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Grand Bahama ‘Can Be The New Silicon Valley’

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Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net 

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.

Comments

proudloudandfnm 3 months ago

You better get off your ass and do something to help GB recover. It has been a year and we are much worse off today then we were when you were sworn in.

We need those 2000 jobs back now! Not next year, not next month. NOW!

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BahamasForBahamians 3 months ago

When will Hubert quit telling lies to The Bahamian public.

We know and YOU know, hubert, that GB nor anywhere else in this country will NEVER be able to exist in the same sentence as SILICON VALLEY until we get reform our electricity grid and competitively price our KWh.

No-one will invest in a shakey grid that guarantees less than 90% up-time with costs comparable to mortgages.

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proudloudandfnm 3 months ago

Really sick and tired of the nonsense coming out of the FNM regarding Freeport. If you live in Nassau and listen to these liars you'd think Freeoort was booming. It is not. It is now a depressed island, no jobs, no prospect for jobs, no indication whatsoever of a recovery. It is a crime how Freeport is being ignored.

DO SOMETHING NOW!

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OldFort2012 3 months ago

I read this wrong first time round. I thought he said: "Grand Bahamas can be the new sitcom valley."

Then I realised that is what he probably meant.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months ago

All one has to do is just read Minnis's lying lips!

Minnis's track record of lie after lie in his first year of office says it all. There's really nothing more any of us need to know about this dimwitted Doc!

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milesair 3 months ago

Looks like Minnis has the same disease as Trump. They both are excellent liars!

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joeblow 3 months ago

If only wishing and hoping made dreams come true! What definitive steps have this administration taken to make this pipe dream a reality?

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sucteeth 3 months ago

A tech hub will never happen in Bahamas. Power and internet too unreliable and costly for one. We also do not have enough techies here and will have to import them which will add to the cost to price us out of the market. Its a good pipe dream though.

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BahamasForBahamians 3 months ago

Only the government thinks otherwise

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banker 3 months ago

The funny part is, that the government couldn't organise a runny nose if they had a cold. I watched some of the talks online from the November conference, and there was mention of another conference in 60 days or two months. They took 8 months to do it, and the speakers are real nobodies -- full of hot air about crypto-currency, but know nothing of a tech hub. One of the last-year speakers has been on social media saying that Grand Bahama was a bust, a con, a joke and didn't have the infrastructure or amenities to support a tech population and a tech lifestyle. For well-paid technical people, living on Grand Bahama would be the equivalent of living on house arrest. Nothing to do, nothing to see, no high end grocery stores, no shopping. The lifestyle is unsustainable, and it doesn't help that it takes forever to open a bank account, and the Bahamian dollar isn't convertible. But the biggest problem is the government itself. They are too dumb and backwards to even appreciate what it takes to have a technology industry, and they don't have the skill or the expertise to build a tech hub. They are easily flim-flammed by these so-called experts in the field who earn their living by professionally speaking at these events and know nothing about technology. Sad, as Donald Trump would say. The Grand Bahama Tech Hub dream een gern nowhere.

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TalRussell 3 months ago

Ma Comrades, could it be while Grand Bahamalanders are told the Imperial governing red shirts would love do more for their all but halted economy - bills for red shirts elected MP's, appointed senators, boardchairman's and members, across board range other government politically appointees, along with government officials travels since coming office now top $5 million... yet although repeatedly promised, the PM still refuses release to the PeoplePublic - down to the red penny -exactly how much $5 million his own travels abroad have cost PeoplesPublicPurse.... Does a series serial broken promises by a country's PM, not fall under some kinds expected rules PM to follow.... Now, there's two Minnis's foreigner country travel expenses focus on. { You've thought all this was made up nor that the elected MP's, senators, government officials and the politically appointed does drive around in more government cars than the entire policeman's cars on road to protect the PeoplePublic and the nation }.

