The University of the Virgin Islands in a triparty partnership with the Virgin Islands Government and Microsoft officially marked a first of its kind Technology Summit open with a ceremony hosted on Monday, June 14. The summit, born out of a conversation between the three entities, seeks to discover how the insights, experiences and technological power of Microsoft could be harnessed in the Virgin Islands in order to improve the quality of life and empower government and the private sector to address the various challenges faced.
The overall theme for the summit is: “Using Technological Innovation to Transform the Virgin Islands.” The summit, which is set to run until Friday, June 18, will highlight a different theme for each day. Monday’s opening session was held under the theme: “From Paradise to Wakanda: Empowering Technology for Societal Transformation.”
UVI President Dr. David Hall said that “the theme captures the creative and imaginative power that we hope to invoke throughout this week and beyond.”
Noting some of the many benefits of living in “paradise,” the President also stated that there are some challenges and frustrations that come along with residing in the Virgin Islands such as the delays and inconveniences that come from antiquated processing systems and poor customer service.
“Wakanda, as we may recall from the iconic film – Black Panther, is this technologically advanced African nation where most problems are solved instantly,” Dr. Hall said. “Where things we can only imagine are commonplace; where culture and values are reflected in everything that exist; a place where women are in roles often restricted to men, and where elders and ancestors are revered.”
Dr. Hall noted however that for local purposes Wakanda is not a myth or fiction. “It is a vision, a place in the future of the Virgin Islands that we believe can be created through our combined creativity, ingenuity and dedication.”
“I believe that there is no limit to what we can achieve if we harness our internal genius, curtail our internal and external biases, and put people at the center,” Dr. Hall said. “The Wakanda we seek is not a perfect place, but a better place that is constantly evolving and rising to meet the new challenges of this territory,” he said. “This cannot occur by accident, but by a concerted and strategic effort that we institutionalize and nurture over the next few years and beyond.”
The President thanked Williams Adams and his team at Microsoft for their time, effort and commitment that they have devoted to the summit and the vision.
“I look across the entirety of the Caribbean and I see talent. There is intelligence here. There is beauty here,” said William Adams, Microsoft engineering manager. “There are just opportunities galore but not necessarily available.”
“I need all this diversity as Microsoft because I need different perspectives if I am going to achieve what my badge says,” Adams said. “It requires empathy, I can’t have empathy if I don’t have people in the room with different perspectives. So, I come to you with all humility as Microsoft and say please allow me to be a part of your community. Let’s work together.”
Microsoft has also partnered with the University to host a two-week Summer Institute on campus to focus on data science and will culminate with a Hackathon. The tech company is also assisting the University with the design and equipping of the new Innovation Center, which will be launched later this year, in the old West Bay Supermarket.
The President also commended Gov. Albert Bryan. Jr. for embracing the idea of the summit without reservation and applauded him for being a technology leader.
“We can use technology to vastly improve where we are today,” said Gov. Bryan. “We can empower young people to be able to do commerce with people half-way around the world. People who never wanted to live in a dark city building or on a prairie and wanted to live in the Caribbean, now have the opportunity to work at large distances,” he said. “It is a constant opportunity for each one of our students to reach out and learn Mandarin, French or Spanish; learn how to fly a kite or even a spaceship, through the internet,” he added. “Once isolated, three tiny islands in the Caribbean, we truly have a chance to be Wakanda.
Over the course of the week, participants will take part in workgroups and hear from industry leaders and Microsoft experts. Some of the other topics for the week include:
Antiquated systems throughout governmental agencies and processes
Improving Customer Service Through Technology
Creating a Diverse and Vibrant Economy through Technology Innovation and Developing and Attracting Technology Companies to the VI
Using Technology to lower Energy Cost and Eliminate Energy Instability
VI Wired: Submarine Fiber to Transform our Future
Technology Innovation to Transform Education in the VI
From Waste Management to Zero Waste Through Technology
Technology to increase Agriculture Productivity
Transportation and Technology: The Internet of Things
Health Care and Technology: Telemedicine and Augmented Reality
The closing session on Friday, June 18, will feature UVI President Dr. David Hall, Gov. Albert Bryan, Jr. and William Adams, Microsoft engineering manager.
“We are not naïve,” Dr. Hall said. “Wakanda will not appear on Friday at the end of this summit. Our vision of a technologically advanced Virgin Islands will only come into existence if all stakeholders stay committed to this process for years to come.”