Three Eastern Caribbean countries are benefitting from an infrastructure development thrust that could usher in a new era of technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship for the region.
The initiative is part of the World Bank-funded Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP), coordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). A series of workshops rolling out in Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenada are intended to ensure that citizens can take full advantage of the telecommunications infrastructure upgrades. The series aims to encourage greater innovation in the public and private sector across the region.
The inaugural workshop, which took place on Feb. 10 and 11 at Gros Islet, Saint Lucia, brought together some of the region’s leading minds in the fields of entrepreneurship, information and communications technology, leadership development and innovation.
Hosted by the Saint Lucian Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting, the workshop set out to stimulate new approaches to national through the application of modern technology and new ways of thinking.
Bevil Wooding, one of the leading technology experts in the region and an internet strategist with US-based Packet Clearing House, delivered the keynote. In his wide-ranging address, Wooding highlighted the challenges behind the region’s chronic lack of innovation. But his emphasis was on solutions and opportunities.
“In reality, the potential exists today to overcome the many challenges in the region. What we face is more a challenge of leadership paradigm than of technical possibility.”
He added, “The opportunity before us is to define and articulate a clear set of actionable priorities. These must be based on our native strengths and shaped to match a properly
resourced vision for development.”
Building on Wooding’s address was Dr. Farid Youssef, a neuroscience expert from The University of the West Indies, St Augustine. His presentation focused on the brain science and psychology behind innovative thinking.
Citing a blend of recent academic research and familiar examples of great innovators, Dr. Youssef showed that meaningful change was not produced by spasms of creative genius, but came as the result of consistently applied effort. He called on educators and policy makers to change the common approaches to education development in the region. He described current practices as “outmoded”, “obsolete” and “damaging to creativity and innovation.”
“We’re talking about innovation, but are we prepared to put in the hard work required to produce meaningful change?” he asked.
Other workshop presenters included Shearvon Devenish, information systems manager at Sugar Beach Resorts, Saint Lucia; Norman Gibson, an expert in science and technology for rural development and environmental management in the Caribbean region; Dr. Cletus Bertin, director of Public Sector Modernisation, Saint Lucia; and Ramesh Lalla, director of National Entrepreneurship Development Company Ltd (NEDCO) in Trinidad and Tobago.
The CARCIP Innovation series rolls into Saint Vincent on Feb. 26 and 27, with a third installment scheduled for Grenada at the end of March 2014.