Technological change is happening faster than ever and Mexico  is leading the charge by creating one of the first creative digital cities in Latin America. At the end of January 2012, President Felipe Calderon inaugurated Mexico’s first Digital City project in Guadalajara. The project will be located downtown, occupying over 600 acres near the Morelos Park (Parque Morelos) area, combining the oldest and most traditional aspects of the city with a new, modern and vibrant working environment. Several governmental and private organizations are teaming up to collaborate on this initiative including ProMexico, the governments of Jalisco and Guadalajara, the Secretary of Economy, Professors Dennis Frenchman and Carlo Ratti, Accenture, and the National Chamber of the Electronic, Telecommunications and IT industries.
The plans are to create a city within a city, one that boasts a digital nervous system, connecting people on both a personal and social level. Part of the vision of the creators of the Digital City is to create a future model for other digital cities that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. Project construction is scheduled to begin in August of 2012 with the final master plan being locked down in June. Overall, Digital City Guadalajara is expected to bring in investment of over $10 Billion USD and will eventually create over 20,000 jobs.
Guadalajara’s Digital City  will be similar to other successful projects that are currently up and running in Abu Dhabi, Seoul, New York City, Barcelona and the UK. According to the presentation, the space in the Digital City will be an “integrated model of mixed use of land for living, work, learn and habitational requirements.” Recently, I spoke with Stephen Slater, CEO of Blu Croix, a consultant who is working with ProMexico to bring digital and creative California based companies to Guadalajara. When I asked him about what sets Guadalajara’s Digital City apart he said “It is a key location for Spanish and English product development. The amount of educated, bilingual, creative energy in Guadalajara is staggering. It also offers great proximity to the US and the growing Latin market(s) in the US, and it is a key foothold for reaching Central and South American markets.” The fact that Guadalajara is only two hours ahead of Los Angeles and one hour behind New York will make it especially attractive to companies who are running on tight deadlines and want to make sure their teams are working efficiently.
Guadalajara is already a tech hub and is home to a number of multinationals like HP, Dell, Flextronics, and IBM. With federal government funding, the project hopes to attract the likes of Time Warner, Viacom, News Corp, The Walt Disney Company, Activision, and Sony. IBM, which already has a strong presence in Guadalajara, has announced its participation in the project. Not only will the Digital City project provide a home for the world’s most creative companies, it will also provide a tremendous opportunity for talented workers in Mexico to be part of something exciting and innovative.
While many firms from inside and outside of Mexico have expressed interest in the project, Slater says “The best fit for the CCD are firms that are focused on the creation of digital content, whether that’s music, video games, movies, cell phone apps, graphic arts or web design. The firms that will fit best are those exceptional few that exhibit high energy, high levels of creativity, and a strong thirst for high bandwidth internet and network connectivity and a hunger for the synergy of collaboration.”
Currently, there are plans for two new hotels in Guadalajara’s downtown area in preparation for the influx of visitors to the new Digital City. One of the hotels will be built right next to the Cathedral. The hotel industry in Guadalajara, which reached all-time high occupancy rate during the Pan-American Games in 2011, is looking forward to reap the rewards of hosting visitors and potential participants in the Digital City program.
In addition to all of foreign direct investment that the Digital City will bring to Mexico, the National Chamber of the Electronics, Telecommunications and Information Technology Industry has a goal to create exports of $30 Billion USD.
Entrepreneurs and executives from Guadalajara will take advantage of the fact that this year’s G-20 Summit is being hosted in Los Cabos, Baja California, to present the Digital City project to leaders from around the world. ProMexico will also be heavily promoting the project in its more than 30 offices, hoping to catch the eyes of potential investors and multimedia and IT companies.