One senior civil servant believes that science and technology is the answer to many of the problems Barbados currently faces.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology (MIST), Charley Browne, made the assertion during the opening of the three-day Science and Technology Festival yesterday, at the University of The West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. It was held under the theme Gateway to a New Barbados.
He explained that the productive sectors could only survive “by competing with quality, novelty, and diversity of products and services that can only be generated through innovation and continuous technological change”.
Mr. Browne opined that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) had a critical role to play in this transformation. This was why, he noted, that events like the Sci-Tech festival were important.
“It is noteworthy that the exhibitors are from a number of sectors, including the energy, environment, financial and education sectors. I am pleased with the wide variety of categories of STEM that are represented at the event.
“As Barbados and the Caribbean continue to face a number of social and economic challenges, like climate change, high incidence of non-communicable diseases, disposal of solid waste, reduction in the use of fossil fuels and the invasion of Sargassum seaweed to list a few, there is a general belief that all of these can be addressed through innovation in science and technology. It is my hope that events such as the festival can act as a catalyst for solving some of these challenges,” he emphasized.
However, the Permanent Secretary cautioned that this could not take place without building awareness and understanding of the value of science and technology to development.
He supported this view with research carried out by the United States’ Department of Commerce, which found that STEM occupations were growing at 17 per cent, while other occupations were increasing at 9.8 per cent.
Additionally, he pointed out that STEM degree holders earned a higher income, even in non-STEM careers.
Mr. Browne told those in attendance that a focus on STEM created critical thinkers; increased science literacy; and enables the next generation of innovators, adding that innovation led to new products and processes that sustained economies.
He said it was important to expose children to science and technology early on.
“It is therefore important that the capacity building effort in STEM starts at an early age. Young Barbadians must see and be involved in STEM-based activities that nurture their natural curiosity, while influencing them to pursue STEM-based careers. In this regard, events such as the Science and Technology Festival are viewed as mechanisms to expose children in non-formal ways to the world of STEM,” Mr. Browne stated.
The festival continues tomorrow, on Saturday, March 7, under the graduation tent at the UWI.