The OECS Commission is therefore excited to introduce the GeoStats Awareness Program: "Caribbean Together – Everyone Counts." Our expectation is that this initiative will make a major contribution to building a culture of spatial thinking in our region. At the outset, it is necessary for me to express the deep appreciation to Ms. Valrie Grant – the Strategic Advisor Geographic Information Systems/Geospatial Systems to the Director General who has initiated and facilitated this timely program. Ms. Grant has been providing this advice and support pro-bono and I would like to thank her profoundly for providing this invaluable support to the OECS.
Significance of the Caribbean
Our Caribbean has a unique history, culture, and potential. In his Nobel Lecture, "The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory" Derek Walcott gives a sense of this, as he likens the geospatial chain of the Caribbean to the fragments of a vase broken by history but facing the historical challenge of reunification and the reassembling of our fragments to see ourselves whole again:
“Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.”
The Geospatial and geo-stats program is the technological expression of that love that will bring the fragments together again. We cannot speak about regional unity and integration and not have a full understanding of our region. Geography matters but unfortunately it is a subject that is fading fast in our education system. Geography is not an academic subject – it is a sense of place… it is an understanding of location and an appreciation of all of what defines a location.
In that sense, this program will also provide a reinstatement of geography as a necessary component of Caribbean education – alongside and inseparably interwoven with our history is our geography. We expect that this program will revitalize the importance of geography as we seek to equip youths with modern tools for the future.
Importance of Geospatial Technologies and Statistics
Geospatial technologies and statistics are not just tools; but the compass and map that will guide our region towards sustainable development, informed decision-making, and a brighter future. We can create a veritable revolution in understanding our communities through data integration. It has been noted that “every decision we make, from urban planning to environmental conservation, from economic policies to healthcare strategies, relies on data. And not just any data, but data that is precise, timely, and relevant to our unique Caribbean context.”
What is the Geostatistics Awareness Program?
The program will organize a series of events, webinars and provide a dedicated website with resources to foster interest, understanding and engagement among youth in the Caribbean about the use and benefits of Geographic Information Science (GISc) statistics and supporting geospatial and related technologies.
So essentially the program will be planting a seed that we hope will take fertile root among the youth to create jobs, careers and capacity in geospatial technologies and geostatistical science.
The objectives are clear:
Educational Empowerment: The program aims to enlighten our youth about the transformative power of these technologies.
Engaging Learning: Through interactive workshops, webinars, and real-world challenges, the program will ignite a passion for learning and innovation.
Inspiration and Career Guidance: By bringing in experts and professionals, we hope to inspire and guide our youth towards lucrative and impactful careers in these fields.
We intend to celebrate and use the observance of some significant dates such as Caribbean Statistics Day (October 15th, 2023) and GIS Day (November 15th, 2023) to widen and deepen understanding the importance of these themes.
This is not just about marking dates but celebrating the limitless potential of our region and we want to urge educators, parents, and leaders to support the program. Your active encouragement and collaboration are critical to the success of the initiative.
This technology is new age and is something that will be very appealing to a youth demographic.
Youth involvement in geospatial and geostatistical initiatives is essential in fostering innovation, sustainability, and resilience in the realm of spatial sciences. The intersectionality of youthful energy, technological acumen, and fresh perspectives contributes significantly to developing innovative solutions to global challenges like climate change, urban planning, and disaster management.
Young minds bring a unique ability to leverage modern technologies, such as GIS, remote sensing, and big data analytics, intertwining them with emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things, which progressively drives the evolution of spatial studies and applications.
Moreover, empowering youth in this domain ensures the continuity and progression of expertise and innovation in the field. Engaging them in geostatistical studies and geospatial initiatives helps in solving immediate geographic and environmental challenges. It also aids in instilling a deep-rooted understanding and responsibility towards our planet. Through this initiative we are molding a future cadre of leaders, scientists, and citizens who are spatially aware and are actively contributing towards shaping a sustainable future.
By increasing spatial data availability/ applicability, and arming the youth with geospatial knowledge and skills this program facilitates the creation of a knowledgeable workforce that can easily navigate the complexities of the modern spatially enabled world.
Young people of the OECS, this is a very special and exciting opportunity for you, and I urge you to take up the challenge and invite you – in the words of the Caribbean poet Kamau Brathwaite:
“..to shatter the door and enter the morning, fully aware of the future to come”