By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis told more than 400 persons attending the first Bahamas Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Conference in Grand Bahama The Bahamas is poised to be “new Silicon capital in the Caribbean”.
He noted that much progress had been achieved to create a technology industry that will uniquely position the country as the jurisdiction of choice for tech firms.
The conference, held in the convention centre of the Grand Lucayan Resort, he said represents an important step toward the government’s new vision for the Bahamas, and a progressive step for the island of Grand Bahama.
Dr Minnis stressed his government’s commitment to establishing the proper regulatory framework that will make the process easy for incorporating, funding and operating tech companies with global ambitions.
“Significant progress has already been made with the passing of our Commercial Enterprise Act and our ongoing ‘ease of doing business’ changes and amendments,” he said.
“Here in the Bahamas we fully understand that establishing and growing a technology industry sector is not easy, however, the Bahamas is uniquely positioned to become the jurisdiction of choice for technology companies quickly, and FinTech solution providers,” the prime minister said.
Dr Minnis believes that developing a technology industry would not only diversify and grow the economy but would also create opportunities for Bahamians.
“I firmly believe in growing a diverse technology industry sector in the Bahamas, where entrepreneurs can start and grow new tech companies,” he said.
However, the prime minister added that existing global technology players must be courted to move their operations to the Bahamas, providing a meaningful impact to the economy.
He noted that the utilisation of Blockchain technology by companies as a basis for their new products and services represents the start of a “new wave of solutions that will change the world as we know it.”
Dr Minnis thinks that the Bahamas offers many advantages for new technology companies looking to relocate here.
He noted that the Bahamas is a sovereign jurisdiction that has been a stable parliamentary democracy for over 250 years.
“We believe in the rule of law and are only 68 miles from the US,” he added.
The prime minister indicated that other software and technology companies, inclusive of biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and advanced manufacturing operations could make the Bahamas their home as well, forming clusters that would only serve to diversify and strengthen the technology sector.
He explained that building a booming technology sector that benefits the economy would require several things to be in place.
The first are policies that encourage innovation. Second, an educated and motivated workforce with access to higher education and professional development resources. Third, a flexible immigration policy. And fourth, locations and infrastructure that can support population growth and provide broadband access and telecommunications services that are on par with the rest of the world.
“We are well positioned to become the new Silicon capital of the Caribbean,” said Prime Minister Minnis, who believes that Grand Bahama is the ideal location for the development of the technology industry.
He pointed out that Grand Bahama - with a population today of just over 40,000 - has the perfect infrastructure to support some 250,000 residents.
Dr Minnis also boasted that broadband connectivity is of the highest quality within the Bahamas, with gigabyte networks becoming the norm for both commercial and residential usage.
Additionally, more recently the prime minister said his government announced plans to provide free tuition at BTVI that includes degree programmes in information technology management, and free education at the University of the Bahamas beginning in 2019, which also provides technology degree programmes.
He also noted that many Bahamians are attending the conference with the desire to be pioneers in the new tech industry.
“I do not think it would be too far-fetched for me to say that the next generation of Bahamian millionaires, and possibly billionaires, could earn their wealth in the technology sector,” he said.
“What we do here at this conference is the first step in that journey: a journey that we cannot accomplish alone, which is why our international friends and partners must play an integral, an important role in all of this,” he said.
He said that the government looks forward to learning from technology experts, and laying the foundation to build a technology industry.
Mobile phone provider Aliv is title sponsor of the conference.
Chief ALIV Commercial Officer Gravette Brown sat as a panelist during the “How Can I Get Funded?” session following the official opening ceremony.
“We consider ourselves to be at the forefront in helping to support all efforts to deepen economic development of this important island and to our nation,” she said. “It is one of the reasons why we’ve welcomed this opportunity to dialogue as a telecoms infrastructure partner in the necessary discussion around continuing the advancement of technology and other forms of economic development not only here in Grand Bahama but throughout the greater Bahamas.
“So why Blockchain and cryptocurrency? Last year we joined the Bahamas Financial Services Board as the exclusive telecommunications partner of their FinTech working group. “It is through our participation in this body we hope to continue to work with the foremost minds in financial services and law to help the country to prepare for the Blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies,” she said.