I visited Buenos Aires last week. The main purpose for my trip was to participate in an Innovation Summit hosted by IBM Argentina for clients, members of the press, and other invited guests. I gave a talk titled “Innovation in the 21st Century” in which I discussed the major forces driving innovation in technology, business and society, similar to my recent talks on the subject. Following me on the agenda was Fabio Gandour, Director of New Technologies for IBM Latin America and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. Fabio gave a really interesting and entertaining talk about the future of technology. It revolved around some supposed “malfunctions” in a demo he was giving which resulted in his linking to himself in the year 2036. He then proceeded to "interview" his 2036 self on how various technologies had advanced in the intervening thirty years. It was very creative, funny, informative, and really well done.
Next on the agenda was Argentinean composer and conductor Angel Mahler. For over twenty years Mahler has been composing for the musical theater as well as film and television in Argentina. He talked about the role of innovation in his work and illustrated his points – simultaneously entertaining a very appreciate audience -- by conducting an excellent orchestra playing music from his shows as well as other tunes. His musical style reminded me of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s. It was quite a treat.
In addition to the Innovation Summit, I had a number of other meetings. At a gathering with deans and members of the faculty of leading universities in Argentina, we discussed some of the major trends in science and engineering. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the application of information technologies to services and business solutions and the emergence of what we have been calling Services Sciences Management and Engineering. We arrived at a consensus that this was a very important direction for technical careers in general since, given advances in IT, open standards and the Internet, we are now able to address problems that are significantly broader, more complex and diverse and that require a higher degree of communication and collaboration than ever before. Argentina wants to be a major player on the global stage in attracting such high-value work, and therefore the education of their technical workforce is a very important priority.
A similar point was made to me in a visit with the secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation, which plays the role in Argentina that the National Science Foundation plays in the US. Secretary Tulio Del Bono talked about the investments his organization is making to bring IT into key areas of economic importance to the country including bioinformatics and the global traceability of food sources, especially in the cattle industry which is a major export industry for Argentina.
Finally, I had a very interesting meeting with members of the press to discuss blogging, including my personal experiences on the subject. We talked quite a bit about the idea that blogging represents a transfer of power from institutions to individuals, who now have a channel for expressing their opinion on everything from the quality of a product to political issues. This requires institutions, like businesses, governments, and the media, to be more transparent in their actions, since it is much harder nowadays to keep information secret. We talked about why IBM was encouraging its employees to participate in blogs in their areas of interest: First, it is important for any company to understand and participate in such an important market trend, something made easier if you have your own people actively involved in the blogosphere; and second we believe that IBM's open attitude toward blogging helps us attract and retain top talent. Like the blogging roundtable I had in Mexico a few months ago, this was a very interesting discussion on a relatively new topic that we don't understand all that well yet.
It was a very nice and fruitful trip. I was immersed in the Spanish language and culture, which I really enjoy. And I was able to spend time in Buenos Aires, which is a lovely city. I eagerly look forward to a return visit in the future.