Digital Connect Center Provides Free Access to Technology in Bella Vista
Residents of Bella Vista in Toledo will now have free access to computers, the internet, and various digital technologies after a Digital Connect Center was established in the community. The center was inaugurated yesterday through efforts of the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Ministry of E-Governance. The initiative is a part of BELTRAIDE’s Accelerating Digitization Project which seeks to promote digital inclusion for disadvantaged communities. BELTRAIDE’s Director, Leroy Almendarez, explained the goal of the project is to support MSMEs through the use of technology.
Leroy Almendarez, Executive Director, Beltraide: “This project started a few years ago and remember it just started from the conversation and it’s not only the connect center because a connect center as you see there there are things running there but really those are computers but they serve a purpose. There are those in the rural areas who would not be able to participate or have to go to find some café which may be miles away for them to participate and to understand even what’s happening in the world. Those computers that you see there a part of what you’ll be seeing later is something called a virtual knowledge center. And that virtual knowledge center as it implies it’s knowledge being imparted but I cannot access it if I don’t have the resources to do so. So those in this area and the work that you do and UN just use UN, United Nations and what that implies and the fact that the government is so committed, committed to the work of MSMEs, committed to the work of creating that environment for us to do business in this country and there are so many things happening. Wherever we have gone to launch we saw the passion, we see the passion because this is an opportunity like I said and it reduces your cost of doing business. I keep saying this, and some people quarrel with me, there is no free lunch that is true. The only thing that it will cost you is a little bit additional use of your intellectual property because without innovation we are not going to get where we want to go as well. So it allows you to innovate. It allows you to get the best practices because those best practices can be shared for those who have made the mistakes for example. I don’t believe you need to reinvent wheels. If wheels have been turning all you need to do sometimes is to put some oil on it and it moves even faster.”
The UNDP’s Deputy Resident Representative, Ian King, says the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for greater use of technology particularly for MSMEs. He says it was from that need that the project came to life.
Ian King, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP: “This initiative emerged essentially out of COVID. So COVID illustrated to us the disparities that different communities face. We saw the digital divide, we see it with school children but we also saw with businesses where we recognize that many businesses, many MSME’s which comprise of very small units, family units sometimes you call them mom and pop shops with the restrictions and movement you know the dependency that they had in terms of direct engagement with their customers, with their suppliers all of that was lost. Their ability to market their goods through that interface was lost and so this was an opportunity really to look at the wider issue of how do we support the livelihoods in Belize working with Beltraide to move this forward and this is one of several things that we have been doing we as UNDP. And so the investment, the discussion with Beltraide I think was an easy one in terms of understanding as a partner. As you heard from Mr. Almendarez the virtual knowledge centers and the training of small entrepreneurs was very important in terms of moving this forward. I know we had trained 270 before but I think the number has gone well past that in terms of the individuals that we’ve trained and that’s very important.”
The center is the fourth of six that will be established across the country.