Calling all Blue Technologies innovators in the Caribbean, there is finally space for you to innovate in the blueness of the Caribbean sun. We present the IDB’s Blue-Tech Challenge: New technologies or solutions to foster sustainability of the ocean economy in the Caribbean (#BlueTechChallenge). The aim of this initiative is to foster innovation in the Caribbean for a better sustainable usage of what we call the Blue Economy.
You may be asking yourself, what is the Blue Economy? This is a good question, and probably if you approach 5 different people with this question, you may get 5 different answers. According to The Economist Intelligent Unit, “a sustainable ocean economy is identified when economic activity is in balance with the long-term capacity of ocean ecosystems to perform this activity and remain resilient and healthy.” If you could wrap your mind around this concept and the innovative ways technology can be applied to support development or learning, you might be the “blue techie” that we need. If you couldn’t, do not dismay, we may be able to help you to make the connection.
Another approach to understanding the Blue Economy is to acknowledge the ocean/coastal areas as development spaces where spatial planning integrates the following aspects: conservation, sustainable use, mineral wealth extraction, bio-prospecting, sustainable energy production, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and marine transport. It changes the perception of oceans as a means of free resource extraction and waste; dumping and replacing it with an economic model that expands ocean values and services. For example, it is estimated that the gross revenues generated by the ocean economy in the Caribbean, could be around US$ 53 billion. This could be underestimated as it does not include a vast range of marine products and services. To unlock and sustainably manage these resources, it is required technological innovation and that is where blue techies come in.
Why #BlueTechnology? In the Blue Economy ecosphere, the use of technology is a key element to identify and trade new opportunities and paradigms for ocean sustainability. This will help to reduce the gap in the utilization of ocean and coastal resources between developed and developing countries. For example, mobile technology allows better data on fish landings and fish stock health. This technology strengthens fishing sectors in poor and vulnerable countries and encourages sustainable and legal fishing practices, as well as greater local value creation.
Why is the Blue Economy so important in the Caribbean? This region has larger sea areas than land areas, coupled with the existence of unique marine fauna and flora biodiversity. Currently, the livelihood of many Caribbean communities depends on sea-based products and they are vulnerable as the ocean assets are subject to environmental degradation. Thus, new technologies can provide more economic and accessible means for protection and regeneration.
On the other hand, the marine space is an under-exploited growth opportunity mostly caused by lack of knowledge and limited sea exploration but also because of the deficit of in-depth understanding on how to integrate the latest technological trends to benefit ocean related activities and to provide new opportunities. The blue economy activities can be harmonized in the Caribbean context by promoting the application, development, and expansion of new technologies.
On a previous blog, it was mentioned that the research, innovation and the use of ICT would play a critical for the development of the Blue Economy. The challenge arises on the “T” part which poses an exciting blue ride given the rapid rate of technological development and applications. This technology is not primitive, this is a group of cutting-edge technologies, such as #machine learning, self-learning AI, IoT, Big Data, Digital Distributed Ledgers – think #Blueinnovation, #Blockchain, #datavisualization; supercapacitors, #virtual reality, #robotics, #Augmented reality , #ROVs integrated with machine learning, and the list grows.
If you already started thinking of the scope of blue technological applications or need some inspiration, check out the innovative responses to the “How can coastal communities mitigate and adapt to climate change while developing and prospering” from MIT Solve Challenge. The Caribbean needs these types of technologies, but it needs them at a level that is scalable, innovative, socially inclusive and economically feasible. So, join our #BlueTechChallenge and let the blue revolution begin!