The Business Year

Héctor Rodrí­guez

ECUADOR - Telecoms & IT

Learned Dreams

CEO, YACHAY Public Company


Héctor Rodrí­guez was born in Quito in 1980, and graduated from the Universidad Católica del Ecuador, where he studied Social Sciences as applied to International Relations. After later obtaining an MSc in government and public affairs from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, he has taught public policy courses in the Universidad Internacional del Ecuador and the Altos Estudios Nacionales (IAEN). He has also served as Executive Director of the Ecuadorean Agency for International Cooperation (AGECI) and as assessor for the National Secretariat for Planning and Development (SENPLADES). In addition, he has worked as President of the Directorate of the Ecuadorean Institute of Education Credit and Scholarships (IECE), and as General Subsecretary for Science, Technology, and Innovation.

"It is a pledge and program to direct Ecuadorean society toward a knowledge-based model."

Yachay University styles itself as the City of Knowledge. What does that mean?

Yachay University’s concept involves the creation of a science and technology park. A global city is going to be built where people can experience the latest technology and world-class companies can maintain permanent communication and exchange businesses. Its full name is Universidad de Investigación de Tecnologí­a Experimental, and it is a fundamental part of our overall project. National public-sector research centers are based across the university, and we are also partnering with a number of enterprises around the world in projects to develop R&D facilities within the city. From an economic perspective, one of the most important aspects of the city is entrepreneurship. As we seek investment from established companies, we offer them a complete business system to allow for the creation of new enterprises and start-ups. Essentially, Yachay is an ecosystem for innovation, with all systems, public services, and high-quality, advanced technologies in place. Any serious engagement in the ICT sector requires an excellent internet connection, power supply, and advanced manpower. YACHAY offers precisely that; i.e., the right infrastructure with public services comparable to the highest international standards. It is also important that we are not competing in the way China did in the international market 20 years ago, on the basis of having the lowest labor costs in the world. Rather, we are trying to develop a system known for having the most qualified engineers and scientists available. Classical academia in Latin America is not traditionally about connecting entrepreneurs and the industrial sector. We have a triple-helix concept, which aims to coordinate the relationship between the public sector, academia, and industry. The public sector and academia used to invest heavily in basic research, while industry, in contrast, pursued margins. Therefore, Yachay University bridges the gap between basic and applied research and the end product. We leverage human talent, infrastructure, and valuable incentives, such as lower transaction costs, to create a bank of innovative ideas. The state is a promoter of these initiatives; it has the will to advance into the knowledge-based economy and has invested what is necessary to guarantee that workers’ skills are nurtured. There are approximately 8,000 people studying abroad at well-known universities. These students can then return to the country and develop their own ideas, and Ecuador will channel hydrocarbon revenues into new facilities and other support mechanisms.

What is the importance of international relationships for the institution?

There is no restriction on benefiting from knowledge. We understand that knowledge has no boundaries, but we recognized, however, that our system was sub-standard, so we instituted a major reform in that system that includes new universities. Because of the low level of research, teaching, and overall performance, we began with an evaluation of the system. We proposed the creation of these four new universities. One of them is Yachay University, which was created with the purpose of becoming the prime academic institution in the region, the vocation of which is the development of experimental technologies to solve the problems of Ecuadorean society and guarantee the rights described in the constitution. In Ecuador, then, research is an element of the social contract in the new constitution. It is a pledge and program to direct Ecuadorean society toward a knowledge-based model.

How will you facilitate a transference of knowledge between social segments?

The national constitution recognizes three subsystems in our economy. The first one is the private sector, which guarantees the rights to private property, which is far removed from the model of the traditional socialist regime. The second subsystem is the state sector. And in Ecuador, we have another one, the popular solidarity economy, which involves communal and cooperative property. Ecuador is home to 14 nationalities, each with their own understanding of the law and the economy. Yachay University cannot merely develop a strategy that guarantees the active role of public enterprises. Its role is to develop the city holistically, and to commercialize technology. In the 1970s, we developed Petroecuador to create an oil-based economy, and in the 1980s we created Corporación Nacional de Telecomunicaciones to develop the ICT sector. We have developed Yachay because technology and knowledge underpin the future. The private sector is the developer of these new businesses, along with established companies. Our role as the state is to enable knowledge transfer from Yachay to the private companies that are developing the sector. The popular solidarity economy, which consists of cooperatives, such as collectives of banana farmers, is also important in Ecuador. One of the commercial failings of this sector is its lack of access to technology. This represents the difference between, for example, an Ecuadorean banana cooperative and Dole. Dole obtains its seeds from Monsanto; it purchases them at a low price and has its own laboratories. A banana cooperative may have 10,000 farmers, but lacks such technology, so it has to buy seeds from abroad. They are therefore tied to the technological package of fertilizers and pesticides that they have to import. The final price is also quite different. This type of business has no way of developing its own technology in order to be competitive. Yachay’s role is not only technological, but also social and educational when it comes to offering new opportunities to the community and introducing new ways to generate income.

“It is a pledge and program to direct Ecuadorean society toward a knowledge-based model.”

How do you foresee Yachay contributing to the Ecuadorean economy?

We expect Yachay to become the main technological center in Ecuador. It will become an incubator of technologies that will provide great benefits to the Ecuadorean people, all the while testing technologies in order to get the most of their potential. As such, Yachay is a concept with the potential to positively impact Ecuadorean society at large through a social system, rather than a commercially motivated marketing concept.

© The Business Year – May 2014



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