An Ethnographic Look at Science and Technology Economic Development Policies



In 2013, Altamente sponsored ethnographic research into innovation and technology public policy in Puerto Rico. The study spans a decade of policies from 1998 to 2008, particularly the implementation stage of Arthur D. Little's Economic Development Plan (1990s), the Science and Technology Roadmap of 2002 and the Puerto Rico 2025 Initiative. The research methodology combines participant observation, interviews, source document and correspondence, aided by social, cultural and economic analysis in multitiered approach that articulates the voices of several levels of government as well as multinational and local corporate actors, non-profit organizations, individuals and academia. This project documents socio-cultural and economic patterns of behavior and perspectives that characterize diverse groups of actors in the Puerto Rico innovation eco-system. 

Findings from this research were shared in a paper entitled "Running to a Standstill: Developing a Hight Technology Sector in Puerto Rico" presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico (2014). Copies of the presentation are available upon request, using our contact form.

"Running to a Standstill: Developing a Hight Technology Sector in Puerto Rico"


In the period of two decades the Government of Puerto Rico sponsored at least three economic development plans from global consulting firms such as Arther D. Little, McKinsey and A.T. Kearney. All plans coincide in recommending the Island invest in developing a high technology sector. This research offers an ethnographic look at economic development planning and obstacles met in the implementation of these plans. Fieldwork includes first hand experience as an invited private industry representative of small, technology firms during the intelligence gathering portion of the economic development planning, interviews of diverse groups of stakeholders in the economic development analyzes government and private sector technology purchasing patterns and an ethnographic look at the life of technology startups. The data gathered shows that the persistent belief that “knowledge” and “technology” come from “outside” fosters a zero-sum game where wealth in not generated but imported and managed resulting in what the investigator describes as “technological colonialism.”