How Buenos Aires's IT district Parque Patricios aims to copy best practices from global technology districts.
BY CARLOS PIROVANO
As technology pervades nearly every facet of our lives, it is of no surprise to witness the rise of technology districts and science cities being constructed around the world. The respective governments of countries with such cities tout their myriad economic benefits as well as the enhancement of human capital.
These cities seek to transform what are often depressed industrial parks into centers of information technology (IT), bioengineering, software development and telecommunications. Included in and around these areas are more efficient public transportation systems, residential areas, hospitals, schools and modernized public facilities.
Shangai’s Caohejing Hi-Tech Park in China and the International Tech Park Bangalore in India were two of the first major technology districts to be built in the last few decades and are two of the few built before 2000. They are two of the most successful ones today. The former sits on 400 acres and hosts 1,200 companies, while the latter is four times smaller and has 145 companies yet employs 24,000 people, a large amount for a small concentrated area. Both districts are main reasons why both China and India are currently considered global leaders in exporting technological innovation.
Similar projects are being developed or constructed in Dublin, Barcelona, Singapore and Abu Dhabi. In the United States, California’s Silicon Valley and North Carolina’s Research Triangle serve as examples for the country’s next proposed science city in Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC. Each one has created or will create thousands of jobs. Barcelona’s technology district alone will create 150,000 jobs.
PARQUE DE LOS PATRICIOS
One of the more interesting places where plans for a technology district have been formed is Buenos Aires, as it seeks to become Latin America’s hub for information technology. The proposed project, located in a dilapidated area in the southern part of the city called Parque de los Patricios, has the advantage of observing what has worked and what has not in the above cities.
Like previous examples, Buenos Aires, a port city that employs almost 50,000 people in the IT sector, hopes to create a green and modern space that brings together the private sector, entrepreneurs, academia and the community at large. Unlike some others, its advantage lies in its location in the center of the public sphere—the country’s capital city—and its relative lack of competition over becoming the regional IT hub.
More than 75 percent of all Argentine IT-related business activities occur in Buenos Aires, which already counts Google, Microsoft, Verizon, IBM and Sun among its 900 large IT companies working there. Almost 1,000 small IT companies work in the capital as well, demonstrating the city’s ability to cater to companies with varying portfolios.
A full third of the country’s population lives in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area, which is already a regional hub for transnational transportation and shipments. Additionally, the city will offer generous tax incentives, preferential credit lines and subsidies, many of which are geared toward small and mid-sized companies.
Citizens of Parque de los Patricios, like their counterparts in other cities, will be incentivized by being employed during construction, seeing their communities modernized and having the value of their property rise.
Shangai’s Caohejing Hi-Tech Park serves as the model for Parque de los Patricios and other IT districts with regard to the national economic impact. The total value of exports generated by companies in Caohejing exceeds US$11 billion. Since 40 of the Fortune Global 500 companies have operations in the park, foreign investment from them and other companies reaches the hundreds of millions of dollars, fueling further growth.
Beyond the economic impact, there is a social one as well. Ultimately, those living in and around technology districts will profit the most, as they become integrated in a fast-growing sector that serves the entire world by leading the way on some of the most complex global issues through research and innovation. Although the technology districts’ economic benefits are what initially bring them to large cities, the human element—employment and entrepreneurship— will be the force that maintains and advances them.
Carlos Pirovano is Buenos Aires Under-Secretary of Government Investment