Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Senator Kwasi Thompson says that Grand Bahama remains high on the government’s agenda, and the launch of the first ever Technology Summit on GB is evidence of such a commitment.
During his welcome remarks at the first Tech Summit at the Grand Lucayan resort on Thursday, November 9, 2017, Minister Thompson said that one of the promises in the Free National Movement’s Manifesto was to make Grand Bahama a Technology Hub, similar to Silicon Valley.
Minister Thompson admitted that when the idea for hosting a Technology Summit first came about, he had no idea what a Technology Hub was or what it meant.
“However, I believed in our Prime Minister’s vision for Grand Bahama,” said Minister Thompson. “It didn’t take me long to realize that the technology industry is the way forward for our country and that Grand Bahama is ideally-suited for its development.
“While our past success has been in industry, our future success must be in innovation and technology. We recognize the importance of tourism in Grand Bahama, but I believe that today is a new day for Grand Bahama. Today, I believe that we can re-brand Grand Bahama. Today we cease to be the capital for industry; now Grand Bahama will be a place for industry and innovation.”
Minister Thompson asked those attending the summit’s official opening, how can Grand Bahama get to the point of becoming a Technology Hub?
“How do we let the world know that we are open for business? This is why we are here today: Our government must shape the right policies and provide the right incentives and remove all obstacles in order to nurture and grow the tech industry.”
The Minister of State for Grand Bahama confessed that the idea for a Tech Summit started as a small conference for industry stakeholders to shape policy. However, he noted that the more they talked about it and the more word about a proposed small tech conference got out, the more Grand Bahamians began to believe in the idea.
“So today… we have over 450 people registered for this first ever Technology Summit,” said Minister Thompson. “We have people from the United States, Canada and as far away as Africa.
“Back then, when we were planning just a small summit, we joked about the possibility of getting some people from Silicon Valley to come and talk with us here in Freeport. We even joked about getting some people from Google and Microsoft. But during this conference you will hear from people from Silicon Valley, from Google, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard and others.
“Say what you will about the state of the economy of our island, the leaders and the giants in the technology world, have not just come to The Bahamas, they have come to Grand Bahama.”
Minister Thompson noted that in addition to inviting tech companies to come to Grand Bahama, the Government of The Bahamas must also provide opportunities for tech business entrepreneurs. In order to achieve that, a part of the two-day Tech Summit will be what is called a ‘Blue Marlin Challenge,’ where Bahamian tech business entrepreneurs will make their business pitch to representatives from Google, Microsoft and to Silicon Valley experts.
Those who are successful will be awarded a $10,000 prize from the government to assist with the startup of their proposed business.
“This is only just the start,” added the Minister. “Our Grant Program will also continue next month… with our micro and small business economic empowerment program. Our sponsors will be providing the winner of the Blue Marlin Challenge, courtesy of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, (with) one-year business license exemption.
“So, who knows, after these pitches have been made, maybe Google or Microsoft will partner with a Bahamian to make their business idea a reality in Grand Bahama. It is a new beginning for Grand Bahama -- and this is just the beginning!” Minister Thompson called on all technology companies, or those interested in starting a tech company, to set up shop in Grand Bahama.