The Business Year

Karen Abudinen

COLOMBIA - Telecoms & IT

Karen Abudinen

Former Minister, Telecommunications and Information Technologies


Karen Abudinen is a lawyer from Universidad del Norte. Her career began at the Interamerican Bank for Development and the World Bank. After nine years abroad, she returned to Colombia and began working at the Foundation Nu3, impacting the lives of thousands of children and their families. In 2013 she was designated Secretaria de Gestión Social in the Alcaldí­a de Barranquilla and in 2014, she worked as Directora de Primera Infancia del Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF). In 2016, she took office as Secretaria de Educación en la Alcaldí­a de Barranquilla, and in 2017, she was given the position Directora Nacional del ICBF. In 2018, she was named by president Iván Duque as Consejera Presidencial para las Regiones. She was, until recently, the Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technologies.

A core mission of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technologies is to increase and facilitate access to telecommunication technologies to all Colombians to improve their lives.

What are the ministry’s priorities as well as its medium- and long-term objectives?

We structured our work at the ICT Ministry on three main pillars seeking to connect, reactivate, and communicate projects enabling us to bring connectivity to 70% of Colombian homes by August 2022, as well as providing our citizens with digital opportunities. We launched an economic reactivation package to mitigate the effects of the pandemic for businesspeople, entrepreneurs, the media, students, and those citizens interested in being trained in technological skills that facilitate innovation through new sources of income by making use of ICT. With this ambitious reactivation package, we aim to benefit up to 1 million people, by investing up to a COP949,519 million (USD251 million) in 11 different programs. For our medium-term connectivity objective, we auctioned the 700MHz spectrum in 2019 to extend the 4G coverage in our rural areas. By 2025, Colombia will have 80% of its rural towns with 4G mobile communication. Our long-term objective is to keep the Colombian society ahead of the technology curve in the region. We are currently structuring a 5G spectrum auction that will take place in December 2021. Along with the auction, the creation of a public-private venture that will accelerate the deployment of fixed and mobile infrastructure as a service for any ISP or Mobile Services Provider to use in those areas where private investment may not be economically feasible.

Which areas of the technology world offer growth opportunities for Colombia, and how does the ministry work to support the BPO industry and the information services sector?

By 2019, the BPO sector accounted for nearly 10% of the GDP of services in the country, creating 501,854 jobs and providing nearly 11% of the services exports. The ICT Ministry has been working to implement the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) Specialization project since 2020, encouraging and promoting innovation in those companies whose activities are associated with the 4IR as a driver for growth and productivity. In 2021, 300 companies will benefit from digital content creation and the IT industry products and services. The project has two secondary lines. The first one seeks to improve the culture and the quality of innovation management of those companies in the IT and digital content creation industry, which carry out activities associated with the 4IR. The idea is to stimulate research, development, and innovation (R&D&i) within these companies, increasing their income and productivity and optimizing their products and services. The second one seeks to strengthen their abilities and tools to improve the business outlook of companies in the IT and digital creation industry that carry out activities associated with the 4IR. The ICT Ministry launched in 2020 an ambitious initiative to train in coding up to 100,000 of our Colombian citizens. This initiative will cover the ongoing deficit in the IT industry of 70,000 software developers. By doing so we will benefit the local market, as well as the international market through BPO.

What is the ICT Mission 2022?

We want Colombia to become a cradle of technological talent, especially in terms of programmers. To do so we launched ICT Mission 2022 (Misión TIC 2022), a program that will train up to 100,000 programmers by 2022. The initiative has two tracks. The first one is focused on students from public schools who are in 10th and 11th grades, and the second one is for Colombian high school graduates over the age of 15 who are interested in writing code. In 2021, 54,250 people were enrolled and 44,250 of them belong to Route 2 and are beginning their training in 10 highly recognized universities, half of which are public universities. We have also been working with businesses in the country on an employability plan, so they become aware of the talent of our programmers. We are committed to creating job opportunities for those who graduate and those who are starting their professional lives. Thanks to that employability model, we have 2,600 graduated students so far.



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