Technology on display at the Third Annual Information Society of Barbados’ Conference, beginning today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. (C.Pitt)??

A shift to knowledge-based industries has been described as crucial for Barbados by Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn.??

His comments came while speaking at the opening ceremony of the Third Annual Information Society of Barbados (ISB) Conference, which began today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

The two-day conference, which will see a gathering of specialists and exhibitors involved in information and communications technology (ICT), was described as "timely" by the Minister, who observed that "we can realise our vision of being a fully developed and prosperous society that is globally competitive … Effective use must be made of any current or emerging technology that can support economic, social and cultural development.

"This will, however, depend on enabling legal, regulatory, financial, infrastructural, political and social environments and a facilitating culture for extracting from technologies the maximum benefits they are capable of providing."

The Minister acknowledged that there were challenges, however, and noted that capacity building, improvement of infrastructure and efficient marketing and public awareness were key to the growth of ICT in Barbados.?? He also encouraged practitioners within the field to liaise with the Ministry, to further push the cause of ICT development on the island.

In reference to the event’s theme ICT: The Catalyst for Economic Development, Senator Benn emphasised that "in order to compete in the global economy and maintain and surpass our current level of development, Barbados needs to shift to knowledge-based industries".?? He pointed out that countries such as Canada, Singapore and the United States had embraced the concepts of life-long learning, encouraging education and investing in research and, as a result, had enjoyed strong Gross Domestic Product growth.

Malta was also given as an example of a nation which had used ICT as a means of development.?? Keynote speaker, Economist Advisory Partner for KPMG Malta, Mark Bamber, said there were some similarities between his country and Barbados – since they are both small island states, dependent on Europe as a major source for the tourism market.

"I enthusiastically support your drive to develop the ICT sector as an economic pillar.?? I have experienced the sector’s ability to engender economic momentum. ??I have seen the sector’s contribution to making the jurisdiction more attractive for foreign direct investment.?? I have seen the stimulus that knowledge industries offer people seeking graduate education," Mr. Bamber undelined.??

He observed that e-skills had greatly contributed to the marketability and productivity of his country and shared a quote which he believed embodied the purpose of diversification: "We did not exit the stone age because we ran out of stone but because we found something better."

President of the ISB, James Corbin, revealed that the Conference was just one of many projects streamlined for 2011/2012.?? Plans include the launch of an ISB School Essay Competition; an ISB/private sector partnership to create a Barbados Imagination Centre, which will focus on the development of ICT prototype products; an ISB week of activities; and the establishment of a mentoring programme. Mr. Corbin also disclosed that the ISB would partner with Government, namely the Ministry of Commerce, to assist in making Barbados "the ICT capital of the Caribbean".


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