Officially opening the 2nd Grand Bahama Technology Summit on Wednesday, November 14, Prime Minister, Dr. the Most Hon. Hubert Minnis shared how the government is using technology to improve many aspects of national life. The three-day summit is now in session at the Grand Lucayan resort under the theme, ‘The Future is Now.’ The Prime Minister announced that the mission and commitment of The Bahamas to become a regional leader in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) recently resulted in our becoming a Council member of the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) during a conference held in Dubai a week ago. The ITU is the world’s highest body with ICT policymaking in three sectors: Radio Communication, Telecommunication Standards, and Telecommunication Development. This seat, he said, will be beneficial to the region and The Bahamas, as ways to improve the lives of residents are sought. The Prime Minister said, “My government has prioritized the preparation of The Bahamas to take greater advantage of technology as we are engaged in a new era of innovation and transformation in our economic, social and national development. “Accordingly, this year’s theme, ‘The Future Is Now,’ addresses the development of our human capacity in meeting the demands of this sector, including opportunities for Bahamian empowerment and ownership.”
The goal, said the Prime Minister, is to develop successful programs in educational institutions and develop partnerships with international organizations. An example of this is the tuition-free program offered at the Bahamas Technical & Vocational Institute (BTVI) for qualified students. In Grand Bahama, the overall enrollment at BTVI has increased by 70 percent, and in ICT courses, the increase is 97 percent. Prime Minister Minnis encouraged Bahamians to take advantage of the opportunity as they can receive an Associate’s Degree or Certificates in Business Office Technology, Information Technology Management, and Software and Network Engineering, free of charge to all Bahamians who qualify. “My government is also committed to making the University of The Bahamas, including its ICT Programs, free of charge beginning 2019. Under our administration, every Bahamian who qualifies will have the opportunity for free tertiary education, including ICT qualifications.” The Prime Minister also shared information on the Over-the-Hill Community Development Partnership Initiative, which calls for establishment and strengthening of Smart Technology in communities, schools, homes and public spaces. Benefitting from the project already is Willard Patton Pre-School. “This is in keeping with my government’s ongoing efforts for education reform through the use of technology and experience-based-education.
“Further, we have established an Over-the-Hill community web-portal app to coordinate and share information on programs offered by community groups. “I look forward to The Minister of Education’s presentation on the government’s recent launch of the fiber optic technology upgrade throughout the government-operated school system. This upgrade will ensure that each school is a fully computerized smart school. Also, each school will be provided with tablets to facilitate this digital initiative.” These efforts will connect the major communities throughout the archipelago. “During my tenure as Minister of Health, we made advances in telemedicine, which helped to improve health care for citizens and residents who were able to connect remotely to our major hospitals in New Providence and Grand Bahama.” Smart technology through the use of drones is being used in National Security, providing law enforcement with enhanced surveillance and reconnaissance capability. “Shot Spotter Technology (SST) will revolutionize crime fighting in The Bahamas. This technology will provide police officers in patrol cars and police control room with real-time data on the precise location of a gunshot that was fired. “These advancements in technology demonstrate my government’s commitment to utilizing technology-based innovations to maintain safety and security. “Good data is instrumental for decision-making and good governance.”
Prime Minister Minnis continued, “Ladies and Gentlemen: The Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit or PMDU was established earlier this year. It supports government ministries and agencies in driving the implementation of key objectives through data-driven decision-making. “As we embrace the multi-faceted uses of technology for the advancement of Bahamians, steps must also be taken to position our country as a technology centre of our region. “At this year’s summit, we will also advance discussions on the framework and regulatory procedures to encourage and support cryptocurrency assets and related instruments. “Companies that utilize blockchain technology as a basis for their new products and services, represent the genesis of a new wave of innovation. “There is no reason why these new blockchain technology companies that have their eyes on global markets cannot have their base of operations here in The Bahamas. “A recent release by The Central Bank of The Bahamas on crypto assets stated that we must: ‘enhance the sector’s competitiveness without compromising the integrity and international reputation of The Bahamas, or undermining the financial safety of Bahamian households’.”
The immigration policy of the country is currently being revamped, he said, to attract new business and is currently considering draft legislation for a special BH1B Visa, as recommended by the Grand Bahama Technology Steering Committee. “Our E-government transformation has begun. The government must work for its citizens in new and innovative ways. “We will also advance discussions on how we can increase and integrate our online services in order to provide more efficient and effective service to Bahamians and residents. These include: providing a single online window facility through which multiple services can be accessed; interoperability for transporting data securely between relevant agencies and clients; data ownership; and retraining for citizens and public officers.” In closing, the Prime Minister said, “Paramount to our success is strengthened partnerships with you, our domestic, international and regional partners and stakeholders. We are especially pleased that next year, Dell, one of the most recognized technology leaders in the world, will host one of its technology conferences in New Providence. “These are the types of relationships, based in technology, that validate our drive and determination to reap multiple benefits. We are embarked on a dynamic new era of innovation and transformation in The Bahamas. We are pro-actively embracing the vast benefits of technology to boost growth and productivity, as well as employment and entrepreneurship.”