Boosting Competitiveness in the Americas

By Tiffany Trader

October 13, 2014

The eighth Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF 2014) was held last week in Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. The annual event brings together leaders from government, academia and business to share best practices for enhancing competitiveness, innovation and prosperity in the Caribbean and the Americas. The forum arose from the recognition of the need to foster trade, entrepreneurialism, address immigration reforms and highlight the importance of investments in research and development as a key tool for competitiveness.

With the theme “The Human Imagination at Work: Driving Competitiveness, Powering Imagination,” topics for the 2014 ACF program encompassed innovation and green technologies, education and workforce development, entrepreneurship and small business development, and trade facilitation.

A related report from the Inter-American Competitiveness Network (RIAC), titled Signs of Competitiveness in the Americas, addresses many of the same issues. Material for the report is provided by RIAC member countries and experts in the fields of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in the American and the rest of the world.

One of the articles comes from Kevin Franklin, Executive Director, Institute for Computing in the Humanities, Arts and Social Science (I-CHASS) at the University of Illinois. Franklin starts out with the observation that “the production and consumption of knowledge drives competitiveness in the global economy.” Becoming, or remaining, competitive in this day and age requires the ability to collect, analyze and share data – and that hinges on computing.

In order to compete in the modern economy, regions around the world must quickly become “smart.” This means “they need to collect, process, and analyze data to both develop knowledge and act with increasing efficiency to make decisions that will strengthen their government, business, and education sectors and improve the quality of life of their citizens,” according to Franklin.

In 2009, the World Bank described the pillars of a Knowledge Based Economy thusly:

+ An economic and institutional regime that provides incentives for the efficient use of existing and new knowledge and the flourishing of entrepreneurship.
+ An educated and skilled population that can create, share, and use knowledge well.
+ An efficient innovation system of firms, research centers, universities, think tanks, consultants, and other organizations that can tap into the growing stock of global knowledge, assimilate and adapt it to local needs, and create new technology.
+ Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) that can facilitate the effective communication, dissemination, and processing of information.

Franklin posits that these same four cornerstones can guide the countries of the Americas on their path to becoming smart regions. Cross-border collaboration is essential, but determining the right mix of openness can be tricky. “Countries within the Americas must work together to balance open access and proprietary concerns,” remarks Franklin, “while also increasing support for data sharing and funding for collaborative cyber-infrastructures such as the Latin American High Speed Network RedCLARA (RedCLARA).”

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