What do neuro-engineering, hacking, a robotic turtle and a digital baptism have in common? They are all features of the 4th edition of Campus Party (CP), Colombia , attracting over 5,000 attendees, or campuseros, 15 lecturers and 200 seminars this week in Bogota. The international tech-fest that began in Malaga, Spain in 1997 has fostered many technological revolutions. “Our main goal is to be the biggest event in technology and digital culture,” said Alexander Jaimes of Futura Networks, the event’s producer. CP, which celebrates its 15th anniversary, focuses on nine areas including development, framework, robotics, gaming, networking and modding.
Since its somewhat less ambitious beginnings as an event for enthusiasts of the Internet, gaming and demoscene, CP has grown to become The Event for encountering and understanding new information technology. Jonathan Tarud, founder of Koombea, observed that, “There is a lot of everything instead of being hyper-focused. It’s great if you want a broad view. But we need some more specific types of tech conferences.”
“A quantum leap will be achieved in Colombia,” declared Juan Carlos Cerrano, CEO Futura Networks Colombia. CP is currently staged in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. The Chilean, Ecuadorian and Venezuelan chapters will launch soon, and plans are underway to bring the Party to Silicon Valley by 2012. Jaimes explained there are two products: CP which is sponsored primarily by HP Networking and the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica, and works with each host country’s governments and local supporters such as Mayoral offices and, in Colombia’s case, the Minister of Technology of Information and Communication (MINTIC). “Campus Party is a tool for innovation that creates a technological eco-system of applications, infrastructure, services and users,” said Tatiana Lopez, representative of Vive Digital , MINTIC’s program to utilize technology to reduce unemployment and poverty while increasing competitiveness. The second product is Future Innovation, a contest that tasks contenders with finding solutions to technical problems encountered by offices and governments. As these events grow so does the need for more sponsors and investors.
Juergen Renz, Project Director at Nokia Siemens Networks, provided Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology to the campuseros. Although not new to the world, the advancement developed for Telefónica, according to Renz, “is the first LTE in Latin America and it’s the evolution of 3G; the data transfer is ten times faster than current broadband.” The solution will be implemented in Germany and the US, but won’t be available commercially for another year. “It will replace mobile applications. IP and LTE will be the future. You will be able to have a video-conference using mobile devices with no problem,” said Renz. When asked about the impact of CP, Renz responded, “It is important for us to participate, to show young people the technology, so they can touch and feel it.” The campuseros using LTE were happy with the speed and clarity of the 20 meg application.
One of the highlights of CP Colombia –that is being replicated in Spain and Mexico– is the Wayra Startup Week. Only ten runner-ups were chosen from 500 competitors to participate. “The fact that we had 500 competing projects in just two-months demonstrates how much IT development there is at the grassroots level in Colombia,” said Lina María Echeverri, VP Institutional Relations, Telefónica. The winners will be awarded between $30,000 and $70,000 dollars, and benefit from an accelerated business program. mentoring, counseling and support for new sources of funding.
One of the finalists, Luis Alberto Del Castillo, is founder of IWIN.im, a social platform focused on Community Managers who “want to engage, increase fan base and facilitate loyalty with easy to launch contests.” Del Castillo has designs on selling IWIN to the US market, and has a meeting scheduled with Angel investors in San Francisco in two months.
Another exciting feature of CP, Digital Baptism, developed through a partnership with the Mayor of Bogota, and the Colombian Ministry of Economic Development, will show over 8,000 people of different ages and economic backgrounds how to use the internet and technology.
Fun diversions will be the Robotic Air Rally wherein 10 teams will create an airship that can fly autonomously and Efest Telefónica 2011, a digital entertainment festival where the best gamers will be chosen as Colombian representatives for international tournaments.
The international star power lighting up CP Colombia includes:
Tan Le, a Vietnamese-Australian telecommunications entrepreneur who co-founded Emotiv Systems in 2003 with four sciences and others to develop brain-computer interfaces based on electroencephalography (EEG) technology.
Cristhophe Berg, from Holland, founder/owner of Metagama, an expert in game studies and multi-media.
John “Captain Crunch” Draper, a computer programmer from the US who became most notorious hacker in the world.
Dr. Javier Minguez, an Associate Professor at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, an expert in Robotics who is investigating how the mind can be used to move machines, like the prototype of a brain-activated wheelchair his team developed.
CP is open 24/7 and some campuseros are staying in an encampment set-up in an exhibition pavilion, but no one plans to sleep much with the amount of programming to choose from.