A Mobile Development Corridor in Mexico Puts the Americas and Google On Notice

The state of Jalisco, Mexico, and particularly its capital city Guadalajara, is becoming a hotbed for mobile application development. There are many reasons for this, but one is …

The state of Jalisco, Mexico, and particularly its capital city Guadalajara, is becoming a hotbed for mobile application development. There are many reasons for this, but one is the important role played by Guadalajara’s Western Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESO) and its Program for Management of Innovation and Technology (PROGINNT).

“ITESO is a university with an impeccable history and reputation,” says Manuel Gonzalez Arce, Nokia’s communications director for northern Latin America. “This is an educational institution devoted to the development of the country.”

Nokia has partnered with ITESO to expand the company’s research and development capabilities in Mexico, exploring technological innovation that could positively affect the company’s prospects around the world.  This means engaging young developers who can work with relevant technology platforms.

“The ITESO alliance is aimed at providing developers and entrepreneurs access to the tools, training, experience, infrastructure and support necessary to develop applications on Nokia and Windows Phone platforms,” says Gonzalez Arce.

It also acts as a crucible for other businesses seeking human talent. There are 26 tech companies resident in PROGINNT’s 2,400-square-meter park. The opportunity is real: comScore has ranked Mexico as one of the most “engaged” social-networking populations on earth. Overall, comScore says that last year the Latin America region saw the biggest jump in its online population, up 16 percent to 129.3 million visitors.

“Mexico is interested in reducing the digital divide,” says Gonzalez Arce. “And the State of Jalisco has contributed with significant technological achievements, boosting developers and innovation.”

Gonzalez Arce adds that the Guadalajara area has been able to attract large technology companies. Examples include IBM, Intel, Freescale Semiconductor, Hitachi, HP, Siemens, Flextronics, Oracle, TCS and Jabil Circuit. That’s good news, because Latin America still has a long way to go to match the computing and internet penetration typical of OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. In fact, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) estimates it will take Latin America a staggering 142 years to bridge the computing gap.

Jalisco’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

But that is also what makes Jalisco remarkable. In a part of the world where few people use mobile technology to bank, shop or even browse the Internet, having a strong culture of young developers with an entrepreneurial spirit can make a big difference.

“The state of Jalisco is a national leader on issues related to technology and innovation,” says Gonzalez Arce. “For example, Guadalajara was selected as the location of Mexico’s Creative Digital City. We hope the ITESO laboratory can be an important link to the project.”

Google has taken note as well. In an interview with El Empresario, Peter Fernandez, Google head of mobile and social products for Latin America, indicated that, when it comes to mobile, Mexico is “incredibly important” to Google because it leads Latin America with 25 million smartphone users. And within Mexico it is Jalisco where some of the most promising activity is occurring.

“Nokia and ITESO are part of a movement that is driving technology development in Mexico, and particularly in Jalisco, which has taken a leadership position,” says Gonzalez Arce. “The creation of the first mobile software laboratory in Latin America means opportunity for entrepreneurs interested in developing these applications.”

There is certainly room to grow. According to comScore, online activity per capita in Latin America’s most active countries – Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico – only averages between 7.1 hours and 10.7 hours per month. To get things in gear, government will have to be part of the solution.

“The Jalisco government has been in constant contact with us, and is very close to the laboratory in terms of financial support,” says Gonzalez Arce. “They see this as a promising incubator for application development and technological innovation.”

Clearly the private sector, government and educational institutions in Jalisco agree on the importance of mobile device application development. The stats support their confidence: Google data indicates that Internet searches in Mexico originating from mobile devices jumped from 10 percent to 25 percent in the past year. This is part of a strong global trend; in Japan, for example, 50 percent of Internet searches are now initiated from mobile devices.

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At this rate, the IDB’s estimate of a 142-year lag would seem to be overly pessimistic. After all, the IDB was referencing installed computers, whereas it is mobility that is on the move to transform Latin America.

This story was first published by NSAM’s sister publication Global Delivery Report.

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