By YOURI KEMP
The government's focus on restoring information and communications services to small Bahamian businesses in Dorian's wake links directly to the restart of its "technology hub" plan, a Cabinet minister said yesterday.
Senator Kwasi Thompson, minister of state for Grand Bahama, who hosted the first post-Dorian meeting between the government and 'technology hub' stakeholders at the British Colonial Hilton yesterday, revealed that Facebook and other international players were also in talks over the initiative.
"Today we are focusing on how we enhance and assist small businesses with their ICT (information, communications and technology) needs, which goes completely towards enhancing he tech hub initiative," Mr Thompson told Tribune Business.
"There are a number of international firms that are in discussions with us right now. One would be Facebook that is in conversation with us. There are a number of NGO's (non-governmental organisations), particularly tech NGOs, that are on the ground now in Abaco and Grand Bahama.
"We have also been in communication with the ITU (International Telecommunications Union), which is the technology arm of the United Nations. They will be in the country this week, and they will be touring the islands from a communications standpoint. They will also be a part of the recovery and relief efforts."
When asked about the marketing focus for the "technology hub", Mr Thompson replied: "Remember, the tech hub initiative had a number of different components. The tech hub initiative had, as a component from the education standpoint, how do we develop the UoB (University of The Bahamas), the BTVI (The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute) and other partnerships so that we can enhance the technology training.
"It also had as a component dealing with bringing in different investors, who are technology companies. It also is: How do we develop small businesses and tech entrepreneurs, and how do we develop them in the country."
The minister added: "What the hurricane has brought is an opportunity to accelerate. You have a number of businesses that need to rebuild, so what better way to rebuild than utilising the latest technology to rebuild?
"You have a lot of homes that need to be repaired and rebuilt, so what better way to utilise the latest technology to rebuild? The entire east end of Grand Bahama needs to be rebuilt, and what better way than to use the latest technology in that rebuilding?
Mr Thompson said: "What we are also talking about now is rebuilding and utilising technology for resilience. So one of the things we must be focused on is if we are inviting investors to come, we must be able to say to them that if you come here we can provide you with the necessary resilience to protect from hurricanes or to function in the midst of the hurricane area.