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DWW 3 months ago

this line of thinking is delusional. not argument about it. governments don't drive the tech world, they try to keep up with it. If anyone believes different they are idiots, delusional or simply trying to pull a fast one. FPO has absolutely nothing to offer a large tech firm, unless there are very substantial tax advantages. that is the only reason they would move. Ireland was Microsoft headquarters until the EU made them raise the taxes. guess what happened? MS pulled out to find a warmer more welcoming hole.

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TalRussell 3 months ago

Ma Comrades, what you think be answer, if Minnis, KP and Pakesia were be asks - how many policeman's cars, fire engines and ambulances are up running at the ready to patrol and respond calls made by the constituents and residents of Grand Bahamaland and Bimini.... And, how many government vehicles are currently assigned to politicians, political appointees and government offices and officials on Grand Bahamaland and Bimini..... you goin' be shocked learn how, where and to whom does your government assigns their fleet vehicles....Grand Bahamlander's and Bimininite's will from today start paying attention whom is driving and occupying government vehicles...along with expensiveness its costing them every minute them vehicles are on road,or parked in driveways... some in driveways when government person inside should be at work during government business working hours... in some strangers driveways too.

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Clamshell 3 months ago

Uh ... Silicon Valley has reliable supplies of electricity and water ... and a workforce with a work ethic that is virtually alien to Bahamian culture.

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TalRussell 3 months ago

Ma Comrade, Freeport has abundance power and water - just if you can afford it... no potholes anywhere... has so much goin it - not be economic envy Caribbean.... but what Freeporter's really need is to take control and move onward, forward, upward with less government, not more.... needs genuine locally elected and mandated government that will allow All citizens and residents to vote... stop with the chasing of the pipe dream magic city that never has and will never materialize.... become Out Islanders - not city dwellers - and by adapting to an all new economic twist.

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birdiestrachan 3 months ago

If doc says it, it is not true.

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ThisIsOurs 3 months ago

From the moment you read the CEB bill you would have recognized something was off. It was the most poorly constructed piece of legal writing ever. I'd be really surprised if a lawyer wrote it. I continue to believe that someone(s) has the ear of the PM and is pushing an agenda that will benefit them personally. All the talk about supporting tech entrepreneurs from just about everyone is rubbish. It just sounds good. and nothing this team likes more than sexy sounding talk. On the other hand I do believe we "could" grow a tech industry here but we're going the exact opposite direction to get it done

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ThisIsOurs 3 months ago

Btw does anyone have a clear indication of exactly what GIBC global is training grand Bahamians to do?

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realitycheck242 3 months ago

The only way this country can achieve a small semblance of silicone valley in freeport is to get Mandrin speaking Bahamians to court chineese and Indian Tech companies to locate there taking advantage of our promixity to the USA. With the trade wars escalating between The US and China and the US and her allies.The Gov can provide Tax incentives to chineese companies that would have to be much lower than the tariff rates Trump is now proposing......China has a Facebook equivalent company called Renyen.con, A Whats App equivalent called WeChat,...A Amazon Equvilent called Alibaba.... India also has equivalent software companies to Facebook, WahtsApp and Amazon and many others.The Government can establish trade missions and send multi lingual Tech savy Bahamians to seek out these companies to establish backup locations in Freeport. If a few established companies come the the startups will follow.but location, Tax exemptions, and reasons why freeport would be a great location and not other carribean and south american countries would all have to sold in a package. If China is serious challenging the US in this hemisphere we can sell the Bahamas as the singapore of the region. We have to invite serious executives like Jack Ma the CEO of Alibaba to come to the Bahamas and attend these conferences and to a lesser extent the lower level execs and not the same old speakers, some of whom seams to have no experience in the tech world. Silicone Valley was founded because of the innovation and ingeneuity of free thinkers to make what seams impossible to become possible. Venture capatalist funded the dreams of the Innovators and technical minds made dreams a reality and the investors and software developers rich.. These are the types of people who we should be inviting to Freeport if we are serious about a Silicone Valley semblance clone because thats all the infastructure there can accomodate.

