Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, says Jamaicans need to make a mental shift from merely being users of technology to becoming developers and creators of technology.
“It may seem like an audacious vision for a small island like Jamaica, but in addition to being known for our speed on the track, our music and… for leading resistance to oppression in the world, now we must become known for being innovators and creators in science and technology,” he said.
Mr. Holness was speaking at the launch of the Education Transformation Commission 2020, at the Office of the Prime Minister Media Centre in Kingston, on July 22.
“The same audacity, the can-do-spirit that makes a small tropical island like Jamaica bold enough to compete in the Winter Olympics and do well, it is that same audacity and can-do spirit, which is natural in us, that should make us feel that we too can develop a Google, an Apple or a Zoom for that matter, right here in Jamaica,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Holness expressed confidence that Jamaica, with its natural knack for creativity and talent, can pair technology with creativity and become creators of world-class digital content.
“We can do that and must do that if we are going to survive in the new era,” the Prime Minister emphasised.
He argued that Jamaica is now on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is being accelerated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and will transform the world unlike anything before.
Mr. Holness said it is important for Jamaicans to reflect on the fact that when the world had moved on to the Third Industrial Revolution, the start of the Information Age, Jamaica was just beginning to see the benefits from the Second Industrial Revolution.
Consequently, he said Jamaica now has to position itself so as not to miss out on the opportunities in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is about cyber-physical systems, artificial intelligence, biometrics, genome editing, renewable energy, 3-D manufacturing, autonomous vehicles and the Internet of Things.
“To the average Jamaican those things sound strange, but this is what will define the world… well it is defining the world now. It will become mainstream in a few years, and if we wait around, once again we will become consumers of these things, and the worry is that bauxite and tourism will not be able to pay for those things,” he said.
Jamaica, the Prime Minister said will either be left with the option of borrowing or consuming and, therefore, must put itself in a position now to solve that problem.
Furthermore, he said for the country to remain relevant and compete in the 21st century global economy, it will have to fundamentally transform itself, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is at the heart of the global technological revolution.
“We have to now be deliberate and instrumental in developing the skills necessary to be able to compete in the new dynamic that is about to come,” Mr. Holness reasoned.
“There’s much work to be done to create the Jamaica with the highest level of socio-emotional intelligence, competencies and skills that will enable us individually and as a people to accomplish great and complex tasks productively, with a growth mindset, while maintaining our emotions in social transactions, to resolve conflicts without violence and deviance, with pro-social and rational attitudes, and it starts with education,” he said.
The newly launched Commission, which will be tasked with overhauling the country’s public education system, will be chaired by John Cowles Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, Professor Orlando Patterson.
The terms of reference for the Commission will be to comprehensively review and assess Jamaica’s education system, including its structure, operation, and processes, and to recommend an action plan for change.