Mexico and Digital Creative Cities
The establishment of a Digital Creative City in Guadalajara, Jalisco, puts Mexico in a leading position within “creative economies” worldwide. Guadalajara’s Digital Creative City will be designed to attract high-level investment in the information and communications technologies sector.
The term “creative economy” was coined in 2001 by John Howkins, a journalist who now acts as a consultant to over 30 governments around the world. In an interview with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Howkins defined such an economy as one in which “the major inputs and outputs are ideas […] it’s an economy where people spend most of their time in having ideas. It’s an economy or society where people think about their capacity to have an idea; where they don’t just have a nine-to-five job, something routine and repetitive, which is what most people did for many years whether it was in the field or in the factory. It’s where people, doing the most common of things –talking to their friends, having a glass of wine, waking up at four o’clock in the morning–, think they can have an idea that actually works. Not just an idea with some sort of esoteric pleasure, but rather the driver of their career, thoughts of status and thoughts of identity.
A ‘creative economy’ operates through transactions in creative products. Each transaction may have two complementary values: intangible intellectual property and physical carrier or platform. In some industries, such as digital software, the intellectual property value is higher. In others, such as art, the unit cost of the physical object is higher.”
In this context, Howkins is referring to a production model based on creativity, on ideas that break with established patterns. As for the link between economy and creativity, he states that: “Managing creativity involves knowing, first, when to exploit the non-rivalrous nature of ideas and, second, when to assert intellectual property rights and make one’s ideas-as-products rivalrous. These two decision points are the crux of the management process.”
The good news is that developing countries stand to benefit from a creative economy. In 2008, for instance, emerging economies exported “creative” goods and services valued at some 176 billion usd –equivalent to 43% of those traded by the world’s creative industries as a whole that year. What is even more interesting is the fact that these figures were posted in the midst of an international economic crisis, which points to the creative economy as a vehicle for growth and fighting poverty, even under the most unfavorable of economic conditions.
Creative economies have, in turn, given rise to “digital creative cities” like Toronto, San Francisco, Paris, Prague, Dublin, Skopje, Singapore, Wellington and, recently, the Mexican city of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco.
Take Wellington, for instance. In November 2011, New Zealand’s capital announced a digital strategy and a threepronged plan of action: to turn the city into a place where the world’s most talented people would want to live; inspire the development of ideas and creativity and make it a hub for digital activities.
Based on the above, one could argue that the existence of a digital creative city presupposes the existence of a digital city, something that seems simple enough but that implies countless challenges. First off, digital cities have digital citizens who hold down digital jobs in an environment that utilizes digital infrastructure. Yet if a digital city is a real city it will have multiple neighborhoods, markets, cultural areas, residential streets, business districts, industrial corridors and all kinds of infrastructure. The notion of a digital city takes this basic urban approach and applies online technology and infrastructure to jobs, local events, entertainment, healthcare, the environment and everything else that intervenes in a person’s life.
For a digital city to grow and prosper, it must represent multiple viewpoints, opinions and efforts and be built on the principles of openness, empowerment of its citizens and the presence of actors in both the private and public sectors.
Multiplicity is the key word here but it is generally accepted that digital cities are engineered to:
• Connect the online world to the real world.
• Emphasize the use of online technologies by local communities.
• Set up digital offices.
• Create local events.
• Create jobs.
• Develop multimedia products on a large scale.
These criteria underline an open platform that fosters innovation and, in turn, helps create jobs. Thus, plans to turn Guadalajara into a digital creative city are key to the development of a creative economy in Mexico. The state of Jalisco leads the way in terms of high-tech industries. According to figures furnished by the National Chamber of the Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technologies Industry (CANIETI), hi-tech products and services make up over 60% of Jalisco’s exports. The state has some 700 hi-tech companies employing 90,000 people, with Guadalajara gearing up to take over as the leading developer of digital media in all of Latin America.
For all digital intents and purposes, Guadalajara has effectively joined the list of cities that have taken on the major technological innovations driven by the so-called knowledge-based economy. Cities like Singapore, which has digital urban developments such as One-North and Mediapolis in Singapore; MediaCityUK in Manchester, the new headquarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), tailored to meet the needs of the creative and digital industries; and the Digital Media City in Seoul, South Korea, the first high-tech complex in the world for digital technologies, comprising 56 square hectares of state-of-the-art infrastructure, networked offices and cultural centers, all offering incentive plans for investors.
Drawing on these international experiences, Guadalajara’s digital creative city will be designed to attract high-level investment in the information and communications technology sector. We are talking about the largest multimedia project in Latin America, financed with state, federal and municipal funds. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will be acting as consultant in the development of the complex, which will create an estimated 25,000 direct jobs at leading global firms specializing in the development of software, video games, movies and mobile devices.
Located in the Parque Morelos district of Guadalajara, in addition to a cluster of multimedia companies, this sustainable urban project will also feature a residential area for the people employed by the companies that set up shop there.
Among the many advantages Guadalajara offers investors are wide experience in the new technologies sector and human capital to spare. This cosmopolitan Mexican city also shares the same time zone as several major cities in the US. Indeed, proximity to and connectivity with the US were factors MIT took into consideration when choosing Guadalajara over the 11 Mexican cities that competed for certification as digital creative cities.
As a member of the global network of digital creative cities, Guadalajara aims to:
• Facilitate international relations between educational, business and community organizations, which specialize in digital media.
• Create new business activities between jurisdictions.
• Foster growth and innovation in existing digital media businesses.
• Develop innovative digital media activities in each locality.
• Provide incentives for public and private sector investment in advanced digital technologies and foster ties between jurisdictions.
• Broaden workforce development and educational opportunities in digital media.
• Provide technical support for digital media creators.
• Develop strategies to address rapid changes in digital technologies.
• Keep stakeholders informed about emerging issues related to digital media, innovation and best practices.
Clearly, Guadalajara’s digital waybill is a policy of cooperation with other cities in Mexico and abroad, a strategy that opens up the possibility of pooling efforts and reaping the mutual benefits. The fact that 11 cities contended for the status of digital creative city indicates there is huge potential for other Mexican cities to follow in Guadalajara’s footsteps.
Digital cities aim to use new-generation technologies to build the infrastructure of the future. In a world that is becoming smarter and increasingly interconnected, change, often rapid and unpredictable, is the only constant businesses and governments can count on. That is why it is imperative to accompany this infrastructure with the right incentives and make sure conditions are ripe for digital cities to flourish in the interests of society at large.