Kristie Powell was a young, talented Bahamian employed at Tech giant Google, and working shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest minds, ferocious entrepreneurs and tech savvy individuals in renowned Silicon Valley. 

When Grand Bahama hosted its first Technology Summit and made it a point to invite Bahamians who were living and working abroad in the technology industry, Powell was among those who were guest speakers at the Summit.

The excitement of being back home, standing on a stage to pontificate about something of which she was so passionate, to a people to whom she could relate, in a forum, which for her, was a long time coming, was a dream come true. And her excitement was evident in her presentations at the first tech Summit.

And like many individuals coming to the sunny seashore of the Bahamas, Powell was hooked and apparently felt the yearning of home tugging within her, even as the first Tech Summit ended. But it was during that Summit that Powell made the decision to return home and pour her knowledge, passion and experience in other young Bahamians, as the country moves towards becoming more technologically proficient. 

All of it seem to fall in place as Grand Bahama makes its move to become a Technology Hub within the Caribbean region.

So, it was a no-brainer for the Minister of State for Grand Bahama and one of the originators of the Grand Bahama Technology Summit, Senator Kwasi Thompson, to make the decision to ask someone with Powell’s experience to be a part of the Grand Bahama Technology Hub Steering Committee.

Talk to Powell for one minute and it would become evident that she is all about education and educating. While she may serve in a few other capacities within the Steering Committee, her main focus continues to be educating young Bahamians on the ever changing world of technology.

In fact, not long following the first Tech Summit, Powell was back in the Bahamas, where she helped place the island nation on the “Technology in Schools” map with the launch of “hour of code” in various schools in Nassau and Grand Bahama.

The program, “Hour of Code” is a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in over 180 countries, where one hour tutorials are available in over 45 languages and is geared towards students from ages four upward.

“It was important for me to strike while the iron was hot and while I have the ear of Minister Thompson and the Office of the Prime Minister here in Grand Bahama to implement this program,” said Powell, during one of her trips back to Grand Bahama, following the Tech Summit.

“There are other similar tech initiatives that are coming up, which I think the Bahamas would do well to take advantage of. Building a technology hub really starts with us investing in the future of the Bahamas and that starts with education.”

The ‘Hour of Code’ initiative introduced the students to the world of coding and set the foundation for what is expected to become a future career for many of Grand Bahama’s youngsters.

Subsequently, education will be the main focus of the Second annual Grand Bahama technology Summit, when it convenes November 14-16 at the Grand Lucayan Resort, in Freeport, Grand Bahama and Powell, no doubt, is expected to play a big role in this year’s Summit again.

Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Senator Kwasi Thompson is actually looking forward to showcasing the educational programs and highlighting the efforts and achievements of the Government and the Grand Bahama Technology Hub Steering Committee, which were launch following last year’s Summit.

“In particular, we will highlight the Ministry of Education’s ICT plans for our schools, which recently signed a deal for technology upgrades and to provide tablets for teachers and students,” said Minister Thompson, while talking about plans for this year’s Summit.

“We will also highlight Bahamas Technical and Vocational (BTVI) courses and certificates, which are now being offered to Bahamians free of charge. And we will see the first ICT trained high school students, who completed the first phase of their summer certification course, along with our new program with the YMCA, to provide coding certification to 100 young Grand Bahamians.”

To further cement the Summit’s objective of making education its focus Minister of Education, Hon. Jeffery Lloyd will be one of the guest speakers at this year’s Conference. 

Minister Lloyd has been a strong advocate for the advancement of technology in Bahamian schools. Through his Government, the Minister has overseen the distribution of lap-tops and tablets to a number of primary, junior and even senior schools throughout the country.

“There is no reason why our [educational] institutions have to remain in the dark ages,” Minister Lloyd had said, during a recent visit to Grand Bahama, where he was inspecting works that were being carried out to local schools.

“The time has come to bring our schools into the age of technology,” he added. “We can ease some of the burdens which our children have to bear in terms of having to tout around heavy back packs, laden with books. 

“Once we can introduce more laptops and tablets to students within our schools, I believe that it would also go a long way in helping our children learn more proficiently.”

Along with Powell and other Tech savvy Bahamians, training at this year’s Grand Bahama Tech Summit, will also be carried out by global Tech giant CISCO systems. Participants at this year’s Tech Summit will have the benefit of CISCO Networks Academy Training Modules, which will provide training in the area of Networks and Programming. 

Carlos Rodriquez of Cisco Systems said that it is in their best interest to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government of The Bahamas around a program that is well known around the world.

“Cisco at Work Academy is an initiative that we have internally at the company, to train professionals in different areas of technology, particularly in technology that is connected to specific work,” Rodriquez explained during a press conference to discuss this year’s Tech Summit.

“As of today, this program, which was started some 15 years ago, we are proud to say that we have close to 12,000 Academies across the globe in 180 countries and so far we have achieved a big milestone of close to nine million students having already gone through the program.

“Presently, we have some two million students enrolled in the program around the world. We have close to 25,000 institutions providing all this training in 20 different languages.”

In the case of the Bahamas specifically, the Cisco executive pointed out that there is only one Academy in the country, that’s BTVI. However, he noted that BTVI are pioneers in adopting the program within the island.

With some 415 participants in the different disciplines of the Cisco at Work Academy Program, Cisco Systems, along with BTVI is expected to bring a whole new level of technology training to Grand Bahama, specifically and eventually throughout the entire Bahamas.

“This MOU that we want to sign as part of the Agenda of the Summit, will allow us to take this program in the island to the next level,” added Rodriquez. “The intention in the next coming year is to take that program to 100 institutions throughout the islands, with aspirations of having some 10,000 students complete the program. So, we want to go from one institution to one hundred and from 400 students to 10,000 students.

“We are convinced that education is the catalyst for transformation. We believe that in this world of hyper-connected economies, it is very important to grow a country’s technology.”

During this second annual Grand Bahama Technology Summit, Cisco Systems will be hosting two workshops – one related to software development and one related to networking, for a total of 100 participants for the three days of the Summit. 

In addition, to Cisco Systems, a team from CompTia will also play a major role in the Second annual GB Tech Summit. CompTia (Computing Technology Industry Association) is a non-profit trade association, issuing professional certifications for the Information Technology (IT) Industry. It is considered one of the IT industry’s top trade associations.

CompTia will be providing training modules in Corporate Digital Transformation and Cyber Security during the Summit.

It seems ironic that in an advancing world, where technology plays a big part, education is still the key to success. There is no denying that those who program computers, write software and even those who design and build computers, must have some level of education.

Therefore, it seems that education would be the next logical step as Grand Bahama continues its trek on becoming a Technology Hub. In fact, as Powell pointed out “continuing education when it comes to technology is going to be critical”.