The Fourth Industrial Revolution implies a change in our conception of the world. There are other ways of understanding education, professions and trade that did not exist before, undertakings that challenge traditional ways of creating and infinite possibilities for improving productive processes in all economic sectors. Even if it seems far away, Medellín is already under way and these ten initiatives are proof of that.
Technological innovations such as the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Data Science are rapidly changing production systems in the world. This phenomenon is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Medellín has understood its commitment to this path as an opportunity to create new jobs, to making its administrative processes work more efficiently, diversifying its economy and internationalizing. This onset requires an investment in infrastructure, human talent, and business modernization that not only aspires to bringing the city in line with what happens elsewhere on the planet, but also to become a Latin American model of the possibilities offered by technological transformation.
The goal is to generate a change in the economic vocation of the city, based on the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, of innovation, of a knowledge-based industry”.Mateo Vélez, advisor to the Strategic Projects Management of the Secretariat for Economic Development.
1. Software Valley Centers
Converting ideas into entrepreneurship, regardless of where they come from, is the goal of these centers that will be located in each of the comunas (districts) and townships of Medellín. To this end, the community will be made available to specialized personnel and teams that allow it to develop products and services, with the privilege of technological guidance, such as software development and applications. The Software Valley Centers will operate in what are now the Zonal Development Centers, which supported subsistence economy projects. They will also serve public institutions as practical spaces for students and teachers to approach new technologies. The first of them will be in San Javier, Comuna 13.
2. Educational Transformation
To familiarize professionals of the future with the possibilities of Industry 4.0, it is necessary to introduce new knowledges to formal education. That is why an important part of the Software Valley strategic line is the curricular transformation of the institutional educational projects, or curriculum (PEI, for its acronym in Spanish) of the public schools and the implementation of a universal technical high-school training (Skills Training for Employment (STE) known as “media técnica.” Of the 220 official institutions of the city, 184 already have a Skills Training for Employment (STE) programs that prepare students in skills necessary for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, the work is constant, as technological advances keep evolving, as well as the need to sensitize teachers and students alike. Although the emphasis is on technology, engineering and mathematics, the importance of humanities to achieve comprehensive training is not to be lost, hence the program is called SER + STEM. “I wish we could start on a ‘Buen Comienzo’ (the program that serves children in their first five years of life),” says Ana Agudelo, a member of the education and population care team of the Strategic Projects Management of the Secretariat for Economic Development, “to accompany them on their way from toddlers so that they can see how the world is changing and begin to love these new dynamics.”
This strategy requires the improvement of the computer equipment of the public schools, a problem that is addressed with the program “Computadores Futuro,” (Future Computers) that wants to renovate this structure and which dreams that every child of the city can have a PC. The program is in the process of being scoped and it is expected it will define what the real impact will be for the children of the city next year.
3. Neutral Net
Improving the penetration and quality of the Internet is an obligation to speak of a city with a technological vocation. Close to 30% of Medellín does not have broadband Internet access, as the installation of the network depends on the private company that favors high-income areas. The goal of this project is to close that gap and improve the quality of the available Internet to 500 Mbps. The project is still under feasibility study, the business model is still to be adjusted but is expected to be completed in 2023. “The Software Valley strategy has a soft part, known as capacity building, and it has a hard part, which is precisely initiatives like this that want to offer quality connectivity, equitable for both high- and low-income areas in terms of access,” adds Pablo Cubides, Advisor to the Mayor for the Software Valley Strategic Line and Economic Reactivation.
4. Data Governance
The pandemic caused by COVID-19 showed the importance of information at critical times but this is not the only application for analytics. The data governance program wants to collect packages from all local government agencies for scientific analysis that enables efficient and sound decision-making. This data will be available to the different institutions and also to the public, in an exercise of transparency. “The project is being managed by goals, in sets of data to be aggregated each year. In 2020 the goal is to add 50 sets of data from the entities of the municipality and create value. “Medellín me ciuda” (Medellín cares for me) is a great example of what can be achieved,” explains Mateo Vélez, contractor of the Strategic Projects Management of the Secretariat for Economic Development.
5. English for the Software Valley
English, in addition to being the most spoken language in the world, is the one used by the tech industry. Therefore, it is a requirement for those who want to work in this field and the local government wants to encourage their teaching and learning from different sources. The first of them focuses on students and teachers. An agreement was reached for 10,000 scholarships through Comfama (Family Compensation Fund), as well as the ongoing agreement one with the School of Languages of the University of Antioquia, a line that is managed from the Secretariat of Education. For its part, the Secretariat of Economic Development is committed to covering the shortcomings of professionals who want to perform in the trades of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and, through an agreement with the Pascual Bravo University Institution, has provided a portfolio of specializations in virtual skills at different levels. In addition, “there is a Board called “Código Medellín,” led by the Mayor’s Office, in which public, private and academic sector actors participate, to devise, plan and implement strategies for all matters related to the public policy of languages of Medellín. From the business end, the first Tech Fest was held, an event focused on intensive training and job offers related to bilingualism that took place last November,” says Jessica Cataño, part of the Strategic Projects Management of the Economic Development Secretariat.
