The University of the West Indies (UWI) should have in place by August, a multi-million dollar, state-of-the-art campus for innovation and technology in Bridgetown.
Dubbed the “technology park”, UWI’s Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles said today it would serve as an innovation centre for young people to develop and hone their technological skills.
In 2014 insurance company Sagicor handed over its old Mutual Building on Broad Street to the learning institution for the construction of a City campus that university officials had promised would be in place by the end of 2015.
However, after several delays, renovations finally began on the multi-storey building last year in partnership with the Institute of Software Technology in Suzhou, China.
“Our Chinese partners are investing US$2.5 million to transform this old commercial building into a technology park. As we can see, they are quite advanced. The projection is that this work will be finished by July/August, but the Chinese team is already on board in the building renovating,” Sir Hilary announced during the university’s annual council meeting at the Cave Hill Campus.
“This is going to be a unique institution in the Caribbean – a technology park, an innovation centre, state-of-the-art Chinese technology made available to us through our effective partnering,” he said.
Sir Hilary said he was eagerly looking forward to seeing the centre in operation, adding that it would be used as the benchmark from which replicas would be created across the region.
In fact, the vice chancellor said the minister of education in Jamaica Ruel Reid had already promised the university a building in that country’s capital, for a similar project because “Kingston is waiting for this”.
While stressing the need for “smart cities”, Sir Hilary told the gathering of regional education officials, academics and other university associates, such centres of opportunity could help to stop the brain drain facing the region.
“We need to move to this level – which city is going to be the catalyst of the smart city. Young people, when they graduate [and you] ask them what they want to do by and large every graduate says, ‘we want to go somewhere which is exciting and stimulating’, and this is why many of them are migrating,” he said.
“They are migrating in search of an eco-system where they feel stimulated and exciting because they have an imagination. We need to create this eco-system for these young people – smart cities – and I am saying that this building is where we can begin that process,” he added.
Meanwhile, Principal of the Cave Hill Campus Eudine Barriteau said the City campus should help transform the university into a more efficient and technologically driven one.
She said this would advance the institution’s push towards producing more programmers and technology experts.
“Once we get the technological park in place and we increase the enrolment of students, we are really looking for the transformation. The Cave Hill campus rolled out the smart campus initiative as a way of saying that we are centring the harnessing of information technology within the campus in terms of both transforming services, content, the management of buildings and entrepreneurial activities. So that is on stream,” Barriteau said.