Wed | Apr 1, 2020

Jamaica needs eco-system to support technology innovation

Published:Monday | December 3, 2018 | 12:17 AMMark Titus/Gleaner Writer
Kirk-Anthony Hamilton, co-founder of Tech Beach Retreat, held at the Iberostar Hotel in Rose Hall, St James on the weekend.

For Jamaica to meaningfully impact the global technology landscape, stakeholders will need to create an eco-system, where ideas can be developed and commercialised, says Kirk-Anthony Hamilton, co-founder of Tech Beach Retreat, held at the Iberostar Hotel in Rose Hall, St James on the weekend.

"What is missing overall in Jamaica is a true eco-system where everybody talks to each other...the different stakeholders don't converse often enough," Hamilton told The Gleaner during day two of event. The retreat was held under the theme "Disruptive Innovation - Exploring the Technological Transformation of Industries".

"This means the government, large corporations, SMEs, start ups, multi-laterals and development agencies, non-profit organisations and philanthropists...everyone has to be on the same page."

"This is what Tech Beach Retreat is about, because we recognise that if start-ups cannot speak to investors outside of a small pitch room, there will be a challenge to make anything grow, because when that innovator develops something new, they need to have parties that they can interact with, to exchange with...and this does not matter if it is a young entrepreneur or a massive company," he said. "Tech Beach cannot do it alone, we need other forums of this nature, not only here in Jamaica but throughout the Caribbean."

During the two-day event, there was a special focus on emerging technologies such as: blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, digital payments, robotics, and cyber security, among other areas, which the organisers described as great wealth creation opportunities for the Caribbean.

"This is necessary because one invests on ideas, they invest based on relationships," Hamilton, a former architect turned entrepreneur argues. "...Because one thing an investor knows is that ideas can change especially when they are new, especially when you are trying to shift a market."

Diane Edwards, president and chief executive officer at Jamaica Trade and Invest (JAMPRO), said discussions have started on how to develop a culture of innovation in the Jamaican society. She said JAMPRO should roll out a strategy by the first quarter of 2019.

"We are still in a consultation process, however, we are about to launch a new IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) funded project to look at the global services sector and how do we develop a viable ecosystem here in Jamaica to support that tech sector," she said. "It is partly looking at how do we attract higher value outsourcing contracts and how do we develop exports from Jamaica from viable tech companies."

Edwards said the programme being developed will look at the skills available in Jamaica and how they can be certified.

"So it is really two different perspectives, but we are trying to unify those perspectives and develop a programme to look at what skills do we have in Jamaica and how certifiable are those skills, whether those skills are at the level of the international market and what is needed to get to that standard," she said.

"It is indeed a variable picture, because there are some people who have no certification and there are some that are self-taught, so we must determine how do we create standards and create a cluster group of people that have some skills that are exportable and then how do we market those skills."