CENTER OF INNOVATION

Panama 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | FOCUS: PANAMA DIGITAL HUB

Panama has taken concrete steps to strengthen and boost its ICT sector, cementing its reputation as being a hub in more ways than one.

Panama Digital Hub, a strategic collaboration between the public, private, and academic sectors, is a 10-year national strategy to develop Panama's ICT industry, setting up the country as an international incubator and center of excellence for digital innovation.

The Chamber of Technology (CAPATEC), along with the National Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation (SENACYT), has contracted Centauri Technologies Corporation to develop the ambitious national plan. The President of CAPATEC, Eli Faskha, discussed this ambitious vision with TBY, noting “We want to be viewed as the digital hub of the region. We have a natural maritime hub with the canal, a strong air hub with Copa Airlines, we are the hub of the Americas, we have a strong telecom hub with fiber cables that connect in the country, and we are a people hub because this is a safe, mobile, and enjoyable country to live in. Being a digital hub is a natural extension to that. Although we are probably not there yet, we are taking strides, and the natural competition we face is from Costa Rica and Colombia. We see those as the two countries in the region that have strategies and platforms we are competing with."

The Panama Digital Hub strategy is based on four pillars: human capital, physical and social infrastructure, financial resources, and regulatory framework. In order to turn Panama into a digital hub, the country must invest in shaping and creating a qualified human capital with scholarships, a network of technical institutes (IPT), along with specialized universities and the National Institute of Vocational Training for Human Development (INADEH) will underpin the growth of a local highly competitive workforce. Several advances have been made in the first of the program's execution, such as the creation of an observatory, an R&D laboratory in the sector, and the launching of calls for innovation projects in the ICT area. A basic infrastructure including laboratories and observatories will be promoted throughout the entire country. From a regulatory point of view, the current government is working on introducing new fiscal incentives and specific laws in the field of intellectual property. “It is a culture-changing initiative," commented Jorge A. Motta, National Secretary of SENACYT, adding “(…) our society has been oriented toward providing service instead of creating patents. Therefore, we do not have the infrastructure to deal with the patent process. For this reason, SENACYT has collaborated with CAF in an effort to generate more patents. We already have 230 patent applications as a result of the alliance with CAF. What follows is working to strengthen the patent process so that it becomes easier for innovators to generate more patents."