The Road to Building Ecuador’s City of Knowledge

I admit it, I’m a nomad. A mighty technomad at that. 
 It’s a term I wear with pride. My tiny home is wirelessly connected to the max. It’s a home on wheels that travels where I go — which is pretty much everywhere, all the time.
 But lately, my roots have been pretty….well…stuck in my birthplace of North America — a place I never thought I’d end up. This is because I spent pretty much ALL of the 90’s experiencing Eastern Europe’s fledgling democracy via various soviet era public infrastructure, sampling more than my fair share of local customs and 20 something adventures.
 I had been itching for new stomping grounds. But rather than return to the region that captured my fancy and shaped my global outlook for close to nine years, it was South America that dangled itself like a jewel before me.
 Maybe it was the stories of various Northern California friends partaking in various Amazonian plant rituals deep in the heart of Peru that got my imagination stirring. Most likely, it was a shift in my awareness as to the riches of biodiversity that lay just to the south (Cacao Nibs and Yerba Mate anyone?). Just perhaps, the advent of 2012 and the various conjecture over the supposed “end” of the Mayan calendar piqued my interest.
 Whatever it was, Latin America had me hot and bothered. Living in Austin, Texas amidst a large Hispanic population, I was on the edge of the new world and something was drawing me in closer.
 I’m not into traveling for traveling’s sake. I’ve never been on a cruise, nor do I end up on tours. I learn as I go and I go to learn.
 I’m concerned about the world-at-large and the appropriate use of technology at the doorstep of Artificial Intelligence. After all, I work for the corporation who gave the whole AI paradigm it’s first friendly, helpful persona (Watson). Being at the intersection between humanism, futurism and environmental degradation is enough to keep me motivated to stay engaged, agile and on the move (see: Technomad).
 So what brings me to this blog right here right now?
 IBM’s Corporate Service Corps.
 It was a program I had envisioned since my recruitment to Big Blue in 2000. Having done my own like-minded stint in Hungary and Yugoslavia, working as a consultant for various technology initiatives, I imagined such an opportunity to transfer skills and knowledge to those in need would serve both IBMers and organizations world-wide very well indeed.
 Somehow, my musings became reality — and within a few years, IBM’s CSC was in full effect.

By 2012, I was ready to take on my own assignment — and after being accepted, I was delegated to a month in Peru. Due to unfortunate circumstances, I had to decline. Same thing happened in 2014 when I was reassigned to Columbia.
 Finally, after my own personal dust had settled, I finally managed to squeeze into the Ecuador program — IBM’s second such in the country.
 Pre-work started in November, 2015 and with that, we delved into the protocol of the CSC experience, facilitated by CSC alumn and Pyxera Global, IBM’s partner organization who handled logistics and volunteer opportunities. After many weeks of anticipation, our project assignments arrived like gifts under the Christmas tree.
 Mine? Working in a team of three, we’re tasked to help market a formidable undertaking — boosting the visibility and marketability of a city in the Andes highlands called Yachay, a city whose sole aim is to generate a knowledge-based economy.
 Yachay is aiming to be the region’s next Silicon Valley. It’s also working on weaning itself from government funding by 2017 by attracting private investors in various industries. For me, it’s a marketing-meet-futurism dream set ironically in a region rife with lightly snoring volcanoes and thin mountain air. It could very well be the perfect storm for seeding the future, much like the earthquake prone Silicon Valley bred an urgency to risk, create and innovate.
Over the next couple of months, I’ll be writing about what I find out about the progress of Yachay and sharing it on various social platforms. Please do comment, ask questions, get in touch, consider a deeper dive.

“Calling all investors: Come be part of an ecosystem that set on elevating Ecuador and Latin America to the global innovation stage.”