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Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. Keith Mitchell, has said that the region, which is in the infancy of a scientific revolution, must leverage science and technology in its strategy to become more globally competitive in the context of the Caribbean Single Market (CSM).
“The existence of an information society presents an opportunity for social and economic transformation that leads to economic prosperity for nation states.and we must also act fast,” he stressed, during his address at the launch of the 20th annual National Conference of the Scientific Research Council, at the Hilton Hotel, yesterday (November 20).
Dr. Mitchell, who has responsibility for Science and Technology in CARICOM, cited studies which showed that the world’s 24 richest nations, which represented only 16 per cent of the world’s population, utilized information and communication technology (ICT) to a greater extent in their leisure and productive times, and were increasingly moving away from traditional agriculture as a means of livelihood, highlighting countries like Singapore, Ireland, Chile and Malta as advanced nations.
“This change in behaviour is linked to the use of the Internet and the World Wide Web. A new society is emerging, where the tools of production are no longer agricultural tools and tools of that nature, but information and knowledge are fashioning the information society,” he said.
“The strategic goals of each of our nation states in the third millennium include the eradication of poverty, combating HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses, the provision of universal primary education, a significant increase in tertiary education, improved security and the achievement of sustainable development for all of our peoples,” Dr. Mitchell pointed out.
He emphasized that the region could only achieve these goals if their economies were rapidly developing and this would be possible through greater exploitation of profitable scientific innovations.
Dr. Mitchell said it was important to align regional economies with those of their trading partners.
Citing studies, such as the World Competitiveness Index and the International Telecommunication Union’s World Development Report of 2003, he noted that there was a competitiveness gap between northern and southern developing countries.
“The reports show that there is a widening gap in the penetration of ICTs, referred to as the digital divide, between the developing countries of the north and the developing countries of the south, and this has translated into a development gap between the north and south,” he pointed out.
Furthermore, Dr. Mitchell said these studies informed that, “there was a distinct relationship between the level of penetration of information and communication technology in a country and its ability to be globally competitive”. He urged that national governments should endeavour to ensure information access for “the less privileged in society”.
The Prime Minister said that the region was apace in establishing an information society, citing initiatives such as the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN).
“Science and technology can no longer be seen as a stand-alone discipline for the academically gifted. Scientific and technological knowledge as well as their innovation need to become hands-on tools and translated into know-how for farmers, fishermen and service providers, housewives and construction tradesmen,” he said.