I have got multiple friends who are coming back home to Colombia after a work season abroad. And since I plan to do so sometime in the future, I am very interested in hearing about their “coming back” home, and specially the job market. Most of them are very disappointed after their first weeks because of the rather “boring” job opportunities compared to what’s available abroad, but they eventually give up their old expectations and merge into the labor market.
In this post, I put forward my opinion on what the technology situation is, and some potential triggers for going from Technology Transfer to Technology Creation.
Colombia has for many years been very good at producing software developers and systems engineers. That’s very good because people are very competitive in the job markets, both locally and abroad. Technology and knowledge in mainstream software development from worldwide industries and research centres are eventually studied, learned, and adopted by Colombian companies and universities. Therefore we see very high quality software development companies, and very little threats from global competitors (off-shoring development is not really a threat when the price differences don’t justify all the management trouble). We will call this a successful transfer of technology. However, this transfer focuses mostly in the adoption of upcoming or already established software technologies or practices, and almost never in research topics and innovation. The technology transfer is very successful, but the tech industry is yet very service oriented, instead of product oriented. We keep tailor making more of the same (ERPs, CRMs, WebApps, basic electronic components, etc), but never really go out with innovative products that can reach scale economy.
And it’s this lack of innovation what makes jobs so boring for the returnees.
If we look at the image for technology adoption (I don’t remember where I got it from), I would say we are still somewhere between Early Majority and Late Majority. What I really mean is that we not only don’t produce technology, but we don’t embrace it early enough (I would love to back up this argument with some real fieldwork, but that never kept a blogger from writing).
This lack of innovation is the result of almost nonexistent venture capitalism, and technology research. My claim is, for reversing the current brain drain, and making it more appealing for returnees, there should be more investing in basic research and venture capital available. Well, I know that’s a lot to ask for a developing country, but it’s an investment that really pays off (specially since the leadership for such a move are already more than willing to do it).