by Tricia Simon
Innovation is coined as a new method, idea or product but it is important to note that innovation is cumulative in that it builds on prior technology centered around education – allu weh we dey and wey we goin!
Innovation is driven by culture and the ideas of human capital. Today, when we think of innovation we think of Europe, the United States, Japan and now China. There was a time when Arabs and Africans were far advanced civilisations, so societies do rise and fall. The World Bank in regards to China stated, “Since China began to open up and reform its economy in 1978, GDP growth has averaged almost 10% a year, and more than 800 million people have been lifted out of poverty. There has also been significant improvements in access to health, education, and other services over the same period.”
The United States of American that we know today is said to be created by pilgrims aka refugees fleeing religious persecution in England and started off with humble beginnings (but that is for another article). They brought with them their culture and technology and adopted some of the Native Indian culture and technology who were already present. Today, the United States of America is centred around innovation and the education of its human capital at its core, both in the foreign policy of the US Department of State and its other branches which focuses on internal aspects of innovation. Both China and the US are seen as behemoths in regards to strategic development and embody innovation and human capital as key tenets of their culture. So allu wey we dey an wey we goin?
Today, there are several areas for innovation which includes Personalised medicine, Distributed energy (DE), Pervasive computing, Nanomaterials, Biomarkers for health, Advanced manufacturing, Biofuels, Universal water, Carbon management, Engineered agriculture, Security and tracking and Advanced transportation. With this we turn to the UN Sustainable Development Goals which are related to the aforementioned; no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions and partnerships for the goals. In Grenada, the areas of youth development can be looked at through the lens of remote working in technology jobs and agriculture.
Members of our diaspora are now in key positions to provide assistance in developing Grenada. Darren Blake who is a descendent of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and an IT manager at the UK University of Northampton said what is required is “a process or system which allows you to open the doors to IT, understand IT and upskill the youth population, this makes the workforce agile and employable as we are now part of a global market. Our biggest commodity is our people and if we train them adequately the sky is the limit.” We need to be strategic and plan as the computer and internet are the drivers of our modern society. At present, we are net importers of technology – we import weed eaters (because ah see ah lot ah dem young fellas in de area wid one on dey shoulder) and they use it on a daily basis. Now, have we thought about taking it apart and improving on the technology as opposed to only basic repairs? I see the lawns littered with the plastic string – can our youths make a stronger string, recycle the string, make them less noisy, create a shield to prevent the material from flying in the air, can they be created to use kinetic energy as opposed to gasoline? Look at the “Cane Juice Man”, he made his own machine and now makes a very good living using his machine. Watch, allu use YouTube to gain knowledge, all dem people allu look at have dey money already, so time to make yours.
At present, the majority of the workers whose jobs are computer-based work remotely (including me – I attend court virtually). This provides the opportunity for a decentralised workforce where WFH (work from home) is the new phrase. With this, computer-based jobs can be outsourced to Grenada since we would offer an educated, youth populous with a lower labour cost, favourable tax incentives and excellent command of the universally spoken English Language. In a pre-government GRENLEC buyout world setting up major infrastructure projects would be unthinkable, but today with the ability to invest in renewable energy, this would be possible. Most important, with a WFH environment employees can remain at home, thus saving companies the huge cost of infrastructure development. Key components required are a superfast internet (done), access to solar energy to ensure continuous inexpensive power (started) and an internet and computer educated work force (in progress).
Clifford Browne, founder of Caribbean Coding Academy states, “that this is a timely opportunity for job creation in the digital economy to address youth under and unemployment in Grenada.” At CCA they train persons in Grenada and find employment in the global marketplace for employers located in the United States of America and Canada. These employees work remotely earning a higher-than-average income, valuable foreign currency to improve Grenada’s GPD and also lowers the youth unemployment rates. They offer high exportable skilled, high paying technology jobs such as, Sales Force Administrators, software as a service (SAAS) and software engineering (coding). The next phase is to offer jobs in cybersecurity once enough persons are registered, trained and certified in the field. Thus, the academy is preparing our youths for jobs in the New Digital Economy.
The Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education Angella Finlay stated that a key focus is the upskilling of our youths to be ready for the new digital economy by focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). With this in mind, the MoE is currently looking at curriculum refocusing and reform to prepare students by enabling them to develop problem-solving skills and creativity. She reiterated that teachers are undergoing training in the areas of literacy, numeracy and blended instruction. In order to facilitate blended instruction which was ushered in due to Covid-19 the MoE ensured that children and teaches were provided with the necessary tools which included, devices and broadband internet. There is also greater access to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes with institutions such as the Grenada National Training Agency and New Life Organisation (NEWLO) with a focus on the youth populous.
Doh worry, ah doh forget agriculture for those of us with Grenadian mud running in we blood. As we experience climate change there is a focus on creating climate smart agriculture by organisations such as the World Bank. When it comes to agriculture Israel and the United States are at the forefront of smart agriculture – necessity is the mother of invention. These countries place a huge emphasis on research and development. This means the use of sensors, software, connectivity, location, robotics and data analysis. Imagine with robotics we farmers can use a drone to see dem tief who waiting until we plant den repin. Youths, get involved with the Royal Grenada Police Force in the Praedial Larceny Task Force to set up a smart agriculture programme to help farmers – create the technology.
