COULD a Caribbean city develop into a Silicon Beach? As the Caribbean seeks to develop, it will need to be creative — and part of that means both attracting creative people and companies to its shores and supporting creative people and companies at home. One way, we think, could be to cultivate a tech hub somewhere in the region.
It wouldn’t be easy, but when you have one of the world’s most beautiful places to live, you immediately enter the conversation. As we noted in our Olympics piece earlier this month, the key is not whether these places in the Caribbean are ready to become tech hubs tomorrow. They’re not. It’s that, by focusing on developing the ingredients to become a tech hub, by harnessing existing strengths and enacting the necessary incentives to bring in entrepreneurs and investment, a tech hub starts to become a very real possibility.
The idea is to create an environment in which entrepreneurs, innovators and thinkers in the Caribbean can ultimately flourish alongside companies and innovators from abroad. Unlike the Olympics, this wouldn’t require large stadia — initially, it would mainly require legislation. Any Caribbean country could offer serious financial incentives to relocating companies in return for one key demand: that any company that opens its doors either employ or spend time training local people in its craft. People always speak of the need for improved education in the Caribbean -— but why not learn directly from people who are at the cutting edge of innovation? Like any part of the world, the Caribbean needs foreign investment and technological and knowledge diffusion. And creating the requisite infrastructure for these areas, from office parks to better Internet, would be significant steps. These are some of the places in the region that we think would make sense. Where in the Caribbean would you like to see a tech hub develop?
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman already has the high-profile Cayman Enterprise City, which is cleverly using tax and other incentives to attract tech, media and other creative companies to the island. That’s really the model for the region — start with an office park, or a few warehouses. Offer unbeatable tax incentives, coupled with a remarkable quality of life. With good airlift, a high standard of living and a sizable expat community, Cayman is perhaps as well prepared as anywhere in the Caribbean to develop into a tech hub. If you build it, they will come.