The incredible growth of the Canadian technology sector in the last few years has not gone unnoticed. The Colombian government has reached across the border looking for a long term business partner.
Procolombia’s goal is to facilitate that partnership.
On October 29, Procolombia, a Colombian network dedicated to promoting non-traditional exports, tourism and foreign investment, hosted the IT matchmaking forum leading up to the official launch of the Bring IT On campaign at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This campaign focuses on alerting Canadian businesses to Colombian opportunities, and the entire Colombian government has pledged their support behind it.
This year marked the second annual IT Matchmaking Forum, the last one of which was held in New York. The goal of this forum is to introduce Colombian IT companies to Canadian investors and forge long term business relationships. This forum takes advantage of the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and Canada, which encourages trade between the countries.
Alvaro Concha, the Canadian Trade Commissioner who’s been working with Procolombia towards this objective, says that the goal of this conference is to put Colombia on the radar of Canada and Canadian business. The Bring IT On campaign is the official campaign of the technology sector in Colombia. Two-hundred and twenty-nine companies in Colombia already display Bring IT On.
He went on to say that obtaining investments from Canadian partners is also an objective they hoped to achieve through Bring IT On.
“Colombia is a good sourcing partner for Canadian companies. We have a lot of academic and specialized programs in our country. Also, we’ve been recognized by other countries as having very creative industries,” said Concha.
Colombia’s technology sector has made tremendous progress in the last decade. IT and software comprise over 44 per cent of the Colombian market, the total value of which is US $8.4 billion. The country’s IT talent includes over 300 thousand IT professionals having graduates between 2001 and 2013.
Furthermore, Colombia has been given the highest skilled labour rank in Latin America and their IT sales doubled between 2010 and 2013 from $2.6 billion to $5.9 billion (pesos).
The Deputy Minister of Technology, Maria Isabel Mejia Jaramillo, spoke extensively about the opportunity for Colombian companies to offer their products and services to Canada. She went on to say that she believes in Colombian IT talent and hopes to bring their skills to light in North America.
“One of the biggest problems for tech companies is the lack of human resources,” she said. “We have the talent, the knowledge and we’re willing.”
Jaramillo also explained that the goal of her department and the sector as a whole is to become the leading Latin American company in Big Data: “We are training a lot of people as data scientists and analysts because we see a very big opportunity in big data for both private companies and the government.”
During the launch of the campaign, the deputy minister stated eagerly that Colombia has been the most successful implementing open data strategies in Latin America. In addition to that, by 2018 the Colombian government will aim to double its volume of IT companies, triple its IT sales, triple the number of companies able to export and triple the number of IT employees.
Freddy Paya, a regional sales manager for PCI Geomatics attended the launch of the Bring IT On campaign and believes in its potential to create meaningful business relationships.
“I think this is very important because Colombian companies are exposed to all the companies in North America, and sometimes as a Canadian company we don’t always get to see all these people.”
He continues by saying that he wishes they were more frequent. Paya is a native Colombian whose sales sector includes Latin America. He believes attending these events is fundamental to sustaining growth in the industry and hopes to see these new connections flourish in the near future.
“I think it’s really fundamental that the Colombian government attends these kinds of events. I think it should be more consistent and they should do it more often because we get a lot of value from this. I’m sure they get a lot of value from this as well.”
Concha describes Colombia’s IT sector as incentive driven. He believes in the potential for Canada to find meaningful areas to invest in, especially with the upsurge in digital media, app development and other creative software initiatives.
Concha acknowledges the differences in culture that might serve as roadblocks to forging relationships between these two countries, but also states that the matchmaking forum specifically aims to overcome these obstacles.
His goal is to educate the companies that have been invited participate in the event about what the Canadian investor is looking for.
“Even though there are a lot of similarities between the two markets, there are also a lot of differences. We’re trying to teach what them Canadian business man is looking for and what any Canadian company is going to expect from anyone who tries to approach them,” said Concha.