by: Daniel Quintero Calle (Mayor of Medellín)
Interview with the Medellín City Mayor, Daniel Quintero Calle, the youngest person in the history of Medellín, to lead and manage the second most important city in Colombia.
He was Deputy Minister of Digital Economy of the Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies (MinTIC, for its acronym in Spanish) and now implements innovation as a pillar for Medellin’s entrepreneurship and development. This is how he is leading the city toward a leap into the future.
1. How are digital skills for young people and citizens being improved for industry 4.0 and the software valley?
Together with Ruta N, Sapiencia and the Ministry of Education, we are implementing a new development model for the city through an unprecedented educational transformation that will enable human talent to be trained for the thousands of qualified jobs required, generating new opportunities for the diversification and modernization of the city’s economy.
Beyond traditional training, there are efforts aimed at strengthening digital skills, via seedbeds, training camps, short courses on international platforms, certifications or other modalities. Specifically, it is important to highlight the experience of Ruta N that has supported more than 25 technology learning communities (CUEE 2.0, 2019) and promotes the program for connecting supply with the demand for ICT talent. This program alone has generated about 4,837 jobs for the city in the last four years (DAP, 2020).
Likewise, software seedbeds promoted by the Secretariat of Education at INEM José Félix de Restrepo are also highlighted, ones tailored for training different communities on software development.
2. What does Medellín becoming a software valley mean for the general public?
Making Medellín into a software valley is a major challenge and is also a key part of post-pandemic economic recovery. We are hedging our future on the software valley with a solid link between university, the industry and the state, in addition to educational transformation. This means Medellín will be the Colombian capital of digitization in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, one that can boost economic development and diversify the city’s economy, creating thousands of jobs with good remuneration for citizens in areas associated with the digital economy. We are going to create more than 26,000 new jobs within the new economy of the software valley. For that reason, we are going to train more than 50,000 people in job skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
I can also emphasize that the software valley is aligned with the consolidation of the city as Smart City, for Medellín is the Special District of Technology and Innovation. This is not only about addressing education, but also about supporting companies in their digital transformation processes and achieving articulation within the sector.
3. What is the role city officials, and specifically your own, in building national peace? What role will the Non-Violence Secretariat play?
It is essential, since it is in the territory where violence has long been felt. In addition, cities like Medellín have been displaced and exiled for decades as a result of armed conflicts.
In Medellín, we are committed to the peace of Colombia and demonstrate that with facts. We created the Non-Violence Secretariat to give this the importance it deserves. With this new office, we will be guaranteeing the fulfillment of the Havana Peace Agreement on two essential points: democratic participation to better understand differences and to learn to live with each other, and a very strong commitment with the victims, because it is to them that the country owes so much. Let’s listen to them; let’s talk and together we’ll build memory, reconciliation, truth and recidivism.
Our purpose is to strengthen projects with victims and, in general, with actors of conflict, prevent violence and seek behavioral changes directed toward integral human development. Our policy of non-violence is not an end, it is a method of building the society that we dream of and that Colombia deserves.
4. We have seen many approaches by companies and governments of the world to your administration. What cooperation agreements, alliances and mutual support are you forecasting for Medellín in the coming months?
Today’s world requires working together with other cities and countries. Medellín has a lot to teach and more to grow. We must also be connected with the world.
We are engaging in relations with strategic actors in the region, also with partners at the national level, and we are approaching cooperation agencies in Germany, France, Spain and the European Union.
We have ongoing projects with the Embassy of India, Finland, Barcelona City Council, Segittur, Bloomberg, JICA, Danish Refugee Council, IDB, Ministry of Economy, Trade of Japan and with C40 Cities network.
“Medellín Futuro” proposes an international city, capable of offering good practices and receiving support in what we want to grow, for example, in science, technology and innovation. For this, we are also exploring relations with other countries.
5. An accessible city is definitive when considering an eco-city model. How will you achieve your ideal of making Medellín pedestrian and bike-friendly?
A city for walking, for cycling and a public service with clean technologies, are some of the purposes of the Ecocity Strategic Line of our Development Plan. With this, we improve air quality, life and move toward sustainable mobility.
The Medellín Program is a pedestrian and bike-friendly initiative that includes the construction of 40 new kilometers of bicycle routes, the implementation of two stations that integrate the bicycle user with the Metro system, three existing road bridges for universal accessibility, the design of a 14-kilometer bicycle route to connect the north and south of the city and a cycling integration project for the the Universidad Nacional and Universidad de Antioquia campuses.
With these actions, we want to increase cycling, from 1% to 4%, as well as the participation of women in the use of
This mode of transport, from 12.3% to 20%.
6. Medellín is an example with its mobility ecosystem (metro, tram, metrocable, etc.)What valuable lesson is left to Medellín after 24 years of the Metro being inaugurated and what role will the 80th Ave. Metro play?
The Medellín Metro has been the axis of the social transformation of the city. It has integrated the communities and shortened distances; it has also enabled the improvement in quality of life of citizens. The Metro is the backbone of the development of mobility in the city from north to south.
More than a lesson, it is the confirmation that we are in the right path, and shows our interest and management implemented from day one of my adminisrtation to advance in the most ambitious project of the city in the last 25 years: the 80th Ave. Metro.
This project will benefit many people, will transform the urban planning of the west of the city and is also ecological. It will reduce CO2 emissions by five million tons, because it will operate 100% with electricity.
7. Your administration’s slogan is Medellín Futuro – Future Medellín. How would you describe the Medellín of 2023? How do you forsee it?
Artificial Intelligence is now intended to replace certain human cognitive abilities and, rather than automate them, make them digital. While in the Deputy-Ministry of Information and Communications Technologies, I created the Deputy-Ministry of Digital Economy, so that Colombia would begin to face these challenges.
Many jobs are going to be at risk. A job can be lost in Colombia because a new machine was developed in China.
Hence, to not fall behind, comes the idea of thinking of Medellín as the valley of software and as a city of the future.
The construction of new massive sustainable transport systems, such as the Metro of the 80th Ave. and the large north-south bike route will contribute to mobility and show us the path to the Ecocity that we have proposed.
Furthermore, the jobs that their construction will generate will serve as measures to revive the economy. More specifically, I dream of Medellín without so many private-owned cars, with more people commuting on bicycles and public transport, a city where pedestrians are the priority.
At the same time, I dream of seeing young people in all neighborhoods working on innovation and technology projects that will impact the world, robotics projects, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and data analytics.
After this four-year period, Medellín will have made a leap to the future.
8. What lesson do you want to leave your daughters Maia and Aleia of your term in office, at the forefront, leading a city like Medellín?
I want them to understand the beauty of the little things. Behind a destination, there will always be a new story to be known.
Medellín is a place to explore, because where some see a simple park, others see a stage to meet nature, or what for some is a just metro transport, for others it is a metro discovery ride.
It’s all a matter of opening your eyes a little further to meet the wonders of the city. In every corner, there is a landscape, a meal, a sculpture or a character.
In short, the city is a treasure and I want them to learn how to discover it, but also how to take care of it and contribute to its further positive transformation.