New MinTic in Colombia

Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2018


A new Colombian government was sworn-in on Tuesday and that means a new Minister of ICT, known by its Spanish neologism “MinTic”. She is Sylvia Constaín who has worked for Apple and Facebook.

Her full bio appears at the bottom, unofficially translated (by me) from the official MinTic press release.

President Iván Duque’s inaugural speech highlighted the importance of the sector but he spent most of his time on the ‘orange economy’ (cultural and entertainment industries) which is a particular specialty of his.

I attended an industry meeting the next day and the rumors / expectations were that most of Costaín’s efforts would be directed to developing what might be called the broader ICT context (including the ‘orange economy’) rather than focusing on narrow technological issues.

This is hardly a change. The last MinTic[i], David Luna, a career politician, spent far less time on the ‘blocking and tackling’ of network issues like penetration of specific technologies or industry structure. His predecessor, Diego Molano came from Telefonica and so was much more attuned to what might be called traditional ‘telecom’ issues.

As I wrote about Duque’s eventual choice (before Constaín was named) there was “no guarantee that he or she knows much of anything about ICT except as a user.” Nor did I think this was necessarily a bad thing because, at least in Colombia, there is “less of a requirement for the Minister to be ‘ICT-literate’ because the (theoretically) independent technocratic agencies (regulator and spectrum management agency) are designed to have the necessary knowledge and experience to make informed decisions.”

As a bonus we got someone who has worked for not one but two of the so-called “Internet Giants”. (Unlike poor Mexico where the leading candidate for Secretary of Communications is an octogenarian whose last exposure to the telecom market was before Carlos Slim bought Telmex.)

That said, there are also rumors that infrastructure will not be neglected. The new team has concerns that the country’s technological framework is not up to the demands of the ‘orange economy’.

So the Minister may be talking about minimum broadband speeds, fiber penetration and 4G coverage after all.

As to 5G, that is most likely an issue for her eventual replacement. Presidential terms in Colombia are only 4 years. The average tenure of a MinTIC is much shorter.

Sylvia Constaín bio from MinTic press release…

“The official is an Economist and Master in Administration from Universidad de los Andes. In addition, she is a Fellow in International Relations at Harvard University. She is an executive with more than 20 years of international experience in strategy design and execution; government relations; public politics; international negotiations, management and development.

In her career, she has been Facebook’s Head of Public Policy for the Southern Cone and Apple’s Manager of Government Relations for Spanish-speaking South America.

At the Colombian Embassy in Washington, she was Plenipotentiary Minister and Head of Relations with the United States Congress. She also served as Deputy Director of the Commercial Office of Colombia in Washington, and as Director of Foreign Investment and Services of the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

She has also been a consultant to companies, governments, financial institutions and development agencies.”

[i] I am shamefully skipping over Juan Sebastián Rozo who served from April 26, 2018 to August 7, 2018. His instructions from the President (if he ever spoke to him after the swearing-in) were likely to keep the ship sailing and stay out of the newspapers.


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