Today, areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, robotics, nanotechnology, genetics and biotechnology are all intersecting and building on one another to give us the 4th Industrial Revolution.
What does this mean?
Many people alive today actually saw the computerization industrial revolution and we can learn a lot from this. This was the first time many of us started to use computers.
We will have to retrain employees; this is not always easy and there are some recommendations we can look at. But once we achieve this successfully, we can start to improve our local businesses and at a country level attract more innovative businesses so that we can become an Innovation Hub, think “Tech Beach” or “Silicon Beach”.
What can we expect?
We can expect Smart Systems like smart cities, smart factories, smart farms, and smart homes. Barbados is well positioned, we have the Ministry of Innovation and Smart Technologies to help digitize the Barbados Government and usher us deeper into this digital future.
The hottest new commodities are not physical but virtual commodities. Virtual currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Aion. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF said that this technology was “shaking up the system”. Your data is a hot commodity. Leading businesses in the world are having huge success using data science to predict consumption. A third of all purchases on Amazon were recommended by Amazon based on data. The digital economy means that you can now make data-driven decisions in your business and your government.
There are job opportunities in blockchain, in financial technology and we have entities, like the Aion Foundation that have made Barbados their home because of the talent, the ICT infrastructure and the regulatory environment. If we continue to improve and promote these key selling points, as Invest Barbados has been doing, we will see more companies arrive.
What are some key recommendations?
Job creation in the digital economy calls for cross industry collaboration. There will need to be a coordinated effort within the private sector which has an incentive to develop a clear view on future skills required and employment needs. As part of the indispensable components of implementing scalable solutions to jobs and skills challenges, businesses will need to pool resources where necessary with a view to maximizing the benefits by leveraging each other’s expertise in a mutually beneficial way.
The private sector must play an important role if we in the Caribbean are to achieve the UN’s 17 development goals.
Cross-ministry collaboration is critical to job creation. The Min. Education, Innovation, Economic Affairs, Blue Economy, Culture and Labour will have to coordinate more going forward. As we move deeper into the world of AI and automation, creative skills like music and art, and things that only humans can do like sports will command a premium. This is the reason the Ministry of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports will be extremely important in the Digital Economy.
The businesses here in Barbados know what they require to succeed. This is why social partnerships and the formation of a Growth Council that collaborates specifically to tackle economic and investment growth are critical for the future economy.
R2: Improve Policy and Infrastructure
Barbados has an excellent ICT infrastructure and good corporate structures. Create the right regulatory environment to be an innovation hub and we can be global leaders. Instead of the big fish swallowing the small fish, the small fish can now swim circles around the big fish. But we have to be agile in our approach to regulation of new technologies. So, we created a regulatory sandbox in Barbados to provide a regulatory environment for innovative businesses in the absence of any legal framework or legislation that speaks to their specific type of technology.
R3: Build Human Capital
Countries at all development levels have found that education and skills increase their ability to innovate and adopt new technologies. The World Bank said there is a moral case to be made, for investing in the health and education; ‘But there is an economic one as well: to be ready to compete and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. “Human capital” – the potential of individuals – is going to be the most important long-term investment any country can make for its people’s future prosperity and quality of life.’
The International Labour Organization said that this investment can make the difference between inclusive growth and growth that leaves large segments of society behind. Furthermore, a workforce that has been appropriately trained and is able to continue learning boosts investor confidence and job growth.
How Barbados Will Lead
Focusing on becoming an innovation hub for new technologies allows Barbados to achieve sustainable development and lead in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Mr. Dele Atanda, thought leader on emerging digital culture, thinks the most important recommendation for Governments in the Caribbean to ensure job creation in the digital economy is to implement the right regulatory environment to allow innovation to flourish. We continue to find this balance of protecting our financial system and consumers while providing an environment that does not stifle innovation but encourages it.