Op-Ed: Technology reform in The Bahamas

Op-Ed: Technology reform in The Bahamas
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By Bryant Lowe

“1N73LL1G3NC3 15 7H3 4B1L17Y 70 4D4P7 70 CH4NG3.” — Stephen Hawking

COVID-19 has impacted the world in a big and unpredictable way. The initial lockdowns were especially hard for people around the world because of the abrupt halt to life as we once knew it, but some countries were able to cope with it better than others because of the technological advancements and tech IQ in their country. The Bahamas was one of those countries who completely struggled during that time. In more advanced countries, people were able to carry on their day-to-day responsibilities mostly online through websites and delivery apps, allowing them to stay home as much as possible; but Bahamians on the other hand had to endure long lines to pay bills and acquire groceries, making an already hard time even harder. When COVID-19 came around, new problems were created from and fed off of long-existing issues in the country. A proper plan has to be put in place in order for us to move toward, technologically advancing as a nation. A lot of people are of the view that tech advancement means injecting a few gadgets here and there, but it takes so much more than that to create an actually advanced society.

Technology, like most things in the world, has its pros and cons, very good features and possible outcomes, as well as very bad features and possible outcomes. Social media in particular uses a set of algorithms designed to keep you captivated and trapped by apps, websites and your devices as a whole. These algorithms are specifically designed to create a personalized web experience that causes your brain to release dopamine, making you addicted to your device. In The Bahamas, we see first-hand how social media gives people a false need for validation or the false sense of entitlement, reality or self. It basically gives people the opportunity to live in a fake world, where the way they feel, live or think is influenced by what is trending or what a majority of other social media users might classify as correct, and these trends are mostly based on emotional opinions and false information. Enough approval from other users often gives people the illusion of knowledge, making it less likely for them to fact check their information and search for new knowledge.

These are the negative facts that we hear and know about technology, and it often causes people to think about a time when it never existed. But the thought of technology should be lifting our hopes about the future. The good that technology has and will bring far outweighs the bad. Technology is something that can advance The Bahamas, but it cannot be done without vision. It is something that requires the ability to adapt, but sadly that is something we have not conquered as a nation. Bahamians must come to the realization that the future of the world is digital and the further we get left behind, the more damaged our country will become. We are in a very unique situation, between political flip-flopping and a failure to adapt to an ever-changing world. It is very hard for most young Bahamians to start new and successful careers at home because of limited options. For some entrepreneurial minds and visionaries, though, this can be seen as an opportunity to bring The Bahamas up to speed with different business models and tech with proven concepts, just in a different market. This can bring success to some & bring the country one step out of the Stone Age.

The first thing that needs to happen is ensuring a majority of the population can easily access and afford good internet. Internet providers and electricity providers in the country need to also ensure they can handle the load technology brings. Throughout The Bahamas, proper internet and consistent electricity is already a huge problem. This issue is reflected primarily on New Providence. A future steered towards a technologically advanced society without first addressing these issues would be disastrous.

There are a number of sectors in our society that can be semi-technologized to begin raising the country’s tech IQ. For example, the Public Transport system. The public transportation system in The Bahamas is extremely outdated and can sometimes be ineffective for users. By integrating the public bus routes and schedules on platforms like Google Maps it can make catching the bus, finding out which bus you need to take to get to your desired destination and scheduling with estimated time of arrivals an overall easier and more seamless process for new and experienced public transport users. This is just one of many ways we can slightly integrate simple technology into society to increase the general public’s tech IQ and comfortability when using technology to make their everyday life more efficient and convenient.

Changing the public’s perception on technology is hard, but necessary. When technology is mentioned in The Bahamas, generally someone would immediately think of a phone, tablet, computer or some other type of basic gadget, and when you link their thought of technology to the general perception towards young people, the outcome would almost always be that technology is a toxic tool “frying” the mind of the youth. Where in some cases this might be true, tech can be very progressive, helpful and educational when used correctly. The truth is you’ve got to introduce the progressive features of technology, and more specifically the internet, to children from a young age. If we decide to grow children up viewing the use of the internet as something to be used solely during leisure, and continue that pattern well into their teens, then it would be easy for them to grow into the habit of using the internet leisurely. It’s Important not to always vilify tech or single out the bad or even fun aspects of it — we should teach people how they can capitalize on the progressive aspects as well.

While implementing these small yet meaningful advancements in everyday society, we can concurrently begin to prepare and or educate people to work in a tech industry. The benefits of industrializing tech would be meaningless to the Bahamian people if they are not properly prepared to take positions of all levels. Through these early preparations, we can be open to bringing in foreign workers, but not dependent on it. If there is one thing that COVID-19 showed us, it is the need to diversify our economy as time goes on. The implementation and education of technology can be very helpful to all new industries we look to bring about. Christian Lous Lange summarized the use of technology best by stating, “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.” We can decide how we choose to let technology shape our nation; we can decide to let it be a largely toxic aspect of our day-to-day lives or we can decide to use it to our advantage in our quest toward progression. The choice is ours to make.