6. “Muévete a Medellín”
This program of the Medellín Futuro Development Plan, executed by the Secretariat of Economic Development through the Cooperation and Investment Agency of Medellín and the Metropolitan Area – ACI Medellín, focuses on attracting technology-based foreign companies to start their operations in the territory. To this end, it has undertaken an internationalization work of this line of the Development Plan and supports other programs that can favor its initiatives, such as English for the Software Valley. In addition to the relationship work with companies related to this local government strategy, it is working on the construction of a management plan to strengthen the presence of free trade zones to include companies related to the Software Valley. “The idea is that Medellín is an exportable product, that is, that both companies and talent are world-class and we extend the borders that we have so marked within the Valley of Aburrá, to make the city much more attractive,” says Pablo Cubides, Advisor to the Mayor for the Software Valley Strategic Line and Economic Reactivation.
ACI Medellín also works in the search for strategic alliances of international cooperation for territorial development (financial non-reimbursable, technical, among others). In the strategic line of the Software Valley, it is focusing on consulting, exchanges of good practices, exchange of knowledge and experiences with other cities, expert advice, among others.
7. Post-secondary Learning
The speed of technical advances means that informal education, which includes short diploma and other courses, is increasingly being used, as these allow for an agile updating of knowledge. Technology companies have been the first to set its sights on this type of training to improve the skills of their human talent. Even Google has its own offer of qualifications, something Medellin also has its sights on. The city is a pioneer in promoting this type of training in the country. The Secretariat of Economic Development and the Secretariat of Education support the improvement of specific capacities from different angles for those who want to enter the 4.0 Industry.
The “Ciudadela Universitaria de Occidente,” which will be ready in the middle of next year, wants to have this emphasis, as does the “Ciudadela Universitaria del Norte,” which is being planned for the area known as the “feria de ganado.” “Both venues are looking to bring these opportunities closer to the public and, through infrastructure, to generate a cultural change,” explains Ana Agudelo, contractor of the education and population care line of the Strategic Projects Management of the Secretariat for Economic Development.
In order to fulfill this strategy, Sapiencia became the Agency of Postsecondary Education of Medellín and is in charge of delivering 25,000 scholarships in specific training during this four-year period (1,500 already delivered), especially thought for professionals who want to reorient their careers. The Secretariat for Economic Development aims to deliver another 25,000 for the same purpose.
8. Specialized Innovation Centers
According to Colciencias data from 2017, cited in the Development Plan Medellín Futuro 2020 – 2023, only 3.05% of the researchers work with companies and only 1.28 % dedicate their work to industrial and technological development in the country. In 2018, DANE (National Statistics Office) recorded that less than 7% of companies invested in research and development between 2016 and 2017. With the idea of starting to solve this deficiency, the strategic line of the Software Valley has thought up centers of specialized innovation focused on encouraging research and the development of strategic sectors for the local economy, which will be created as result of the articulation of the academia industry and government committee. The first will focus on biological research and will open next year, to solve the identified city and industry challenges.
9. Digital Business Transformation
The pandemic evidenced the gaps in many companies’ digital capabilities, from lack of infrastructure investment, to lack of e-commerce platforms or adequate communication channels. Therefore, the Secretariat for Economic Development has a program to assist in the digital transformation of those needs. This year, they selected 200 SMEs to make a diagnosis and accompany businesses in the process of cultural change. In addition to the structure of their online stores, these ventures received marketing workshops and specialized consulting. Although this was the most obvious need, the goal is to have these companies also implement tools such as data analytics, customer relationship management software, and automation in their processes.
10. Red Mesh (Network)
Having the ability to collect valuable data is a key part of how analytics can serve in decision-making. Medellín has a satisfactory experience with the Medellín Early Warning System and the Aburrá Valley – Siata that has allowed it to regulate the industrial activity and circulation of vehicles according to air quality, among others, thanks to a series of sensors and stations located at strategic points, reporting in real time. This technology will take advantage of the “Red Mesh” project that wants to extend a new network of sensors installed on the street lights, which will change from sodium to LED technology. The first phase comprises of 5,000 sensors and for its implementation the project is searching for strategic partners. These will be in District F, located north to south between Pablo Tobón Uribe Hospital and La Iguana creek, and from east to west from Ruta N, in Carabobo, to the 80 avenue in the Robledo sector.