Now dat Covid-19 is upon us we drinking all kinda bush aka herbal tea, even meh tief, tiefing meh lemongrass to sell – an ah know who he selling it for…as dey say 99 days for di tief an one day for di watchman!!! We need to export more spice, bay leaf, lemongrass, aloe, clove but we really cannot because the majority of our trees are covered in the scaly pest and black sooty mold. This means we are missing out on a huge opportunity to capitalise on our Spice Isle moniker (but that is for another article). The machines to spray the plants are scarce on a global level due to the dual usage for spraying to protect against Covid-19, take one apart and create a Made in Grenada machine.
BBC’s Bright Sparks: Sustainability pays homage to youths such as Angad Daryani of India who created a smog removal machine where that smog is used to make tiles. Another innovator, Jeremiah Thoronka of Sierra Leone uses kinetic energy to produce electricity for lighting. Grenada yearns for more of our youths to emulate our local Bevon Chadel Charles, a 2021 recipient of the Commonwealth Youth Award for creating climate-smart farms across the Caribbean in relation to the UN sustainable Development Goal: Zero Hunger. Members of the CARICOM sees Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the digitising of agriculture as a priority, we simply need to take advantage of this opportunity. Grenada is primarily an agrarian society with mud in we vein and Covid-19 provides an excellent opportunity to capitalise on our assets.
Bevon stated that “at present, due to climate change there is the need for education and innovation as drivers for “climate smart agriculture” which leads to sustainable farming. This includes key highlights such as (a) profitability, (b) productivity (c) enhancing the quality and abundance of natural resources and (d) the quality of life of the family and the community. This helps in meeting all of the UN Sustainable Development goals especially, food security, poverty reduction and environmental stewardship.”
Climate smart agriculture provides an opportunity for Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique which now holds the world’s first “Culinary Capital” awarded by the World Food Travel Association (WFTA). As a result, to meet the increased demand for Grenadian produce Bevon grows traditional and non-traditional crops such as (asparagus, red cabbage, cauliflower and microgreens) to satisfy the palette of locals and tourist. In addition, she is the manager and owner of Akata Farms and uses an ICT approach by using a web-based model to sell her produce to locals and foreigners alike.
If we look at history, we realise that civilisations rise and fall with each precursor society building the other – the Romans built the British, the British built the United States, the Unites States and Soviet Union built China, China and the United States are now building Africa. Human capital is the corner stone of a civilisation’s growth. Africa with its huge youth population shall rise. Give them time, they are young and eager for development. We in Grenada are also endowed with a burgeoning youth population, we simply need to harness their abilities. Each year, students are provided with government-funded scholarships where they are bonded to return after completing their studies. They return and some (ah say sum, not all) are frustrated with the lack of job opportunities in their respective fields, and even if they obtain a job there is little prospect for them to quickly advance or really utilise their expertise. One possible solution would be for there to be the option where a student can remain where he/she studied, obtain a job, pay back the scholarship and collaborate with the respective ministry underlying his/her area of study for innovation and development in Grenada.
We in Grenada are the only ones who get to define what and who we are and where we are in several years. We like food, so let us use the analogy of having to make ah big pot ah oil down, so we need to gather all the ingredients, put them together and start kneading the flour to make the dumplin so we can all “eat ah food.” And remember, we all need to work together as one people, one nation to buil we lickle cuntry. We really need to transcend politics, so when one party comes into power they build on the efforts of the past government – a 10, 20 and 50-year strategic plan. As a nation, we need to focus on defining the core objectives for sustainable development and begin the process to achieve them with innovation at the core using a futuristic approach – a Ministry of the Future which would somewhat transcend the governmental change!
Today, when we think of rapid national and economic development one country comes to mind – China. What is their secret? They devised the strategic plan of, “Liang Ge Yibai Nian (Two Centenary) Goals” by years 2021 and 2049. As a nation they came together and planned for 100 years on how to modernise and develop. With a 100-year marathon, there are 5-year plans where each 5-year period they set out specific goals then at the end evaluate whether they were achieved, if not what areas need to be developed and strategies on how to implement their goals. We see the results, astonishing results, maybe here in Grenada we can emulate the Chinese and be able to achieve astonishing goals and development, for we would all prosper and do well as one nation, one people!
Maybe for the first time, due to Covid-19 the current administration and all opposition parties can devise a joint strategic plan for future development. Recently, there were joint discussions on how to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, so maybe there is hope, I am an ideologue – we need to be able to get along and listen to the voices of each other for the country to make progress and develop for we each hold different views on what is best for Grenada. With input, we hope that each successive party would use this master plan to build Grenada. Once strategic goals for development are set, we as voters would vote on who we think is most likely to implement those developmental goals for Grenada. Each successive government in our election every 5 years would be voted in on their strategy to implement the strategic goals and be kept in power based on whether they achieved those or not. Political stability and stable continuous leadership are important skill set in these trying times and for sustainable development.
An allu youts when dey pay for allu to participate in ah program, please take duh program serious, if allu doh learn and be able to earn a good livin who go pay for allu chilren? Wey allu tink de money comin from, e doh grow on trees, we allu have to learn, wuk and make money to help develop Grenada. Grenada’s future is in your hands, so attend the program, participate and make progress. Education lifts you out of poverty. Technology is taking over, so you need to be able to programme the computers and master technology, or how yuh go find wuk an eat? Wen Covid done agriculture would be automated and limited foreign wuk to go wuk on farm, so go and learn how to create and use the technology. Restaurants in the developed world are struggling to find skilled labour, so they are turning to robots. The cruise ships are not operational, but ah sure as daylite go come, wen dey cum bak dey go want dem robot too, so again, do the necessary – embrace the technology!
Tricia Simon is an Attorney-at-Law called to the bar in the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the Province of Ontario, Canada.
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