Caribbean a source of prodigious talent, depth of ideas – World Bank

The Washington-based financial institution said it’s a potential that could secure the economic future for the region, and, more specifically, valuable career opportunities for the youth.

The bank said a central part of the recent Digital Jam 3.0 conference in Jamaica was an opportunity for the shortlisted contestants to pitch their app ideas to industry leaders from across the world.

“But they weren’t just there to listen but to act, and so while the finalists put the finishing touches to their presentations, the Caribbean’s private sector met to begin the process of creating the sub-region’s first angel investors network.”

The World Bank said currently access to finance is a major barrier for entrepreneurs across the spectrum, adding that such a network would work to “revolutionise investment and access to finance for wannabe tech startups, as well as give the wide Caribbean Diaspora a clear route into investing back into the region.

“It (Digital Jam 3.0) really is beyond a competition, it’s beyond a conference, it’s really laying the basis for a full ecosystem, which is what we wanted to do,” said the World Bank?s Fabio Pittaluga, who created the Digital Jam and KingstOOn projects.

The World Bank said there is “a real demand for Caribbean talent,” stating that this year’s graduates from the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) new Animate Jamaica course were “all snapped up by one company prior to finishing the course, and there are still more positions available.

“There is no doubt of the intelligence and capabilities of the Caribbean’s youth. In fact, their skills are already on a par with those found in other regions with a much more developed telecommunications sector.”

The World Bank said events such as Digital Jam.30 and the future launch of StartUp Jamaica, a body to foster the development of creative startups in the country, focus attention to this dormant potential.

“They convoke both the private and public sector and propose practical solutions to combating low economic growth, high youth unemployment and help secure a brighter future for talented individuals like Digital Jam 3.0?s Grand Prize winner, Gareth Thompson,” it said.

“It’s shocking to see how an idea can really become a reality,” said Thompson, whose team won the Digial Jam 3.0 Grand Prize. “We have to have a serious next step, which is developing Crimebot further and trying to address the real issue: Crime.”

For Gareth and the other winners of Digital Jam 3.0,, the next step really is serious, said the World Bank, stating that pledges were made across two days to “incubate and develop the talent found in the Caribbean, with the aim of transforming them from ideas to a profitable business model, which hopefully will inspire the next generation of app developers in the Caribbean.

“We view the digital economy as a way to harness the enormous creativity that exists in the country and our job is to be the enablers,” Jamaica’s Minister of State for Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Julian Robinson, told the World Bank.

“To take that creativity, covert it into businesses and earn foreign exchange and facilitate economic growth.”

The World Bank said a “real desire exists among the public and private sector to harness this intellectual talent and turn it into a powerful catalyst to kick start the region’s stalling economies”

However, it said, while the entrepreneurial spirit abounds, wide changes are needed in order to transform potential into reality, both within Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

“Small developing countries like ours require this kind of innovation in order to make the leap we need to make and that’s what we have to do,” said Gary Sinclair, chief executive officer of LIME Jamaica, which sponsored the event.

“We literally have to leapfrog generations of legacies, instead of sort of sitting back and having these kinds of technologies just sort of beat up on us rather than adding value to it ourselves,” he added. 

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