Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM), Hon. Phillip Paulwell, says he is committed to ensuring that all Jamaicans, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, have full and equal access to technology.
“This government is committed to levelling the playing field for all Jamaicans,” he said. “We are going to ensure that every square inch of this island is broadband accessible and that every single school in this country is outfitted with learning equipment, such as computers and whiteboards, as well as full internet access,” the Minister declared.
Mr. Paulwell was speaking at the official launch of Northern Caribbean University’s (NCU) Research Week, in Mandeville, on March 13.
The conference, which runs from March 11 to 15, is being held under the theme: ‘50 Years and Beyond: Technology and Research Transforming Jamaica and our World’.
Mr. Paulwell pointed out that the expansion of scientific and technological opportunities for all Jamaicans is an integral part of the government’s plans for the further economic and social development of the country.
“The ability of a people to embrace science and technology and to continuously innovate is what we all need for economic transformation, not the size of our country or the wealth we are endowed with,” he said.
He argued that after 50 years of independence, Jamaica must now look beyond the mining and tourism sectors as sources of economic development.
“The truth is that a long term plan for any nation cannot be hinged on mining or tourism alone, because those are activities that are fickle. When we depend on our minds, however, our future is secure, the possibilities immense and the opportunities endless,” the Minister said.
Mr. Paulwell also explained that competitive advantage in this era is hinged on technological advances and the utilisation of knowledge centres for growth. “To remain competitive and abreast of other economies, it is imperative that we develop a culture of continuous improvement, driven by scientific research and the application of new and appropriate technologies,” he said.
The Minister commended NCU for its outstanding and continuous work in science, technology and research, making particular reference to its research in cancer treatment, as well as the achievements of its Imagine Cup Teams over the past few years.
“Just this week we saw the release of research from NCU that is alerting us to the presence of heavy metals in our soil, which is important information to our citizens, our farmers and health officials,” he noted.
In his remarks, made via a video presentation, President of NCU, Dr. Trevor Gardner, said the institution will seek to reinforce its efforts in areas of technology and research, as the country moves forward in its 50th year.
“This institution within its limited life as a university, has demonstrated its capacity and capability in undertaking meaningful research to advance nation building,” he said.
He informed that presently the institution is involved in a number of groundbreaking researches that will prove beneficial to the lives of all Jamaicans.
“In particular, we are presently involved in research related to the growing of ginger in its quality and productivity, that should advance the life of farmers in that particular crop,” he said.
The university is also involved in research related to how sorrel can make a difference in the treatment of various forms of cancer. Additionally, the NCU’s School of Education is examining methods of improving the performance of elementary students in the GSAT examination.
“We’re also undertaking research related to HIV among high school students. This is one of the most troublesome health hazards facing not just high school students, but this nation and the world. We believe that by targeting high school students and working with that population, we will get data that will certainly reverse the direction of this dreaded disease,” Dr. Gardner said.
He said that the Research Week conference will further seek to open new windows and suggest new directions, both for the university and for the nation.
Over the next few days, the conference will see various presentations on: Jamaica’s economy; renewable energy management; the effects of family life on academic achievement; improving the education system; and the relationship between parenting style and violent behaviour.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter