WASHINGTON, D.C.: Following the recent Digital Jam 3.0 conference in Jamaica, the World Bank said the potential of entrepreneurs specializing in the tech sector could secure the economic future for the region and valuable career opportunities for the youth.
The Washington-based financial institution said a central part of the conference, held at the University of the West Indies Regional Headquarters in St. Andrew, was an opportunity for contestants to pitch their app ideas to industry leaders from across the world.
The World Bank said access to finance is a major barrier for entrepreneurs and that adding such a network would work to “revolutionize investment and access to finance for wannabe tech startups, as well as give the wide Caribbean Diaspora a clear route into investing back into the region”.
“It (Digital Jam 3.0) really is beyond a competition, it’s beyond a conference, it’s really laying the basis for a full ecosystem, which is what we wanted to do,” said the World Bank’s Fabio Pittaluga.
The World Bank said there is “a real demand for Caribbean talent”, stating that this year’s graduates from the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) new Animate Jamaica course were “all snapped up by one company prior to finishing the course, and there are still more positions available.
“There is no doubt of the intelligence and capabilities of the Caribbean’s youth. In fact, their skills are already on a par with those found in other regions with a much more developed telecommunications sector.”
The World Bank said events such as Digital Jam and the future launch of StartUp Jamaica, a body to foster the development of creative startups in the country, raise awareness of how the tech sector can stimulate economic growth in the region.
“They convoke both the private and public sector and propose practical solutions to combating low economic growth, high youth unemployment and help secure a brighter future for talented individuals like Digital Jam 3.0 Grand Prize winner, Gareth Thompson,” it said.
The World Bank said pledges were made at the conference to “incubate and develop the talent found in the Caribbean, with the aim of transforming them from ideas to a profitable business model, which hopefully will inspire the next generation of app developers in the Caribbean”.
“We view the digital economy as a way to harness the enormous creativity that exists in the country and our job is to be the enablers, to take that creativity and convert it into businesses and earn foreign exchange and facilitate economic growth,” said Julian Robinson, Jamaica’s Minister of State for Science, Technology, Energy and Mining.
The World Bank said a “desire exists among the public and private sector to harness this intellectual talent and turn it into a powerful catalyst to kick start the region’s stalling economies”.
However, it said, while the entrepreneurial spirit abounds, wide changes are needed in order to transform potential into reality, both within Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.
“Small developing countries like ours require this kind of innovation in order to make the leap we need to make and that’s what we have to do,” said Gary Sinclair, chief executive officer of LIME Jamaica, which sponsored the event. “We literally have to leapfrog generations of legacies, instead of sort of sitting back and having these kinds of technologies just sort of beat up on us rather than adding value to it ourselves.”