Barbados is in a position of strength even though it is only in an early phase of digital evolution.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley expressed this view today as she addressed the opening of the two-day virtual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Barbados, themed: Embracing Disruption: Building Resilience.
Ms. Mottley said Barbados has a sophisticated, highly-literate, highly-digital savvy population; a stable democracy; island-wide residential and commercial fibre-optic internet connectivity and greater than 95 per cent mobile phone penetration.
“However, we are not yet where we want to be – cashless, carbon neutrality, e-governance, e-identification, public sector innovation engines, tech entrepreneurship hubs, climate resilient infrastructure, [and] free national wide public high-speed internet. We have a lot of things in motion, all of these we are working on.
“We envision a near-future for doing business in Barbados that is paperless, cashless and yes, even presence-less. But we need to move faster than we are. We must move faster and COVID has literally forced that upon us,” she stated.
The Prime Minister told her audience that the role of Government was not to inhibit technological advancement or prop up dated modalities, but to embrace and shape it, ensuring people were well-prepared and well-equipped to thrive in a rapidly changing world.
Acknowledging that technology would replace some jobs, she contended, however, that it would continue to create many new sectors and jobs.
She stressed that people will never become obsolete and the Barbados way is always to focus on people.
She continued: “We want to build new industries with new jobs, requiring new skills. New types and categories of jobs that we have never had before in Barbados. We want to build world-class financial platforms and services in medicinal cannabis, e-health, e-education, well-being management, life sciences, culinary science, robotics, which we are introducing in our schools from this year; modernised manufacturing, elderly care, modernised agriculture, software development, data engineering, cultural industries, cloud engineering, Fintech, cyber-security, and e-sports, to name a few.
“We want to create new value chains and new ways to distribute opportunities. We want to be in the business of possibility. We will strive to become a leading hub for experiments, for pilot and scale ideas, technologies and companies that are in pursuit of sustainable development goals, which still remain as relevant today, after the pandemic, even if it seems…more difficult to obtain them.”
Ms. Mottley proffered the view that for Barbados to become a prosperous, digitally-enabled society, it would need to become a developer and early adopter of ideas and technologies that allowed it to overcome the everyday disadvantages of being a Small Island Developing State.
“Technologies that allow us to overcome vulnerabilities of our small population, our small economy and our vulnerability to natural disasters. Technologies that allow us to leverage our assets of climate, geographic location and of course, our collective creativity.
“The time is now to unleash the power of our creative imagination to move our island beyond cautious incrementalism, and to enter a period of rapid, large-scale transformation and global distinction,” she indicated.
The Prime Minister added that the goal is still for Barbados to become world class over the next seven years.