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Grand Bahama Technology Summit Brings Hope For the Future
By Andrew Conway
Nov 13, 2017 - 10:01:51 PM

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Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson thanked the participants, sponsors and organizers for putting together the first Grand Bahama Technology Summit at the Grand Lucayan in Freeport, November 9 and 10. (BIS Photos/Lisa Davis)

Like many Bahamian events the 2017 Grand Bahama Technology Summit began with a prayer and ended with a party. In between a plan started to emerge for the revitalization of Grand Bahama as a hub for technology and innovation. Presentations from leaders from business, government, and academia, along with Bahamians working for high tech companies in the US, were both pragmatic and inspirational.

It’s clear that the path forward will not be easy. Speakers agreed on the need for improving the ease with which foreign and local investors can start businesses in the Bahamas (including streamlining the process for obtaining licenses and work permits), providing support for local start ups, making venture capital available, and providing training in both entrepreneurship and computer science. However, there appeared to consensus that what needs to be done will be done.

With so many inspiring speakers it is perhaps unfair to single out a few for special attention but I do not have time to write about everyone so please excuse me if I refer you to the online videos of the event for more information. They are available on the MyAliv Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MyAliv/.

Dr. Donovan Moxey PhD, CEO of IBS International, shared a clear vision for the future of high tech in the Bahamas. He suggested ways in which the Bahamas could give added value to high tech companies including improving the ease of doing business in the Bahamas, having an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) located in Freeport, and providing Data Trust Repositories to endure the privacy of sensitive data.  On the role of government he said, “The government will play an extremely important role in this. The government will sell strategy, the government will lay down the policies, the government will create the legislation... The role of government is to enable business to thrive. Once the government can do those things, step back, let the professionals take over, and you will see the industry take off.”

There is one way in which the Bahamas may be ahead of Silicon Valley, and that is in support for women in technology and innovation. Bahamian Kristie Powell, Senior Technical Account Manager at Google, was a big favorite with the crowd, and she received a standing ovation at the start and the end of her remarks. She described how Google products allow small business to have free or inexpensive access to top quality products for systems development, promoting their business, and hosting. Kimberly King-Burns, originally from Harbour Island and now working for convergenz/solutions in Los Angles is planning a blockchain based cyber currency, Conchcoin, to be used to finance a high tech incubator in the Bahamas. The winner of the Blue Marlin Business and Innovation Challenge was Constentina Hamilton of Proserpina AgTech. She has a revolutionary plan for agriculture in the Bahamas.

Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis (centre), along with Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Senator Kwasi Thompson took time out during a break on day one of the Grand Bahama Tech Summit to take a photo with some of the key delegates and speakers. Joining the Prime Minister was Minister of Transport and Local Government, the Hon. Frankie Campbell; Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Darren Henfield; Minister for the Environment and Housing, the Hon. Romauld Ferreira; President of the Senate, the Hon. Katherine Forbes-Smith; along with Parliamentary Secretaries, Members of Parliament, Grand Bahama Port Authority officials, and other dignitaries. (BIS Photo/Lisa Davis)

Alex Camron describes himself as a digital nomad. He’s a senior developer who uses the Internet to work remotely from anywhere in the world. He’s currently in the Bahamas, and described the advantages and disadvantages of the nation as a location for developers. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, as far as he is concerned, and he had a long list of ideas for attracting more digital nomads, from the pragmatic (use renewable power sources to reduce electricity bills) to the fanciful (turn Andros into a safari park).

Senator J. Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for Grand Bahama, proved that he can both listen and lead. When Mr. Ian Rolle, President of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, spoke of the need for a single Internet portal where foreign investors can interface with all the Port Authority and government departments necessary to set up a business in Freeport, Senator Thompson confirmed that this would happen. When Dr. Ian Strachan, Vice President of the University of The Bahamas-North, promised to make a BSc in Computer Information Systems available at the northern campus of UB within four years, Senator Thompson told him that he wants it in two. In his closing remarks, Senator Thompson promised to set up a Grand Bahama Technology Hub Steering Committee within the next thirty days. This committee will have sixty days to prepare a strategic plan with clear goals and milestones, and progress will be reviewed at next year’s Grand Bahama Technology Summit.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference.

Andrew Conway is a “Digital Nomad” who has spent about half of the past twelve years on Grand Bahama working remotely as a consultant for Silicon Valley companies. He is trying to retire but his clients won’t let him. He can be reached at misterajc@gmail.com and is happy to answer questions about high tech and cyber security.

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