Do we innovate or fabricate?
Tijuana is far from an innovative city, although it may be true that its massive growth has turned it into one of the most important cities in the country, this doesn’t make it the epicenter of technological development. In fact, the primary human resource development and R&D is based in Ensenada.
Delphi’s manager, one of the recent presenters during the last edition of Tijuana Innovadora, stated that the maquiladora business model has harmed Tijuana, in terms of human capital development and technical skill training. It is because of this, according to him, that it is hard to find people older than 35 years old with managerial skills or design and engineering capabilities. The State Competitiveness Index has scored Baja California at 26.07 points out of 100 points in the scale, which places it somewhere below the national medium of 34.95.
“Innovation” has become a hot term in political discussions, business discussions, and amongst advisors, consultants, and academics. But if we really ask the question: “what is innovation?” few would be able to answer correctly. To be clear, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), innovation is the “the implementation of a new or significantly improved product or process [or service], a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations”.
But, if we analyze Tijuana’s role in the global value chain, we would come to see that innovation, be it in products or services, is usually taking place elsewhere in the world.
Please don’t label me a pessimist, I want to delve into something that goes well beyond pessimism or optimism. Tijuana Innovadora bases itself on the triumph of the White Legend of Tijuana, which is to say that it sells Tijuana to the general public here and abroad as a city on its way to utopia.
Tijuana the Incubator
Let’s be honest, the real dynamics in this city is more similar to that of an incubator than an innovator. The institutions that foster innovation and development in this city are still in the embryonic stage. Similarly, projects aimed at transforming this city are still barely heating up their engines. So if anything, innovation is still in the oven, and is still only accessible to the few, which means that it isn’t really creating true social impact.
The Diaspora and the Delirium
During the prior edition, Pompous conferences were offered to those who could afford the cost of entrance; conferences that seemed more like motivational speeches and pats on the back than a place for discussion and constructive criticism. A mantra straight out of a self-help book was flaunted at guests: “thanks for being part of the magnificence.”
The Average Joe guest was stuffed into a room vastly occupied by a Telnor exhibition stand. If the Joe Six Pack continued his tour he could visit the stand of a cardboard company, and if he still had any patience left in him, a little further on he could watch the performance of a pickup ensemble certainly not targeted toward nor representative of Tijuana. For the elite, there was an opportunity to mingle and reaffirm their status by attending gala dinners.
This year’s edition is focused on the “Mexican Diaspora” and takes a shot at constructing a web with Mexicans on the other side of the border; “giving birth and giving a voice to them” . The formula is repeated and the marketing is refocused on the value of the city as the “window into Mexico.” Which is a way of saying, experience Tijuana-experience Mexico.
The delirium is apparent because as we pat ourselves on the back and reaffirm our identity as the the cradle of entrepreneurship, problems in Tijuana continue to afflict the city with no improvement in sight: inefficient [read: obsolete] public transportation, no projects aimed at combatting displaced deportees, out-of-control commercial plazas and mini-market proliferation, amongst other persistent issues.
I believe these types of events should walk down a firmer path instead of being a grandiose mushy publicity stunt. We should take advantage of the size and scale of this event and its resources to support programs that are truly needed, fine-tune an urban plan, take on the deportee and migrant issue, establish a dialog with the community. We should talk about [the lack of] public spaces, for example. If this were so, then, and only then, could we truly be talking about an Innovative Tijuana - a Tijuana Innovadora.
Binomio (1+4) digital journalism, is a Tijuana-San Diego electronic magazine covering political, social, economic, and cultural topics.