Speaking at an SLP press conference today, the Representative for Soufriere and Minister for Social Transformation, Hon. Harold Dalsan, announced one of the central themes of the next Labour Government: the development of the renewable energy, information technology and services sectors to ensure that Saint Lucia has a vibrant, robust and resilient economy. In short, the next Labour Government is committed to harnessing new economic opportunities in these future growth areas to create jobs for this country.
Since coming into office four and half years ago, the Labour Party Government has worked diligently to create new avenues of economic opportunity for Saint Lucians, particularly our young people. Nowhere has this been more apparent than the work we have done in the area of information and communications technology (ICT).
When Labour took office in December 2011, there was a large digital divide in our country. Communities on the west coast, like Canaries, Anse La Raye and Soufriere, alongside other communities like Dennery, parts of Babonneau and Gros Islet, were closed off from the digital world, with the lowest level of Internet and computer access per household in this country.
In order to bring Saint Lucia as a whole into 21st Century, and enable all of its citizens to interact and compete with the rest of the world, Labour knew this had to change. One of the key achievements of this Government has been the establishing of modern, fully equipped Information Technology Access Centres around this country: in Soufriere, Canaries, Anse La Raye, Vieux Fort, Garand, Monchy and, as of this week, in the village of Micoud. These centres have provided a place where local people can go for training, do their research, develop their business plans, and take their first steps to becoming digital entrepreneurs.
Labour did not stop there. Alongside these facilities, people must also be given the skills to use them. As such, this Government set up grants – funding that does not have to be repaid – for both individuals and companies to enable them to benefit from digital technology:
- For young people seeking training in technology-related areas, the CARCIP programme has provided grants worth over $1 million. Thus far, around 450 young Saint Lucians have received training; we anticipate that by the time this project is completed, as many as 1,500 trainees will be certified with new information technology skills.
- Thus far, fifteen local firms have received grant financing amounting to $779,320.20, to either establish themselves in the information technology field or expand their services using technology. When this phase of the project is finished, $1 million worth of grant funding would have been disbursed to twenty local companies, run by enterprising Saint Lucians.
Speaking at the press conference, the Hon. Harold Dalsan, whose constituency of Soufriere was the first community in Saint Lucia to get town-wide free Wi-Fi, vowed:
“These ICT initiatives will continue in our next term of office. We will use the ICT Access Centres around the island to provide free training to people who are looking to enhance their skills and become more marketable in this new knowledge-based environment. We will provide training in areas such as mobile app development, digital photography and videography, website development, use of Photoshop and other digital editing software, and social marketing.
“The Labour Party is confident that our people can be digital entrepreneurs to match the best of what the world has to offer and we are well on our way to providing them with the equipment, the access, the training and the opportunities to make this happen. We are focused on the future, and building the skills and knowledge required to make our country competitive in the 21st century.”