by Tricia Simon
Grenada is well poised to become the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean. Why?
We are geographically close to the actual Silicon Valley located in the United States of America, we boast an international airport with several daily flights from the US, we are blessed with a well-educated youth population, we have several well established post-secondary institutions (NEWLO, TAMCC and SGU), we are a safe, clean and peaceful country with a very low crime rate, we speak the English Language (the universal language of global business), our wage rate is relatively low compared to the US, fibre optic cable for fast internet, we are a stable democracy, there is ease of doing business in Grenada, we adhere to the rule of law and other international norms, our youths are very entrepreneurial with the Yutbiz programme and last but not least we have the beautiful Grand Anse beach!
We are in February and I hope that as our institutions of higher learning accept the 2022 cohort of students there is a large contingent of students with a focus on Information Technology (IT) and STEM subjects. This is the initial 4-year plan wherein we expect to see the first set of students graduating in the next 4 years. In order to be seen as a potential employee, our students ought to be graduating in IT courses such as data science, cloud computing, cybersecurity, blockchain, DevOps, data visualisation, computer hardware, IoT (Internet of Things), Full-stack and last but not least, AI & ML (Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning).
The subjects taught at NEWLO, SGU and TAMCC in September 2022 need to prepare our students for actual jobs where they can be productive and earn high paying salaries. In addition, the reality is that in the computer realm there is the opportunity to learn short certificate courses which provides one with the opportunity to enter the computer sphere or upgrade their skills. With computer-driven nations, we see marked advancement because there is a significant offering in short computer courses. These courses are specific and targeted toward specific areas in the computer industry and employment-oriented for a higher paying salary.
In order for our students to be provided with actual jobs, corporate engagement is necessary. Companies from Silicon Valley such as Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Google and Apple need to be seated at the table. The benefits are mutual for these companies would obtain young talent for continued growth and our youths would obtain high paying jobs. The reality is that NEWLO already partners with CISCO where the school offers computer engineering.
In regards to information technology China, the United States and India comes to mind. These countries have all offered subsidies, tax breaks, loans and educated their populous to meet the demand for the 21st century in information technology. We need to think long term for the reality is that our youths would be earning high paying jobs and so paying income tax and adding to the tax base — intergenerational wealth. As a development strategy, both India and China invested heavily in undergraduate studies, then the students travelled to the United States of America to obtain their master’s degree. Why the United States for information technology? It is said that “The United States has the most advanced software and information technology (IT) services industry in the world. More than 40% of the $5 trillion global IT market is in North America, primarily the United States. The industry accounts for $1.8 trillion of US value-added GDP (more than 10% of the national economy) and 11.8 million jobs.” They then returned to their respective countries and developed the IT industry and increased GDP. These countries are seen as “knowledge powerhouses” all driven by human ingenuity from their youths. With this, we expect tremendous assistance from the diaspora — this is the time to help country and kin. You are the ones who travelled, gained knowledge and the time is right to contribute to national development — is all ah we, we is one!
A recent study touted the value of post-secondary education and stated, “On average, about half of the economic growth is related to labour income growth at the tertiary level of education. In France, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, 60% or more of growth in gross domestic product (GDP) is generated by those who have attained a tertiary education.” Thus, scholarships are a key driver for human development and economic growth. In Grenada the parishes with the highest rates of poverty are St Mark and St Patrick. NEWLO is located in that north-western corridor and can be used as a driver to alleviate poverty via post-secondary education and a broad offering of scholarships — an dey full ah young people up dey!
In China big data, facial recognition, “machine learning, pattern recognition and image cognitive technologies” are industry drives. Companies such as Tencent (Youtu Lab), ByteDance, Baidu are at the forefront of the technological race in China.
IT touches all aspects of our lives. I grew up looking at Star Trek and the technology is coming to fruition. It runs the gamut from the digitisation of agriculture, intelligence date sense, high end and smart healthcare, artificial intelligence, fintech, hardware, EdTech, data/analytics, internet software/services, automotive/transport, consumer/retail, e-commerce, supply chain/logistics and a host of other career paths.
In regards to salary, the rewards are great a recent report stated, “Computer and information technology (IT) professionals made a median salary of $91,250 in May 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) . That’s significantly more than the median salary for all occupations, which was $41,950.” The reality is that several companies with the highest capital base are all run by engineers. The richest man on the planet, Elon Musk’s philosophy is rooted in engineering and physics — go figure. Our youths are driven by the need to earn a living, thus the prospect of being able to earn a high wage should be at the centre of any information technology drive in regards to higher education.
Unicorns are no longer rooted in fairy tales they are real, today in the venture capital world a unicorn “refers to any start-up that reaches the valuation of $1 billion.” The list of unicorns are staggering and imagine, we are at the beginning of this new technological age. Time we start to produce “horn”…no, not dat kinda horn, instead the ones where we see huge sums of income being created right here in Grenada. It is now cool to be a “geek”, for they are the ones who are raking in the money. In regards to unicorns, it is said that “India has Created a Unicorn Every Five Days in 2022.”
Youths — the table has been set and the groundwork started! Is up to allu to take full advantage of this opportunity. Go an find out about wha dem school offering, register and start school. Doh sit down and say well is only certain people who get scholarships. You do your part — get off Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and study real hard. The only reason allu should be on social media is to make money and to learn. Form study groups, burn the midnight oil and focus. Innovation and competition should be at your core to see who can be the best and brightest. And we starting allu young, from the time allu hit d education system — 2 years. We need a national educational motto “Grenada, education lifts you out of poverty.” In countries such as China and the United States national development and self-improvement are taught to children from an early age— they adapt and adhere to these guiding principles. I am a “convent girl” where “competition and the drive to be the best” was instilled in us. Let that be the motto for you, our Grenadian youth!
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.