Delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, an app development program which would train 100 Grand Bahamians for the tech industry, will move ahead in the coming weeks, Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson said yesterday.
The program is a continuation of the Grand Bahama tech hub initiative, which is aimed at making The Bahamas the center of the regional tech industry.
“Education and training is a high priority with respect to that, but it also evolves to jobs, because we’ve seen during this COVID-19 period really an increase in the amount of e-commerce opportunities,” Thompson told reporters outside the Churchill Building yesterday before the weekly Cabinet meeting.
“One thing that was actually delayed because of COVID-19 but is going to move forward is an app development program, where we are going to be training 100 Grand Bahamians in app development; and they will then be able to use those skills in the technology industry.”
The app development training will be run out of the Office of the Prime Minister in Grand Bahama, in conjunction with the United States-based Fulbright Program, Thompson said.
He said as soon as the borders open to international visitors, a Fulbright scholar will travel to assist the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute with on-site training.
“In addition, we are having some very good discussions with Cisco and we are very close to reaching an agreement with them for a software development program. After those persons have been trained in software development, they will be open to finding work with respect to software development in Cisco networks,” he said.
“As you know with software development, you don’t have to actually be there to develop their software. You can actually be here in The Bahamas and be doing software development work for companies all around the world.”
Also speaking on the matter, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest, who is also the member of Parliament for the East Grand Bahama constituency, said the development of an ecosystem of software developers is an exciting new feature of the economy.
“I think that is very exciting because we know that as we get more and more of this cluster of developers, more and more ideas will emanate. And who knows? We we might end up with a very valuable, viable product that we can export. That’s the ultimate goal, to take advantage of the knowledge economy and export services, thereby broadening our market, not just to The Bahamas but around the world,” he said.
The Bahamas is hoping to enter into the tech services industry as a major player at a time in which there is international debate about taxing rights for the digital economy, where a service may be provided from one jurisdiction for the benefit of consumers in another jurisdiction, thereby affecting the tax base on both sides of that equation.
“It is very much a recent, current, live debate that is being conducted by the global tax forum, of which we are a part, and we’ll see how it shakes out. But it is a complex issue and something that we are mindful of… You would know from last year, we amended the VAT (value-added tax) rules where Airbnb, for instance, they provide bookings in the U.S. for a service that is delivered in The Bahamas, and we amended our rules such that those bookings are now vatable,” Turnquest said.
“But collecting the tax is another technical issue, because now you’re talking about legal jurisdictions. So, it is a complex issue, it is a developing issue and certainly we are at the table having those discussions along with the global community.”
Thompson has long said that technology could become the third pillar of the Bahamian economy.