they are integrated into the digital world.”
Courtesy of CINTEL, the following nine actions come directly from the manifesto, translated into English and grouped within the three main pillars.
1. Digital Relationships
The Digital Individual
Human capital is the main asset within organizations. The greatest advances at the corporate level on the subject of incorporation of technology require the development of digital competencies on the part of work teams to facilitate the use, adoption, and approval of solutions. Public entities and companies in the private sector equally require development of a set of competencies in their workers to diminish resistance to change, motivated by the implementation of solutions that seek to achieve operative efficiency, the development of products and/or services or changes in business models.
At the same time, the citizen should be more empowered to facilitate their interaction with technological developments and with the new social dynamics of digital platforms. Therefore, it is fundamental that Colombia have a policy of ICT promotion and education that allows citizens to become familiar with technology from the first stages of their training.
The State as an Example
In spite of the significant advances in the digital transformation process in various sectors of public power, a gap still persists today between the traditional services offered by the State at all levels and the ease with which citizens relate to the different entities through digital platforms. Digitalization of the State’s processes and ease of interaction would generate efficiency in the processes of public administration, which in turn produces a digital culture dynamic in the citizen.
The State is called to set an example in the implementation of technological solutions that bring citizens closer and facilitate the development of activities and the provision of services within a digital ecosystem.
A More Symbiotic ICT Industry
The ICT solution provider industry has a limited capacity to integrate adequate solutions for the real sector, which can be adapted to the specific needs and conditions of the businesses they attend to. The real sector needs suppliers to have offerings adapted to their requirements and to incorporate solutions that generate value and boost the development and growth of organizations.
Businesses in the ICT sector should incorporate staff that has the skills and competencies needed to get to know clients and are in a condition to offer solutions that generate value and accompany the transformation process.
2. Being Digital
Digital Board of Directors
The digital transformation of organizations depends on the commitment of their top directors. The more familiar the directors are with the new competitive surroundings and with the technologies that make them possible, the greater the potential for an effective transformation to come about and to count on human capital to lead these processes. All the actors in the ecosystem are urged to generate and implement adaptation models for business leaders with a view toward converting them into revitalizing actors of change.
Spaces must be generated that motivate interaction between businesses, academia, and the State, where all the actors have opportunities to become interrelated and trained in aspects related to the transformation of organizations and digital economy.
There is a lack of qualified staff, both in ICT and in other kinds of soft competencies — such as leadership, creativity, teamwork, communication, innovation, and bilingualism — which is in a condition to perform in the context of digital transformation.
The educational sector is called upon to recognize the needs of the digital ecosystem and to incorporate into its programs the skills and competencies required by the current economic and technological surroundings, from basic education and throughout life, with a view to training integral people regardless of the area of work in which they are developed. It is fundamental to continue strengthening the strategies to incentivize demand for careers associated with ICT and the diverse areas of science and technology in order for the country to count on the necessary human resources to take advantage of the opportunities offered by a knowledge-based economy.
3. Strengthening of the Digital Ecosystem
The State as a Promoter
Taxation, both for the productive sector and the ICT sector, constitutes one of the aspects that restrict decision making for incorporating and taking advantage of technology that promotes digital transformation in companies. We need to widen the tax base and strengthen a total extension of service on stratas 1, 2, and 3, for which reason it is fundamental to generate taxation conditions that allow for these investments. It is important that tax reforms currently under study contemplate conditions that favor reconversion and incorporation of digital technologies in businesses, especially SMEs.
Broadband networks, hosting, cloud and other key elements of digital ecosystem infrastructure are qualifiers of technological reconversion of businesses. According to the needs of the different productive sectors, access should be facilitated to infrastructure and equipment in all regions of the country — with high quality and at more affordable prices.
Institutional mechanisms should be sought from the different actors in the digital transformation ecosystem to promote interaction between public and private agents to foster implementation of appropriate and inclusive solutions in conditions favorable to all the actors.
Dynamics associated with change in social, technological and productive surroundings have produced some grey areas in regulation in the framework of the digital economy, especially those related to applications that impact on traditional economic schemes, the new Over the Top (OTT) business models, the information managed in solutions in the cloud, as well as aspects related to communications infrastructures.
Government’s policies should be adapted to current developments that are changing or modifying the supply of services in traditional sectors, incentivizing innovation and the implementation of new business models and the revision of traditional service supply schemes. The different actors in the digital ecosystem should promote the setting up of sectorial tables, with public and private participation, to allow the strengthening of processes to generate agendas in public institutions that give priority to digital aspects.
Changes in the policies of public administration affect the continuity of strategies and processes that are developed in each government, for that reason a strategic long-term vision becomes necessary so that advances in technological implementation and digital adoption may be of benefit to the development of the country, and not be affected by changes in political dynamics.
It is recommended that the central government — with ample regional participation — construct a strategic digital transformation plan for Colombia in ample consultation with the real sector, academia, and other actors, in order to allow them to have lasting initiatives that serve as evidence of normative stability in the contexts in which businesses are developed. Within this framework, the National System of Competitiveness, Science, Technology, and Innovation plays a fundamental role, which should be articulated close to the industry and its marketing objectives.