June 12, 2019
Participants of 11 Commonwealth Caribbean countries are exploring emerging technologies and the future of work and education at a workshop hosted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in conjunction with Commonwealth of Learning (COL).
The three-day workshop entitled, “Women in ICT: the Future of Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI)” is being held at SuperClubs Breezes, June 11-13, 2019. Topics include: Advancing and Emerging Technologies in Education -- Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Open Educational Resources (OER) Online Learning, the Role of Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, Mobile Technologies and Coding, Artificial Intelligence -- Threats and Opportunities through a Gender Lens, Chatbots, and Coding a Chatbot.
All delegates represent tertiary institutions. Local participants include representatives of the Bahamas Maritime Technical Academy, the University of The Bahamas, Bahamas Technical Vocational Institute and the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute.
Michelle Sears, Assistant Director of Education for Professional Development and COL Focal Point, said COL’s platform is education and increasing access to education for all people through the use of technology.
“This workshop focuses on women in ICT and the extent to which we’re getting sufficient women at the tertiary level.
“We’re looking at whether we’re getting enough women into our courses in universities and colleges in the technical fields,” said Mrs. Sears.
Alexis Carr, Research Coordinator, COL, said the intersection of gender and emerging technologies, such as AI, is a timely and important topic; yet, it is still relatively nascent.
“In this sense, COL, the MOE, and all of you here today as participants are actually pioneers. There is a growing movement around the world of people and organizations who recognize the importance of skill building and awareness raising amongst women as the world of work is set to undergo rapid and transformative change,” said Ms. Carr.
The Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd, Minister of Education, said technology is becoming an ‘essential’ facet of mainstream industries, across any and every discipline, central to which is artificial intelligence.
He congratulated COL on the deliberation on the future of work in the technology age.
Of concern, said Minister Lloyd, are the issues that technology today gives rise to including the personal and collective issue of security, privacy and what author James Williams refers to in the book “Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy” -- ‘identity.’
“This is why education is so absolutely critical particularly at the tertiary level,” said Minister Lloyd.
He remarked that The Bahamas has closed the gender gap on educational attainment.
“In our land both boys and girls have equal access to education across the entire spectrum – pre-school to university.
“Also, according to the ILO, 44 percent of management positions in this country are held by women ranking us 9th out of 108 surveyed countries.
“Of course we still have a long way to go especially of ensuring parity in those long male-dominated disciplines such as manufacturing, engineering, construction even in tertiary education.”
He emphasized that women ‘must’ be involved in artificial intelligence to ensure that there is equality.
Mr. Lloyd said that the MOE is driving a digitization process where, through technology, the entire archipelago of The Bahamas will have easy access to all educational resources.
He explained that some parts of the archipelago are deprived of the resources because of the nature of The Bahamas with about 20 major islands having a student population.
Minister Lloyd acknowledged the longstanding relationship with COL. He said the partnership in organizing the workshop further strengthens the relationship and welcomed other opportunities to partner.
COL was created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. It helps developing nations improve access to quality education and training.
Women in ICT at the workshop. In group photo: Minister of Education, the Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd, seated second left; Permanent Secretary Lorraine Armbrister, third left; and Director of Education Marcellus Taylor, fourth left, with other local and international education officials and participants. (Photos/Aletha Cooper, MOE)
By Kathryn Campbell