CARIBBEAN-EDUCATION-UWI launches digital transformation project


BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Monday warned that economies of regional countries are “sagging,” and there is an urgent need for a makeover.

“It doesn’t require much detailed assessment to recognize that the Caribbean economy pre-COVID, but now even clearer so post-COVID, the Caribbean economy needs new sources of entrepreneurial and innovative action and energy. We have to rebuild these economies,” Sir Hilary said during the official launch of the UWI digital transformation project titled “Empowering the UWI Revenue Revolution with Digital Transformation.”

The academic said that the continued focus on “old sectors” was no longer yielding the region’s desired economic and social benefits, arguing that the time has come for greater emphasis on building a more digital economy if the area remains competitive.

“Old sectors of the economy have to be reformed, they have to be energized, they have to be restructured; and we are in search of new economic drivers, new forms of converting knowledge into the industry and productivity production,”

“This is the time where the regional economy . . . has to be made over. We have to makeover this Caribbean economy. It is sagging. It is not as competitive as we would like it to be for all of the reasons – the world is moving ahead, and the vehicle they use to do this is the digital economy. The digital technologies are being implemented in sectors that are traditional and in the creation of new sectors,” Sir Hilary told the ceremony.

UWI said that its digital transformation project focuses on five mission-critical operations across the university system: academics, knowledge resources, technology, finance, and administration.

The BDS$12 million (One BDS$=US$0.50 cents) loan project is being funded by the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), with the Barbados government standing as guarantor for two million and the government of Antigua and Barbuda and the insurance company, Sagicor, as the other guarantors.

Sir Hilary said that the UWI has been engaged in research over the past decade leading up to its digital transformation plan and that the project was taking place “to serve the people of this region.”

He said the intention also is to the regional premier tertiary institution, the “digital transformation epicenter of the Caribbean,” assuring that the university would not be taking the resources and “throwing them into a technology black hole.”

He said UWI’s regional digital transformation was about something other than buying hardware and stacking up the palace with technological expressions.

“It is about ensuring that your main projects within the university can be empowered as a result and defusing the technologies and the culture of that technology throughout the institution,” he said, adding that the university’s global campus is going to be the “digital transformation driver.”

The UWI project is also designed to help propel the learning institution’s reach globally and encourage innovative teaching and learning.

CDB’s vice president of operations, Isaac Solomon, said education remained a priority area for the financial institution and that the region’s premier financial institution had provided support totaling just over US$600 million over the past three decades.

But he noted that continuous upgrades were necessary and advancing the digital transformation of the regional learning institution was “critical for operational effectiveness, increased access to programs, expansion of services and continued competitiveness.

“Institutional and system-level reforms must continue if UWI is to remain relevant, change as challenges evolve and new opportunities arrive and transition as the region’s university as the future.

“Whatever challenges the university has in terms of access, quality, and relevance, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those and has heightened the need for innovation and transformation to remain a high-quality, regional public good that is good for all,” Solomon said, adding that with the need to increase enrolment, online opportunities will be critical as a shift to digital education continues.

“In addition, digital transformation is central to expanding the internationalization of UWI programs – the key strategic goal to diversify its revenue base,” he said.


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