LINKAGE Q2 (2021) - Now & Beyond
By Toni Sirju-Ramnarine, President of AMCHAM T&T
It is an immense honour and privilege to be appointed as the 16th President of the American Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad and Tobago (AMCHAM T&T). My journey with this organisation began 13 years ago, when I was first elected to the Board in 2008. During this period, I have come to realise that this is a chamber best characterised by the altruistic actions of people committed to making a difference in the lives of others.
I want to begin my first President’s message for Linkage by thanking our outgoing President, Patricia Ghany for the visionary leadership she has brought to this organisation. I am extremely proud to follow in Pat’s footsteps, especially after her hard work resulted in AMCHAM T&T achieving the milestone of gender parity on our Board.
I am pleased to say that after our recent Annual General Meeting 2021, this is something that we have maintained with the current Board of Directors comprised of 9 women and 7 men. Moving forward, my mission is to ensure that AMCHAM T&T continues to lead with diversity at the heart of our operations and to publicly advocate for measures that would create a society with fewer inequalities and more opportunities for all.
Even though we are still in a time of crisis and disruption, it is my view that we must remain optimistic for a brighter future. We must see the opportunities past the crisis. We must view this moment as a time for a new vision, for long-term strategy and planning, and a time for collaboration.
That word “collaboration” is so important right now, especially as we move beyond the present reality and look towards the future. Building that progressive society begins with putting aside our differences and working together again if we expect to see better results. The lessons we have learned this past year have taught us that we are so much greater as a nation when we are united towards a common goal.
I strongly do believe that goal today is built around the technology that has kept us working, communicating and moving forward in an era defined by having to socially distance, quarantine, and be confined to our homes. So, when we speak about the theme: Now and Beyond, we are talking about investing in tech as a key enabler for the recovery and future competitiveness of this country.
At AMCHAM T&T, we join the moment to create a tech sector in Trinidad and Tobago that will be globally competitive and that will include a mix of foreign and local companies. With the Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.), AMCHAM T&T is actively bringing together global tech leaders with the local private and public sectors to collaborate and to explore how we can be successful in our digital transformation journey.
We know the rewards we stand to gain from building the tech hub. Many of our goals can be achieved quicker with investments in technology. We can build a digital-based economy that produces a quicker, faster, and more efficient delivery of services for everyday transactions.
On the larger scale, think about the new industries that can be built from the dreams and hard work of innovative entrepreneurs and tech start-ups. Imagine all the new and exciting jobs that will be created. And pay attention to what we can do with the widening of the local talent pool through our much-heralded “innovative and competitive spirit”. We are talking about increasing productivity, attracting foreign direct investment, improving the ease of doing business and making our country an attractive place to do business.
Today we have a golden opportunity to make the goal of creating a tech hub a reality. In addition to the benefits of creating a tech industry, we also have to harness the transformative power of technology. In this vein, the digital transformation of businesses and Government agencies and processes will be key to a successful recovery.
We also need a strong and robust governance framework to guide this tech ecosystem. We must implement the legislations on the Electronic Transactions Act, Data Protection Act and the Transfer of Funds Act. Also, a successful tech hub cannot run smoothly and effectively in the absence of free sharing of open data. Therefore, we need an open data policy, a fully functional National Statistical Institute and work toward assigning a single, unique national identification number to each citizen. Can you imagine how far ahead we could have been if we already had these laws implemented before the pandemic?
Finally, the vision for our nation is always in the dreams of youths. We must ask ourselves what kind of world are we creating and subsequently leaving behind for our children. Today, their world has been turned upside down and so too have their dreams for the future. We can right this wrong for them by building a world that provides greater opportunities while reducing so many inequalities. AMCHAM T&T believes the answer lies in technology. Allowing young people to interact with technology at an early age can open many doors for them in the future. AMCHAM T&T is embracing this concept with our upcoming breakbeatcode hackathon for youths with our partners at Google. This initiative will use hip-hop music to teach young people the basics of computer coding so that we are creating new career possibilities for our youths, such as becoming artists, engineers, computer programmers, software developers etc. This is how we are building the workforce of the future.
I know things may be difficult now, but let’s never forget that when we face hurdles, it is in our DNA to quickly access a situation, learn to adapt and lead with resilience as we embrace the promise of a brighter future. COVID-19 may have disrupted a lot of our norms, but it has also shown us the reality that technology is no longer just an option, but an economic necessity. It is my pleasure to present to you with this issue of LINKAGE - our annual tech issue! I hope you enjoy the content from our expert contributors and that it inspires you to lead more with technology.
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