Minister of International Business and Industry, Ronald Toppin (right) chatting with some of the participants of the 2018 Blue Flame Challange while BIDC Chief Executive Officer, Sonja Trotman looks on. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

Government, through the Barbados Investment and Development Cooperation (BIDC), is on a mission to harness the power of the Barbadian diaspora.

This is according to Minister of International Business and Industry, Ronald Toppin, who believes that the “ability to turn nostalgia into trading opportunities is a strong lever for increasing exports”.

He was speaking today at the start of the 2018 Blue Flame Challenge hosted by the BIDC and IBM. The Challenge is a 36-hour hackathon where 50 multidisciplinary participants, split into 13 teams, will work to find solutions through artificial intelligence technology to help export Barbadian products to the diaspora.

Mr. Toppin explained that the winning solution would be further developed for Bajans Connect, the BIDC’s integrated export marketing campaign and information portal targeting the Barbadian diaspora.

He stressed Bajans Connect was an “excellent vehicle” for facilitating Government’s plan to unleash the power and passion of the Barbadian diaspora and explained it was built on the premise that Barbadians – no matter where they are living – have a desire for Barbadian goods, services, cuisine and information.

“So to understand and profile these individuals in our diaspora community, to know their preferences, demands, and buying behaviours, is of utmost importance to our local producers and service providers and would help bolster our overall export capabilities.

“BIDC, as Government’s export and promotion agency, has built out this integrated campaign to optimise the export of Barbadian products to the diaspora through this exciting and action-packed Blue Flame Challenge and Hackathon,” the Minister said.

Mr. Toppin noted that it was also Government’s intention to create incentives for the Barbadian diaspora to invest at home and to promote Barbados’ interests where they lived.  He said Government was also considering greater collaboration with the diaspora on health and social initiatives.

The Industry Minister commended the BIDC for conceptualising and executing the Blue Flame challenge because “it taps into the brilliance of our young people.”

Chief Executive Officer of the BIDC, Sonja Trotman, said the Blue Flame Hackathon sought to provide a solution for many “what if” questions confronting the BIDC.

“What if we could find a way to unleash the potential of our diaspora and increase our foreign exchange earnings in markets where we have the potential to do so? What if we could help small exporters find a path to market that was not mired in high costs and little returns?” she queried.

Ms. Trotman noted the BIDC partnered with IBM in the Blue Flame Hackathon to address this challenge through collaboration and by bringing people with the right talent together.

IBM representatives provided training and mentoring to participants to innovate a solution on the platform of IBM Cloud, artificial intelligence and data science.

The hackathon will conclude with a Closing and Awards ceremony tomorrow, Friday, July 20, at 3:30 p.m. when the winning team will be announced.

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