Gustavo Petro, former mayor of Bogotá from the left wing (Historical Pact) and Rodolfo Hernández, a businessman representing the non-traditional right wing in Colombia (League of Anti-Corruption), will go head-to-head at the polls for the second round of Presidential elections on 19 June. Both leaders have unveiled their policy agendas for each sector of the economy should they conquer the Presidential seat, but have they discussed their tech policy plans?
Some experts have criticised the candidates for not presenting a clear roadmap for their policy objectives—particularly those around science, tech, and innovation. Nevertheless, topics such as connectivity, digital government, and the digital economy have taken some spotlight in public appearances.
Regarding connectivity, Petro and Rodolgo concur on reaching 100% Internet coverage, a priority which Colombia decided to pursue in the nation’s 2030 SDG Agenda strategy. As for Petro, the candidate promised that all Colombians would have Internet access by 2026—regardless of where they find themselves in the territory. To achieve this, Gustavo advocates for deploying or acquiring a satellite to reach areas where fibre optic is difficult and expensive to implement. He also proposes creating an aerospace agency to manage connectivity efforts. On the other hand, Hernández does not consider satellites as part of a strategy to advance Internet coverage, but instead proposes expanding existing infrastructure to reach every corner of the territory. In addition, Hernández also stressed that Colombia should be at the forefront of 5G adoption in Latin America. It is relevant to note that Internet connectivity coverage in Colombia stands at roughly 70%, according to the latest Voluntary National Review presented at the United Nations.
In terms of digital government, Petro proposes adopting Artificial Intelligence (AI) to streamline public proceedings within government agencies (i.e., consultations and controls). As for Hernández, he supports open governmental processes to the public through digital systems to make state agencies more transparent. For the anti-establishment Hernández, regaining the trust of Colombians in government institutions is a top priority and a key message throughout his campaign.
Lastly, on digital economy, Gustavo Petro has proposed revising the tax framework to incentivize electronic commerce and reduce the use of cash in the economy. He also supports labour rights for the digital sector. Meanwhile, Hernández´s focus is on growing the digital economy by expanding the knowledge and technical skills of the Colombian workforce. He also argues that the government should facilitate the financing of digital ventures, such as programming, digital marketing, graphic design, and video games.
As the second round of Presidential elections approaches, uncertainties remain regarding the tech policy agenda of both candidates. While Petro and Hernández have publicly spoken on key tech challenges affecting Colombia, they have mainly leveraged topics that have already been identified and addressed by previous administrations, with pre-existing plans or regulations. The reality is that comprehensive roadmaps on how tech challenges will be addressed during the upcoming years have not been drawn, leaving the technological community in the dark regarding their strategies.