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PANAMA - Telecoms & IT

Jorge Ramón Arosemena Román

Executive President, City of Knowledge (CoK) Panama

Bio

Jorge Ramón Arosemena Román
has headed the management team of the City of Knowledge Foundation since its creation in 1997. He studied civil engineering at the University of Panama and obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in sociology from the University of San Luis, US. Between 1987 and 1993, he was project coordinator of the Action Committee for the Economic and Social Development of Central America (CADESCA) of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System. In the public sector, he has held positions of Executive Director of the Panamanian Institute of Tourism, Vice Minister of the Presidency, and Deputy Minister and Minister of Education.

"The pandemic brought many challenges, and also produced opportunities to improve several services."
CoK Foundation is working to promote social change through a humanist, scientific, and business approach, having introduced initiatives such as electric car chargers as well as creating a business incubator and coworking spaces for entrepreneurs.
How did the pandemic foster innovation, and what opportunities did it bring to the foundation?

The pandemic brought many challenges, and also produced opportunities to improve several services. CoK was able to support some of the measures adopted by the government of Panama; for example, we had networks and system media where people could do a follow-up with patients and facilitate access to medication. In addition, the Scientific Research Institute was on the frontlines and produced equipment to transport COVID-19 test samples. The training of medical doctors for intensive care units was also done at the CoK in the regional center for training in health via simulations. In Panama, the National Innovation Authority did an efficient job by integrating applications and networks that facilitated the way in which the country handled the pandemic. Innovation brought about new ideas and created new opportunities. Before the pandemic a small percentage of people used online payment methods before, though now a much larger segment of society is using e-commerce to take care of day-to-day situations. The pandemic brought different people together to identify the main problems and come up with some solutions. That led to a valuable national consultation exercise that pinpointed the key pending issues and led to over 200,000 people electronically presenting their views about regional and national problems and proposing ways to overcome those situations. Panama has to reconsider the way in which its system operates because we have one of the most unequal income distributions in the region. There is growing awareness that we need to find new ways to modernize our system. We have to go green. At the CoK we have introduced electric chargers for cars on campus, as well as solar panels to generate energy, among other measures. The green economy and the creative industries that we have promoted strongly will not provide all the answers to modernizing the capitalist system in Panama, but we consider they will contribute to explore new ways. For the first time in many years, there seems to be a consensus that we need to rethink our country and where we are going. Our mission is to be a center of innovation and promote social change from a humanist, scientific and business approach. If we keep doing the same things, we will not have any other results. We have to keep looking for new answers.

Through what initiatives are you currently fostering innovation?

Our innovation center has increased its presence in the country. We created the first business incubator in Panama and have acquired experience in the field. We have been extremely successful in promoting female entrepreneurs, which has been our most successful program. We have opened the entrepreneurial movement to all women in the country, even in remote regions. The program has been set as an example to be replicated in other countries, and the foundation has even invested in some of those initiatives. We are not here for profit but to expand our programs and reach out to more people. We have been increasing our coworking spaces. They have been growing rapidly and have been replicated in other institutions in the country. Today, Panama has a more solid entrepreneurial ecosystem the involves universities, business associations as well as government offices.

What steps is the country taking to innovate in green economy?

In general, the green economy and Panama have many assets to work from. For example, we have plenty of water, though there is still a large percentage of the population that does not have access to drinkable water. We have to learn how to better administer water. At CoK, we promote cyber tech every year with the support of the Israeli embassy. The green economy and the creative industries have potential in our countries, as do clean industries. Any answer has to be sustainable and get us to a higher level of production and distribution of wealth, because if not, social pressure will continue to increase.

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