The Caribbean has the potential to become a leading global technological and creative hub, by utilising its key resource, the youth.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Dwight Sutherland, shared this view, while speaking at the second Caribbean Future Summit, held virtually, under the theme From Diaspora Engagement to Investment: Connecting to the Caribbean’s Economic Future Pillars: Tourism, Technology, and Talent.
Mr. Sutherland noted that Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean have relied on agriculture and tourism to build and sustain their economies.
However, he stated that “today we are presented with the opportunity to undertake another evolution, that is, to position our economies on a trajectory for technological growth and advancement utilising the abundant talents within our people”.
He continued: “Undoubtedly, this transition is vital, as it provides a potential for economic diversification at a time when our tourism dependent economies continue to reel from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the pandemic has forced us to review the delivery of services and to embrace technological solutions so that our services remain accessible to our clients.”
In order for this transition to occur, Minister Sutherland pointed out that Caribbean youth must be the focal point of all undertakings, and become agents of change, entrusted with fulfilling their own potential and ensuring a world fit for future generations.
He said: “This is critical, since it is through our young people that our development is sustained, and as has been articulated by the United Nations, it has been long recognised that the imagination, ideals and energy of young people are vital for the continuing development of the societies in which they live.”
Mr. Sutherland also noted that though technology has many benefits, technological change is also one of the most disruptive drivers of the future world of work, that is, automation, which can lead to unemployment and inactivity.
Notwithstanding this negative aspect, the Youth Minister believes that young people are resilient, and with the right stimuli and support can be a bastion of fresh ideas, and can work diligently to showcase their talents and achieve their goals.
“Entrepreneurship is one of those areas which provides our youth with opportunities to explore their creativity and fulfil their dreams and potential. In my estimation, the future growth and competitiveness of our economies depend on training our young people to be entrepreneurial, critical thinkers, skilled, innovative and highly motivated to succeed.
“In Barbados, our Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES) has acknowledged how digital technologies provide greater flexibility, agility and new experiences for clients. It has indeed become apparent that the move to digital platforms encourages a culture that embraces innovation, encourages the adoption of digital skills and competencies, and promotes new spaces for employees to learn cutting edge digital skills,” Minister Sutherland pointed out.
During his remarks, he also highlighted some of the efforts Barbados has been making in order to create a digital society and develop a modern, citizen-centred public service.
Some of them include: online filing of tax returns; introduction of the online payment EZPay+ platform; the electronic transfer of social security benefits, and the use of Digital Ambassadors, who provide hands-on support for citizens to engage with government, through emerging digital technologies.
Concluding, the Minister stated: “The contribution of technology is critical to the development of our region, and significant investments in this area can only improve efficiencies and stimulate economic growth. At the same time, investment in the development of our people must be at the forefront of our development thrust, and we must highlight the priority areas of development that can bolster economic activity and support our goals of sustainable development….
“I wish to assure you that Barbados is ready to collaborate with other countries in the region on initiatives which will redound to the benefit of each country and the region.”