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BUSINESS GUARDIAN guardian.co.tt JULY 6 • 2017
T&T: The Silicon Valley of the region
The exodus from the indus-
trial age to the digital age
has achieved critical mass.
Already, the advance-
ment in technology is dis-
rupting industries across
economies on a global scale. The job losses
that have come from this advancement have
already roiled labour markets and decided
elections in developed and developing coun-
tries alike; the advancement has occurred
at such a rapid pace that few would have
been prepared. How can T&T participate in
this new, global, digital economy and not
remain hostage to an archaic energy price
dependent economic model?
Earlier this year, for the first time in his-
tory, the four largest companies in the world
by market capitalisation were all tech re-
lated; they were Apple, Google, Microsoft
and Facebook. Many believe that they will
soon be joined by both Amazon and Netflix.
With the best tech performers being af-
fectionately referred to as the FAANG (Face-
book, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google)
stocks, it is universally accepted that cloud
computing (online processing) is the future
of everything. Every action that takes place
online is processed at huge warehouse like
facilities called server farms. Server farms
require billions of dollars in investment and
technology companies, due to their rapid
expansion in customers and offered services,
cannot build them quickly enough. Server
farms are the underpinning infrastructure of
the internet; they are the asphalt that paves
the information highway.
What is the one constraint of these vi-
tal technology assets? They require huge
amounts of low cost energy, something T&T
has been producing for almost two decades.
The top technology companies in the
world can be attracted to our shores to spend
the billions required to build the server farms which
will become the centre of a new technology industry.
This will create high-paying jobs, generate billions in
additional revenues and create an extremely lucrative
The neglected Tamana Park Technology Estate was
earmarked as a centre for technology research and
development; which is one of the largest expenditures
on the financial statements of tech companies in the
brutally competitive tech industry where the winner
usually takes all. This would mean billions of dollars in
additional revenue in a growing, non-cyclical industry
which will underpin the global economy of the future.
Of course, the University of T&T would have to be
outfitted to develop the human capital required for
this endeavour, much like they already do for the oil
and gas sector.
Silicon Valley in the United States is fed top tier
talent by nearby Stanford University and other quality
academic institutions; UTT would have to partner
with them in developing programs and curricula.
Supplying our people with access to the skills of the
future (coding, data management, computer science
and engineering, etc) would develop a start-up cul-
ture that could possibly produce the next Facebook
or Google. Only time will tell.
With only 7.1 million people, no natural resources,
and enemies on every border the Israelis have become
a world leader in technology research and develop-
ment. Their tech hub, affectionately nicknamed Sil-
icon Wadi attracted US$9 billion in acquisitions in
2015 and a combined US$8 billion in venture capital.
According to Wikipedia, in 2009, Israel's percentage
of the total number of scientific articles published
worldwide was almost 10 times higher than its per-
centage of the world's population. The high-tech-
nology industry has been successful due to Israel's
disproportionately high number of engineers and
Israel has the highest number of scientists and tech-
nicians per capita in the world with 140 scientists and
technicians per 10,000 employees. In comparison,
the same is 85 per 10,000 in the United States and 83
per 10,000 in Japan. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Venture_capital_in_Israel) With these new skills local
entrepreneurs would have access to a global customer
base and well-funded venture capital sources.
What we are currently subject to is an outdated
energy-based economic model which regularly leaves
us vulnerable to forces beyond our control. We extract
a dwindling supply of oil and gas from our shores,
then sell this valuable resource to developed countries
to fuel their manufacturing sector so that they can
produce goods which are then sometimes sold to us
at exorbitant prices.
The reform required to insulate our economy from
global energy price shocks would mean using our oil
and gas domestically to produce low cost energy in
energy intensive industries to be used in the produc-
tion of competitively priced basic commodity inputs
(iron, steel, aluminium and plastics) so that T&T can
develop a globally competitive manufacturing sector.
This was part of Vision 2020.
Using our natural resources locally to produce in-
ternationally competitive goods will usher in an era
of wealth and sustainable jobs the likes of which we
have not seen before as a country. The technology
industry must be attached to this necessary ener-
gy sector reform due to its ability to diversify our
economy and potential in adding billions of dollars
and hundreds of sustainable new economy jobs to a
population that sorely needs them.
T&T does not find itself in its current economic
spiral due to low oil and gas prices. That is a scapegoat.
We are where we are due to a lack of vision, lack of
innovation, and lack of the will to do what needs to be
done to ensure that future generations are not buried
under an avalanche of mounting debt. With the in-
creased cost of exploration, persistent price volatility,
and advances in competing energy alternatives, it is
unlikely that our next economic boom will come from
oil and gas. It can come from technology.
Are we willing to do what needs to be done?
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