Limited use of tech ‘a hindrance’
BARBADOS’ FAILURE to take advantage of opportunities in science and technology, much like its regional neighbours, is being lamented by a world-renowned Caribbean scientist.
Professor Suresh Narine said even if countries were able to succeed in doing this, they would need to form themselves into a federation-type arrangement given their small size and populations to fully benefit.
“If we don’t begin to have some sort of federation, some sort of policy-driven collaboration, give up, go home . . . . There won’t be any absorptive capacity. We need to look at governance, we need to be careful of how we invest and we need, by all means, to avoid the scourge of corruption,” he advised.
The Guyanese-born scientist, who was named in 2015 as the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards For Excellence Laureate in the category of science and technology, was delivering a lecture recently at the Errol Barrow Centre
For Creative Imagination, University of the
West Indies, Cave Hill.
In his presentation on the topic, Why Science And Technology Are Crucial Fulcrums For Caribbean Development, he acknowledged that climate change, expensive energy, food security, labour and foreign direct investment were major challenges for the region.
At the same time, the senior professor in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy and Chemistry at Canada’s Trent University identified several shortcomings by states.
Zeroing in on Latin America and the Caribbean, he bemoaned that only four per cent of the total foreign direct investment in renewable energy was received by the Caribbean in 2017.
He suggested this was occurring because countries had not taken time to develop knowledge, absorptive capacity and labour relating to science and technology.
He made specific reference to the high electricity consumption in hotels in Barbados because of the use of air-conditioning units, and expressed regret that a system had not been developed to turn such units on and off by inserting the room key into a slot.
The professor, who has brought about 46 companies to market in science and technology and was named in 2011 as one of Canada’s Top 40 Under-40 Leaders, also expressed concern about the Caribbean’s “crippling dependence on imported foods”, much of which he believed could be produced in the region with value added.
“We need to develop a cadre of skilled labour for emerging industries. It is not okay to just grow food. We must add value to that food at home . . . . Technology and science can be a great leveller of the proverbial playing field. It can allow us to access high-paying, innovative jobs and businesses simply because we’re skilled,” he said.
“In some of these cases, it’s really not about finding solutions. The solutions are there. It’s simply about technology transfer.” ( WILLCOMM)