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Is Guyana on its way to becoming the Caribbean’s new technology hub?

On June 8, 2018, a seed was planted in the soil of our lush green economy—this seed has the potential to transform Guyana into the leading estate of South America and the Caribbean.

Exponential technologies and digital transformation were prominent among the themes and the buzzwords at the IDB’s recently concluded VII Regional Civil Society Conference hosted in Guyana.  Ministers, Heads of agencies, small tech companies, and civil society were exposed to comprehensive facts, data sets, and mind-blowing ideas about how these various sectors can use technology to transform Guyana’s economy. Various participants had the added opportunity to showcase their digital services and products at a mini-exhibition as well as to engage with an Estonian NGO about how they can improve their offerings.

One of the exhibitors explaining his university campus navigational app – photography by Nielon Diaz

What will change? Everything! There is no doubt that everyone who participated in the civil society conference and its related activities now wants Guyana to grow exponentially and to make the leap into the digital future. It should be noted that exponential growth through digitization not linear, growth will be slow at first but kicks off when it is continuously multiplied and breaks barriers.

Everyone wants to decrease the need for time-consuming queues, cash transactions, and inefficient products. Who needs a telephone directory when there is a finditnow app?

More importantly, a digital economy can decrease Guyana’s dependency on external products and services, if we choose to become the developers and innovators of the Caribbean region. To achieve this, all Guyanese — in rural and urban areas needs direct access to digital information and transformative technologies.

Indigenous men sewing a thatched for a community building powered by a little solar panel in Masakenyari, Guyana – Photography by Ajay Bash

How can we in Guyana jump forward? We first need to understand and study the digital technology growth cycle, then tailor digitization and exponential technologies to suit our needs, and then we need to effectively manage the transformation process. We need to identify our nation’s most urgent problems and then to develop or adapt the technologies which can sustainably solve those problems.

We need to cultivate a digital mindset among our population. Children and students need space, tools and relevant knowledge to become the innovators and developers who can find solutions for specific developmental challenges. Guyana can establish genetic modification labs which will develop plant material that is climate resilient and adaptive to a wide range of local conditions while doubling crop production – as opposed to the current practice of importing plant material every time a farmer complains about crop issues.

Partnership is key! We in Guyana cannot do this alone. The civil society conference provided strategic avenues for partnership options and potential collaboration opportunities with Singularity University and Estonia. I applaud the Honourable Catherine Hughes, Guyana’s Minister of Telecommunications for her efforts to further engage Estonia.

I am also looking forward to furthering collaboration between the University of Guyana and Singularity University. Digitization and exponential technologies need to be included in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum at all levels. Digital services that are tailored to the unique needs of Guyana’s indigenous and rural communities should offer consumers a mix of convenience, reliability, and agility.

Digital technologies are developing at exponential rates and are influencing change in many regions of the world. Digitization is rapidly changing the business landscape worldwide.  For example, AbnB is an online platform for retail accommodation founded in 2008, yet it owns no property, is worth over $30 billion, and has a presence in over 191 countries. As a measure of comparison, Hyatt Hotels, a popular hotel chain founded in 1957, owns 700 properties, operates in 50 counties and is valued at a just $9.5 billion.

A window of opportunity was opened for Guyana at the IDB’s regional civil society conference this month. We can either peer through it and marvel at its wonders or we can jump ahead and become South America’s new technology hub.

Conference participants listening to Nick’s address about the 6 D’s of Exponential Growth – Photography by Nielon Diaz

About the author

Jewel is a Resource Planning and Administration Consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank, Guyana office. She works on ensuring that the bank has the resources it needs to achieve its country targets.

Before joining the bank, Jewel worked on several community and social development projects and programmes with UN agencies, The Commonwealth Youth Programme, and non-governmental organizations. Her passion and interest in development drive her beyond the call of duty to contribute to initiatives and policies that are designed to achieve national or regional development targets.

As a former United Nations Populations Fund -UNFPA- Youth Advisor and nationally appointed Caribbean Community and Common Market -CARICOM- Youth Ambassador, she represented Guyana in several areas such as HIV prevalence, women empowerment, adolescent pregnancy, and youth.

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