Belize Advances Science Agenda: Stakeholders Discuss National Strategy

Belize Advances Science Agenda: Stakeholders Discuss National Strategy

The Government of Belize continues its push to advance science and technology with a stakeholder consultation at the Belize Biltmore Plaza. The consultation was held today, and saw the gathering of representatives from the public and private sectors as well as academia discussing the country’s first-ever National Science Technology and Innovation Strategy. The gathering was the first in a series of consultations headed by the National Science and Technology Advisory Committee. Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology, Dr. Louis Zabaneh explained that the ultimate goal is to position Belize as a place that can be looked at as a producer of new and innovative technologies. 

Dr. Louis Zabaneh, Minister of State, Ministry of Education: “We are developing our first national science, technology, and innovation strategy. And we’re making sure, as we’ve done at the ministry before with consultations regarding our curriculum transformation, that we are from the ground up that everybody contributes to this draft strategy, that we hope to present to Cabinet around the middle of June. But what innovation is really is the application of technology and science that has already been produced somewhere and putting it to work for us is going to be very important and that’s what those initiatives have done. So that’s a good start. But we are taking an audacious view of what we can do as a country. We believe that we can also contribute to the production of technology, to the production of science because we want to be in a position in the next 10, 20, 50 years where we are active participants in the fourth industrial revolution and beyond. That we are not just takers but we are also givers and that means we have to have a plan that includes research and development, includes technology development and goes upstream even further into science, into contributing to science as well.”

Among the organizations present was the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE). Executive Director Leroy Almendarez said that BELTRAIDE’s participation in the development of the strategy is important to support the development of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). He stressed that innovation and the application of technology are essential for Belizean businesses to compete in globalized markets.

Dr. Leroy Almendarez, Executive Director, BELTRAIDE: “And so the role we play in technological development, for example, for MSMEs, for those in that space to become more competitive there is a need for adaptation to technology and latest technology. A number of the projects we are undertaking through the IDB, one of them being digitalization of MSMEs to make them more competitive. We also have been launching digital connect centers in partnership with the UNDP to bridge the digital divide. And if you can bridge the digital divide then it means absence of information, you’re not disadvantaged, you’re able to participate in the whole digital communication. And so this is important for us in terms of innovation. We continue to remind entrepreneurs, sometimes it just takes a little bit of differentiation to your service or product that you’re offering to make you more competitive. And so as you adapt to innovation, making things different coming up with new ideas because that’s how you become leaders within the market. The more innovative you are, you become a market leader and others have to follow you. And as soon as you find out a market is saturated then you start something anew. And never be afraid to be the first in anything. And that’s what innovation will do to you. The whole adaptation or speaking about science and science being so, you know, when it comes to absolutes and things like that, and how much science has contributed to changes within our environment, medical science, the whole transformation and all of those things that can and so for Belize to work on this STI, the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy not only is it timely but the fact that you can now incubate young students to become more, to adopt more, to moving into science and the adaptation of technology and inclusion of innovation. So it’s within the academic system but also for those who are already out there in the business world and students who want to enhance their knowledge.”

Other organizations that attended the consultations included the Embassy of the Republic of China (TAIWAN), Belize Sugarcane Farmers Association BSCFA, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Galen University, and the University of Belize. The consultations were also supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

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