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Ecuador 2013 | TELECOMS & IT | FOCUS: ECUADOR’S SOFTWARE SECTOR

The Correa government has prioritized local technological solutions, underpinned by improved education, to bolster the international competitiveness of Ecuador's IT industry.

In 2007, the incoming Correa administration established “technology: hardware and software" as a strategic concern. As part of his program of economic regeneration, the President prioritized technology education and, in keeping with his ideological perspective, seemed to favor dissemination of data without dependence on the familiar software of the multinational giants. “It is increasingly important that citizens control technology. That is why we must expand the use of these open tools in our society", he declared. Correa mandated Ecuador's migration to open-source software with Presidential Decree 1014. Ecuador established its own GNU/Linux distribution, called Elastix. It has been in use at prominent television network RTS, as well as at the Aerolineas Galápagos airline's call center. Government bodies including the Ministry of Health are also users.

Naturally, however, the wider spectrum of IT solutions attracts much interest in Ecuador. In August of 2013, Guayaquil, the country's largest city, hosted Play Tech Showcase, an international expo focused on the uptake of the latest IT resources. Over 20,000 visitors met around 5,000 exhibitors involved in products and services including technology solutions for business, consumption technology, digital marketing, applications for iOS and Android, security solutions, and telecommunications, as well as entertainment.

Ecuador has been diversifying its economy away from the production of raw materials to alternative sectors, including software development. PRO ECUADOR is the Institute for the Promotion of Trade and Investment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which implements policies in support of national investment. Through it, Ecuador works to guide software companies toward internationally recognized quality production processes that boost Ecuador's overall technological competitiveness in the international arena.

The government's proactive stance vis-à-vis IT has reflected in concern at the risk to the local sector from brain drain. Accordingly, education is a mainstay of the general plan.

One shining link in the national technology chain is Yachay, the first planned city of knowledge in Latin America; an environment of technological excellence and innovation geared toward attracting foreign investment. Unsurprisingly, the Yachay project is a joint public-private initiative incorporating higher education institutions, and geared at innovative R&D. An initial investment of around $220 million is earmarked, and the initial stage foresees the construction of the self-contained ecosystem featuring a university, public research institutes, and residential units. Talking to TBY about the project René Ramírez Gallegos, National Secretary of the National Secretary of Higher Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (SENESCYT) observed that, “Yachay sums up Ecuador's identity, knowledge, and learning, and we are sure it will lay the foundations for the country's future development." Today, Quito boasts well trained, technically competent, and cost effective labor. The annual average number of IT graduates in the capital city stands at 1,200, with the vast majority entering local technology-related enterprises.

Despite the government's freeware preference, foreign technology producers have long been present in Ecuador. IBM celebrated its 75th anniversary in Ecuador in 2012, and GM José Antonio Olivares told TBY that, “The key to our overall success story in Ecuador is our human capital."

Crucial for the local software industry are the reforms introduced to shake up key sectors such as banking, spurring the need for sophisticated software solutions, and requiring more local IT experts.

Talking to TBY, Richard Moss, CEO of Cobiscorp, talked of today's need for the support of a strong IT partner to ensure commercial sustainability and underpin economic advancement, which the Correa administration is acutely aware of. Cobiscorp was early in developing banking software in Latin America. In Ecuador, demand emerged from the rise in oil exports and ensuing rapid economic growth. “By the end of the decade, more than 50% of the banks in Ecuador were using LABIS, our first core banking solution". Subsequently, “New technological paradigms generated a shift toward open systems and client-server architectures, both of which became industry standards." Cobiscorp's brand product COBIS, is in use by leading banks in 15 Latin American countries.