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ThisIsOurs 3 months ago

That's a very short term strategy though. Trump is gone by November. Over the past year I've seen various interests preach to Bahamians how everyone but us can do it. Yes we can.

Conferences appear to be the new currency. Theyre not too concerned about what's gotten out of it. It's like a revival meeting

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John 3 months ago

Whenever I hear about silicone I think about all those women who had breast implants and when they started to leak the breasts became a valley, even of death for those women. So think beyond silicone and more advanced than that. Maybe bitcoin, Crypto, block chain, solar one space forces. Even salt, aragonite and oil.

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realitycheck242 3 months ago

Silicon Valley (abbreviated as SV) is a region in the southern San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California, referring to the Santa Clara Valley, which serves as the global center for high technology, venture capital, innovation, and social media.

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John 3 months ago

I’m quite aware of that . But Just saying ithe technology is beyond silicone now

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John 3 months ago

The NAPA valley is where AID makes its car parts

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BahamaLlama 3 months ago

@banker - I may well be the speaker you are referring to. It was on ZNS.

I can't speak for all the individuals who gave talks in November, but i know a lot of them felt the same way i did; which was incredibly uncomfortable (and slightly deceived) as being billed as "the greatest minds in the industry". Those would be Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Musk and co. No-one i met would be that arrogant. At least 2 had been messed around so much in the past they refused to speak without being paid for their time.

This event is idiotic. And cynical - dozens of brilliant young Bahamians who are genuinely skilled and knowledgeable Blockchainers were snubbed. The idea of GB being a tech "hub" (whatever that is), or any kind of "Silicon Valley" is so ludicrous it defies belief. There are a million reasons, but the biggest are:

  • Tech is private enterprise. Governments are never welcome, and invariably useless. The Bahamian government is so obsessed with controlling everything when it has no role in business at all.
  • Tech people want gentrification. GB is Haiti. Abaco could work, maybe.
  • Where are they all going to live? There's no housing.
  • The work ethic of tech people is completely incompatible with the Bahamas. The national educational average is D-minus. All but 2-5% of the population are unemployable. AI is there to automate the low-end: it doesn't "create jobs", it removes them.
  • The power issue is real. It's horrifying.
  • The management team at GBPA are literally some of the most corrupt in the Caribbean.
  • In an electorate this appallingly xenophobic, how exactly are the FNM going to import 1000 middle-class white people without massive backlash?

There is absolutely no possibility - and i mean NONE - of this happening. The Emperor isn't wearing any clothes. The "tech" companies - all 4 of them apparently making this a massive "success" - are almost certainly tax dodging (corporate inversion). Kwasi needs to be called out for the total, utter failure it already is.

My own take is these events are largely political theatre; politicians wanting the pomp and ceremony in order to "wow" less educated Bahamians, and equally to snub the younger, more intellectual younger ones (those crabs at the bottom of the bucket). Governments all over the world are so useless at technology it doesn't bear thinking about. The "work permit" site was a Wordpress install. It's shockingly worse than a teenager's attempt.

This country has basic, basic needs which are incredibly urgent: at least several hundred billion dollars in infrastructure for roads, power, drainage, hurricane defences, and more; governmental departments which can be lost in a flood or fire; a national airline, with planes, who can fly on time; transit and facilities within the islands; intellectual leaders who understand the WTO. The list is endless. A "tech hub" is idiotic when the beaches are strewn with trash.

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banker 3 months ago

Thank you for you honesty and perspicacity. There are several points that I want to emphasise that you made. 1) For the present conference website, there were huge errors. When you clicked on a bio, another one would show up - not the person in the picture. This was by a Bahamian company.

