By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Transforming Grand Bahama into a "technology hub" involves far more than attracting investors, a Cabinet minister has conceded, with developing a skilled workforce "a critical part" of its plans.
Senator Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, while addressing a recent financial technology (Fintech) seminar hosted by the Bahamas Financial Services Board (BFSB), said this niche represented a natural evolution for the Bahamian financial services industry.
"It is also very much in line with the government's digital transformation program and our stated policy of making Grand Bahama a technology hub," said Mr Thompson. "Our tech hub initiative steadily progresses, and involves far more than just attracting tech companies to The Bahamas.
"Yes, there is good infrastructure, tons of available and affordable office space, no real property tax, but there is also the built-in Customs duty exemptions for every licensee of the Grand Bahama Port Authority and also the ability to receive similar duty free exemptions outside the Port area with the government's east and west concessions. Building our human capacity needs is a critical part of building the right ecosystem."
Mr Thompson said there are four more technology companies under consideration by the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) for approvals, in addition to previously-announced investments by the likes of Dev Digital and Skyward Tech.
He added: "We have incorporated technology in our school's infrastructure through the Ministry of Education's digitisation project, and have created even more educational opportunities for Bahamians by providing free tuition at BTVI and University of the Bahamas.
"I have asked both local institutions to give even greater focus on widening the range of technology programmes. Youth programmes were designed to introduce technology to high school students. These programmes include the BTVI ICT Programme and the YMCA ICT Programme.
"The ICT Skills Development Summer Programme was created in partnership with BTVI. This year's programme benefitted 300 students in New Providence and 100 in Grand Bahama. By the end of this year the programme would have produced 400 high school students from both years of the programme, who are ICT trained and will have CompTIA certification. These numbers indicate a strong ICT-trained Bahamian foundation for potential incoming tech companies."
Mr Thompson added that the government is moving to modernise and transform its services, having signed an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to finance the project.