Panama, Casco Viejo
Casco Antiguo, San Felipe
Before I worked at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute I spent a year (or two?) at Senacyt which is Panama´s version of a Ministry of Technology. While working at their Public Relations department, I had a global overview of the institution´s programs, which always amazed me. Panama isn´t regarded as a high- tech country, and if you ask anyone (inside or outside Panama) on how techy our government is they would probably give you a blank look.
But Senacyt (Secretaria Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología) was already administrating incredible programs, providing internet in schools for places as remote as Darien or running DNA laboratories and setting up programs to involve schools on science and innovation. And so much more and bizarre I couldn´t even start to figure it out. But I have to admit, they don´t really reach out to the media, I guess the usual lack of funds.
However, (and knowing the usual lack of funds issue it amazed me) I opened today´s newspaper (La Prensa, page 47A) and there it was, they are launching their 4th Technology and Innovation Awards with an amazing budget of 8 million dollars to distribute between the winners. Wao. For Panama that is a huge and radical step forward and an enormous effort to close the technology gap. Something is really changing from inside out. The categories involve: business innovation, research and development, science against poverty, incentives to sciente and technology activiites and new initiatives from the tech data base Panama Resuelve.
According to the note, since 2005 they have already implemented 14.1 million dollars on diferent projects, but what they are looking for is to increase Panama´s competitivity through science and (more importantly) innovation. And just to sweeten the deal, the category with the biggest award is business innovation with a top award of $200,000 financed by the World Bank.
Between Senacyt and the City of Knowledge, a recently approved e commerce law and an increasing government effort to digitalize their procedures Panama is on the right track.
What does that have to do with Casco Viejo? absolutely nothing. Although they are located 15 minutes away!
By the way and speaking of technology, COPA (Panama´s main international airline) also maid an announcement today. They inaugurated their first plane simulator. Aparently it is the first equipment of this sort in Latin America and it simulates the brazilian Embraer 190 airplane. It is also located in City of Knowledge.
This simulator has been designed to run at least 7000 flight hours and will be a valuable trainning resource, especially for local pilots which had to travel to Canada to get proper trainning. By installing this simulator, now COPA will be a trainning Hub for the region. Already Mexico will start to bring pilots and so is Ecuador. The Embraer 190 is COPA´s second simulator. The first one is the Boeing 737.
All this 15 minutes away from a 300 year old city. Isn´t it a crazy world?