Introduction to Seminar on the occasion of
World Telecommunication and Information Society Day and
UN’s Year of Women and Girls in Technology
by Tamira La Cruz, MBA, Member of Curacao Knowledge Platform on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Curacao
‘Executives are looking for more than technology. They are looking for answers.’ Clara Shih, 29, founder Hearsay Social.
Allow me to show you some more answers
Who are these people?
Soccket was invented by a group of female college students in New York. One of them, Jessica Williams, graduated in 2010 with a degree in psychology and economics. She must be in her early twenties.
Jenny Drinkard, the founder of the crate shown on quirky.com, has a degree in industrial design. She is also in her early twenties. The founder of Quirky.com is Ben Kaufman, also in his early twenties. Depending on how you want to look at it, Quirky.com is a company, a website, or a community where you can submit your design ideas. The community will comment and help you improve it. They will also suggest pricing. When the time comes, Ben Kaufman will make a prototype and manufacture your product. In principle it does not matter where you are located.
Jane McGonigal is 34, developer of the game of Evoke.com. She is Doctor Jane McGonigal with a degree in performance studies. She has received numerous accolades as one of the best game changers, innovators, thinkers, etc. of our current times. Her game Evoke encourages players to submit creative solutions that might solve some of the world’s problems.
These stories and more give me hope for ourselves and girls AND boys in Curacao. These are the stories that bring to light the opportunities, the level playing field, the flat world, that lies before us in the information society. ANY one in Curacao could also have come up with the ideas we saw and make them global.
We must get the idea of limitless opportunities in our DNA
This sea of opportunities is new to all of us on Curacao. It is not part of our DNA. All we and our forbearers know is that we have a small market which is bad for everything. Kleinschaligheid is our curse. We have limited and expensive access to information. We have no raw materials to speak of. Transportation to and from Curacao is expensive. We have never functioned from a mindset of ‘abundance’ and limitless opportunity. But that is exactly what the information society offers. We have some catching up to do, to get to a mindset of limitless opportunity.
We already have enough physical infrastructure, broadband and whatnot, to enable everyone to Google and find innovative ideas and be inspired by them, as I was, or to find ways to help make their ideas a reality.
Preliminary results of last year’s census show that 65% of all Curacao households have a pc or laptop at home, and 55% of all households have internet at home. My company MarkStra Caribbean’s research in 2010 yielded that among people between the ages of 18 and 65, the more relevant segments, 82% have pcs or laptops at home and 78% have internet connection at home. Today much of that connection is broadband, even in schools.
We are working on our security infrastructure. Ms. Martis will speak to that. And I hope we will find steps forward with regard to our data and internet privacy laws, which Ms. Helders will speak to later.
What can you and I do?
1. Incentivate to participate
For those of us who teach, regardless of the subject, we can use examples in our classes that have ‘information society’ DNA. Sometimes it does require more preparation, but let’s resolve to do so. If needed give incentives and rewards for students to engage in increasingly innovative ways in the information society. By the way, in his work on country competitiveness, Michael Porter, finds that in high income countries the ‘incentive compensation system’ in companies is much better developed than in lower-income countries. All the more reason to give incentives.
In the same spirit, encourage your students, children and perhaps yourselves to participate in global contests of the information society. For its 10th anniversary a few years ago, Google held a contest ‘Project 10 to the 100th ’. People could submit ideas that helped solve five (5) global challenges. There are 200 countries in the world. 170 or 85% participated. Has Curacao? It’s not about winning. It’s about an emotional and intellectual commitment to the future, an immersion, which needs to be near absolute.
In this regard, please allow me a plug for Rotary. For its Rotary Group Study Exchange project (a global project) our Rotary District is seeking professionals aged 25-40 with at least 2 years of experience to go on a one month study exchange to Sweden next February. Sweden is the 3rd most competitive country in the world with lots of emphasis on environment and innovation. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org .
In my daily professional life I help companies grow through research strategy, competitiveness and innovative thinking. I would be amiss if I did not suggest that there must be some system to the madness, some strategy. The same Hamel and the late CK Prahalad that I mentioned before suggest that countries should ask themselves: “Given our unique portfolio of competencies, what opportunities are we uniquely positioned to exploit?” In Curacao we have long considered geography as our unique competence. While that is true, we must realize that in the information society the role of geography is increasingly smaller. So, where else might we find unique competencies? Let me give 3 ideas:
a. We live and work in a small state. As professionals, consultants we have often had to develop solutions because the available solutions were too complex or expensive for our small markets. As I said before, there are 200 countries in the world. Of these, 56, i.e. almost 30% are sovereign small states with a population of less than 1.5 million people. Could those be your market? Could some thing that you developed for Curacao be sold to another small state? I first mentioned this at a conference at UWI with scholars from around the Caribbean and elsewhere. Then and since, everyone gets excited whenever I mention it. I hope you do too.
b. There are at least 125 islands with fewer than 1.5 million people. By definition they all lie in a salty sea, and have issues related to shore and beach management, transportation, etc. Certainly they are looking for answers which can be provided in the realm of the information society.
c. We are an increasingly touristic island. In 2011 we had around 400.000 international stay-over arrivals and an equal amount of cruise arrivals. According to the World Tourism Organization there are some 1 billion international arrivals in the world each year. At least 25 million of those are to Caribbean islands. Certainly there are solutions still to be found for some of the issues facing this industry.
3. Work together. We hear that every day. But I want to be more specific. I was trying to make a coherent story about this. But I will just spit it out.
a. I suggest that to get ahead we have to work in interdisciplinary teams. Before a doctor, engineer, marketer could be successful by ‘covering’ all the disciplines herself. Today that is no longer true. Internet and social media have had integrated marketing and technology in ways we could not have foreseen, as Ms. Kleinmoedig will attest to later. To take advantage of the opportunities in the information society, we must work together, across disciplines. It is no longer an option. It is a NECESSITY.
b. For many reasons these interdisciplinary teams cause tension. But, we must not retreat. That’s the whole idea. Diversity of eyeballs, and the resulting tension, whether because of discipline, gender, age, ethnicity, or religion breeds better answers.
So, on the eve of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, in UN’s year for women and girls in technology, let me end where I started: Executives are looking for more than technology. They are looking for answers. We must prepare to deliver those answers. The way in which we prepare is a whole new ballgame.
Tamira La Cruz, MBA, is a consultant on research, corporate strategy, competitiveness and innovation. A business economist, she has a continuing interest in monetizing small state innovations. She can be contacted via www.markstra.com , her blog Caribbean Research and Strategy blog or email@example.com.