Boosting the Information Technology and Information Technology-Enabled Services (IT-ITES) Sector in Nicaragua
Through this grant, Nicaraguan participants have increased their capacity and skills for designing and implementing policies to develop the IT-ITES sector, and as an ultimate objective, to implement one of the pillars of the National Development Plan. The exchange helped strengthen the collaboration between government, academia and private sector. Finally, it helped maintain momentum with the CARCIP Project and raised awareness to use CARCIP as a platform to catalyze the IT-ITES sector and to achieve the goals of the NDP.
The Government of Nicaragua, as per the National Development Plan (2012-2016), identified the need to improve the Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship framework as a source for economic and social transformation. However, the Government lacked the skills and knowledge to design and implement public policies to develop the IT-ITES sector and foster ICT-led innovation as a tool to attain this goal, and previous initiatives to boost the industry had not yielded the expected results.
The purpose of this knowledge exchange was to bring public and private stakeholders together to identify the main needs and challenges to design, implement and prioritize specific programs and policies to develop the IT-ITES sector in Nicaragua, and for Government, Academia and private sector to work together to successfully design and implement these programs and policies.
The knowledge exchange consisted of three different parts: study-tour to Mexico (October 2015), study-tour to Colombia (February 2016), expert visit and multi-stakeholder workshop in Nicaragua (October 2016).
The idea of the knowledge exchange came up in the preparation phase of CARCIP Nicaragua Project (P155235). The World Bank had already been working with countries such as Mexico and Colombia in the development of the IT-ITES sector, but the Government of Nicaragua had scarce knowledge and it was one of the main areas identified in their National Development Plan.
The Nicaraguan delegation was formed by a comprehensive representation of the IT sector in Nicaragua, formed by government, private industry and academia representatives.
Mexico and Colombia were the knowledge providers. Both countries have successfully developed their IT-ITES sector, but each one has taken a different approach, and this complementarity made it interesting for Nicaragua to visit both. In Mexico, the aim of this visit was to understand the importance of comprehensive and multi-partner policies to foster the IT-ITES sector. In Colombia, to understand the role of innovation and talent development to boost the sector. The World Bank has had a long-term relationship with stakeholders in the sector, and this helped the knowledge providers address the message of the meetings to the context and needs of Nicaragua.
The approach used by the team in the knowledge exchange was the following:
- Personal meetings with potential participants (September 2015)
- Study-tour to Mexico (October 2015): 10 participants
- Study-tour to Colombia (February 2016): 7 participants
- Expert visit and multi-stakeholder workshop in Nicaragua (October 2016): 70 participants. Worked in mixed teams to design specific actions to develop the IT-ITES industry in Nicaragua.
The participants agreed that, to achieve the objective, they should work on (i) the link between government, academia and private firms; (ii) the creation of an industry association; (iii) closing the gap between the offer and the demand of skills; and (iv) a common vision for all the stakeholders.
By the end of the knowledge exchange (October 2016), participants:
- were able to identify the main needs and challenges to design, implement and prioritize specific programs and policies to develop the IT-ITES sector in Nicaragua;
- learned the need for Government, Academia, and private sector to work together to successfully design and implement these programs and policies;
- developed an Action Plan, which might be used as an input for the implementation of CARCIP Nicaragua (P155235), project that focuses on advancing the IT-ITES industry.
On the long-term (October 2020), participants are expected to lead the change and to have policies to develop IT-ITES sector in place.
The knowledge exchange had about 70 direct beneficiaries and 200 indirect beneficiaries. It had an operational impact and made receivers move to action for a more effective operationalization of the National Development Plan. Without this knowledge exchange, it would have probably taken them much longer to understand the right policies. Participants saw that there is not a unique way to achieve the objective, as the approaches taken in Mexico and Colombia were different, and they avoided mistakes that were stalled before the exchange, such as the lack of teamwork or country-wise vision.
The World Bank team got valuable lessons from the knowledge exchange:
- Build on a World Bank project to achieve sustainability of the acquired knowledge; in this case the CARCIP Nicaragua Project.
- Have a local counterpart as a team member in each of the countries visited. The team was supported by local World Bank consultants that were familiar with the IT-ITES sector in Colombia and Mexico, and who helped schedule the meetings and with the logistics.
- Prepare the invitations well in advance, as sometimes governments need to provide their clearance and this process takes long. The approval process for the invitations took long in the last part of the exchange (expert visit to Nicaragua), and as a result, some representatives from private companies found it difficult to attend, due to previous commitments.
- Sign a commitment letter, to ensure commitment and participation from all the invitees during the whole process.
What was the contribution of the World Bank?
The World Bank acted as convener, intermediary and advisor in the knowledge exchange. The knowledge exchange was supported by a US4 49,950 grant from the South-South Facility and it benefited from World Bank staff and consultants’ time from CARCIP Nicaragua (P155235) project budget. This project benefited from both IDA and regional IDA funds. Staff from World Bank country offices in Nicaragua, Mexico and Colombia were also very helpful and offered their time to carry out this activity.
The knowledge providers in this exchange were Mexican and Colombian organizations working in the fields of government-led IT policies, IT exports, IT associations, shared spaces, entrepreneurship, talent development and ICT-based innovation, among others. Meetings were held with a total of 40 institutions.
Four experts from these countries were invited to Nicaragua for the last part of the exchange, to share their experiences and contribute to the design of some specific actions for the development of the IT-ITES sector in Nicaragua.
The World Bank team had to leverage in-kind contributions from the Nicaraguan Government counterpart, which covered the transportation and meals within Nicaragua. Staff time was also provided by them to organize the logistics.
The knowledge exchange was built on the CARCIP Nicaragua Project, which is about to start its implementation, so this will ensure the sustainability of the outcomes. The last part of the knowledge exchange included a multi-stakeholder dialogue, where the audience participated in a workshop to design an Action Plan with specific actions for CARCIP. The Government was able to use the take-outs from this activity as an input for project implementation.
Representatives from private companies are exploring possibilities to develop a twinning arrangement with the Mexican Institute of Telecommunications (IMT) to develop an IT-ITES industry association, which would lead into a long-term engagement. In addition, two Universities from Mexico and Nicaragua have already started to draft a joint project on entrepreneurship.
The delegation from Nicaragua was comprised of a comprehensive representation of the IT sector, and included representatives from the Government, academia and private sector:
Quotes from beneficiaries
“The key in the IT-ITES industry is the linkage between academia, private industry and government. This is the major outcome we have achieved here today” said Michael Campbell, from ProNicaribe
“From the very first moment that we got to know about CARCIP project, we started to reconsider how we work on open innovation and this exchange has helped us know how” said Evelyn Martinez from the Central American University
“I am committed to take the lead in organizing the private sector and to work together with other companies towards a common goal for the country” said Roberta Lopez from Landterra:
Slideshow 1, Final presentation (South-South summary), link.
Photo 1, Center for Entrepreneurs in Medellin, Elene Allende Letona, link.
Formal Meeting in Mexico, Elene Allende Letona, link.
Story Author: Aldo Morri