CARCIP calls for more regional innovation: Eastern Caribbean governments harnessing technology for enterpreneurship

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 February 10th  and 11th 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 February 26th  and 27th, with a third installment scheduled for Grenada at the end of March 2014.

Nurturing Caribbean ingenuity: Technology Innovation Forum heads to St Vincent

Eastern Caribbean small-island developing states face the threats of rising crime, porous borders, climate change, the flight of intellectual capital and the dismantling of preferential trade arrangements for agricultural products, spurred by the contagion of the global financial crisis.

But if necessity is the mother of invention, then adversity seeds an abundance of human resourcefulness. Significant challenges have not prevented the sub-region’s governments from working together to equip their citizens to discover, create and exploit opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation.

OECS leaders, seeking to identify new sustainable models for development, have recognised that telecommunications technologies present new opportunities for fostering social and economic development. The governments of St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Grenada are finding new ways to harness the sub-region’s innate creativity and stimulate a culture of innovation through the application of appropriate technology to real-world problems.

On February 26th, stakeholders from various sectors of St Vincent and the Grenadines will gather for a national technology innovation workshop, as part of the ongoing Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme (CARCIP), coordinated regionally by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). Roxanne John, based in the Ministry of Telecommunications, Science and Technology, is coordinating CARCIP in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“We are very proud to host this Innovation Workshop and look forward to discovering new ways to apply technology to everyday challenges,” John said.

The workshop is the second in a regional series. On February 10th, St Lucia held the first workshop, coordinated by its Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting. The inaugural event brought together some of the region’s leading minds in the fields of entrepreneurship, information and communications technology, leadership development and innovation.

Through CARCIP, the governments of the three countries have been working toward harmonising the development of their telecommunications infrastructure to maximise synergies and avoid inefficiencies. CARCIP addresses gaps in submarine cable infrastructure and landing stations, domestic backbone networks and national Internet exchange points (IXPs).

CTU Project Coordinator Junior McIntyre described the scope of the overall CARCIP project as “comprehensive”.

"The ultimate aim of CARCIP is to improve the efficiency of telecommunications infrastructure development not just in St Vincent but across the whole Caribbean. The lessons we learn in St Vincent will benefit the entire region,” McIntyre said.

The World bank-funded programme was allocated a total disbursement of US$25 million, including loans to the three countries and a grant to the CTU. In recognition of the critical requirement to promote innovation in Caribbean societies, the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank is working along with the CTU and other stakeholders within the Caribbean region to support a regional approach towards technology-driven innovation.

Dr Farid Youssef on cannabis

Dr Farid F. Youssef: “I am in no form or fashion advocating the smoking of cannabis, a practice that is associated with numerous well documented severe health risks. Neither do I support its legalization. However the effects of cannabis are the result of the body, and the brain in particular, possessing its own endogenous cannabinoid system. We are seeking to understand this system, how its works, how it can be modified and how targeted drug delivery systems can be developed that maximize clinical benefits and minimize unwanted side effects.”

To me, this quote was the highlight of Dr Youssef's UWI Today article.