Opening a ‘Rebuilding Smart, Using Technology’ workshop on Monday at the Grand Lucayan, Minister of State for Grand Bahama, the Hon. Kwasi Thompson noted that reconstruction and recovery of Grand Bahama’s small business community is critical to the island’s recovery since Hurricane Dorian, and that “rebuilding provides us with the opportunity to do so using smart technology. If we have to rebuild anyway, we might as well rebuild using the latest technology.” Minister Thompson said Hurricane Dorian exposed the nation’s great reliance on paper files for data storage; and it showed dependence on cash and the old banking system. He added that a lot of countries and nations have recognized their limitations with banking, and took steps to leapfrog using digital currency and e-wallets. He pointed out that a number of countries that are big on digital currencies and e-wallets didn’t just ‘decide’ to go that route, but instead did so out of necessity. They did it because they had a problem to solve.
Minister Thompson said they are encouraging businesses to make use of the latest digital tools for their respective businesses. “Technology saves time and money; technology increases efficiency and it improves communications. The right software development can improve your business operations. It encourages and sparks innovation and provides better results through data analytics. “This enables us to tap into and develop a new industry — a new opportunity for faster, more convenient ways of doing business.” Earlier last month the government launched its digital transformation project and its digital transformation unit. Minister Thompson said the Unit has embarked upon a project to increase the number of on-line services offered by the government.
“The government just completed on-line renewal for e-passports,” explained Minister Thompson. “That means citizens can now apply for renewal of e-passports, pay online for the renewal; and the only time you will have to physically go into the passport office will be to collect your renewed e-passport.” The project also seeks to increase the awareness and usage of ICT tools by the private sector. Businesses become more aware of the digital tools that can be used: increased use of technology is vital to plans to develop human capacity for the technology hub.
Minister Thompson said he recently had the opportunity to meet with a high-ranking CISCO Development executive, responsible for Latin America and the Caribbean, who confirmed that The Bahamas has the potential for a robust software development and cyber security industry, however, there is a great need for more trained professionals and more businesses using the latest software and implementing the latest cyber security systems. The Grand Bahama Minister pointed out that in its on-going efforts to rebuild the economy and assist local small businesses that were damaged by Hurricane Dorian, his office, in conjunction with the Small Business Development Center, has launched the Small Business Technology Innovation Initiative. “This program is designed specifically to create new opportunities for small businesses to access grant funding for up to $2,500, which is earmarked for the introduction or upgrade of technology-based infrastructure, with a concentration on innovation.
“Today you will be some of the first businesses able to sign up for the technology innovation grant. We in Grand Bahama have an opportunity and when we rebuild, we must rebuild smarter and we must do so using the latest technology.” The ‘Rebuilding Smart, Using Technology’ workshop, was jointly sponsored by the Office of the Prime Minister in Grand Bahama, and the Small Business Development Center.