2) Can you imagine the crime wave that would happen if 1,000 well paid tech workers moved in. I was talking to a banker from Canada who was managing an account for a successful start up there. He spoke of interns making the equivalent of $99,000 per year and they were the lowest paid. The average programmer makes $150,000. Put a group of those people in amongst the Bahamians making $250 a week. That's a recipe for trouble. There would be another Lyford Cay in the making and never the twain shall meet.

3) You are right about the port. I have been hearing some awfully strange stories of real bad shiite going down between the port management and investors (including corruption and racism).

4) One of the current crop of speakers admitted on social media that this conference wasn't really "transactional" but as you put it, political theater.

5) One of the participants of the earlier conference said that it opened with a prayer, and amazement was visible on the faces of all the foreign speakers. It was like a fart in an elevator because it was so out of place.

6) Here's the real kicker -- I watched all of the speeches on youtube. There was a white guy there with insider Bahamian jokes who offered to put in a blockchain application for the government and train up Bahamians to operate it. If that really happened, I'm sure that I would have read about it in the news. I rather suspect that nothing happened, and it corroborates the fact that this is a political show and a Potemkin Village.

As a Bahamian who has escaped the restrictive atmosphere of our archipelago in the sun, it saddens me that we can't get our act together to bootstrap ourselves out of the mire of ego, tribalism, ignorance and un-enlightenment.

PS. How do you make bullet points these posts? I could have used that tech skill.

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BahamaLlama 3 months ago

The starting pay for Googlers is circa $120,000. The industry seeks out the top 1-2% of the Western countries, and a disproportionate amount of these people are a) gay (imagine how that will work here), b) obsessed with healthy eating (all GB has is polystyrene junk food), c) are used to technology doing everything (even the locks on their doors), d) gentrified to the point of pretentious ("artisan coffee shops" being a prime example, and finally e) incredibly liberal and left-leaning. There is absolutely nothing culturally in the Bahamas that is not entirely antithetical to their values and beliefs. That's before you even consider the Bahamian dislike of second home-owners, foreign "progressive" values, and the "colonialism" paranoia. You're entirely right there could be violence.

The Port is another thing entirely. The evidence is right there waiting to be published by the newspapers. There needs to be a serious enquiry and eventual prosecutions into that senior management team - for stealing other Bahamians' ideas and investors, colossal negligence, monopolising licenses, protecting launderers, skimming/grafting licensees, retaliatory Mafia behaviour against whistleblowers, and holding the shareholders virtually hostage with the threat of a race war. It needs to be reformed or removed (although the government would be entirely worse).

The Blockchain is an extraordinary concept which is revolutionary, but it's not going to produce a single job here. The vanity money could be spent on the ailing childrens' home, fixing the Lucaya sewage, or a basic TV station with a mandate of educational content.

(Bullet points are in the main editor window btw!)

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ohdrap4 3 months ago

WHEN YOU START A NEW POST. TO THE RHS OF "qUOTE" THERE IS NUMBERED AND BULLETED LIST.

i YOU ARE ANSWERING POST, YOU POST IT THEN HIT EDIT TO ADD BULLETS.

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banker 3 months ago

Stupid me. I just saw that now. Thanks.

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happyfly 3 months ago

Uuuummmmmm.........why dont they just reverse the old 'bend or break' regime and let Freeport get on back to it's original mandate. The place was doing just fine until a few elected representatives from Nassau decided that if they couldn't have it, no one could have it !

What these small-time, near-sighted yocal politicians need to realize is that big business has a long memory. You think a big multinational corporation is going to relocate here (like so many have tried to in the past) because this one guy, this week, says it's a good thing, when history has proven that the next guy, next week, is going to have his hand out and be pointing at the door.

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proudloudandfnm 3 months ago

What percentage of GB people are tech saavy? Why is the FNM driving for this now? We lost 2000 jobs in October of 016. When will this half assed government deal with the actual problem????

Freeport needs action now. We need 2000 jobs now.

Get off your ass and DO SOMETHING!

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