Curaçao Tech Meetups 2019: Overview and Highlights

The 2nd Curaçao Tech Meetups took place on Curaçao from September 2nd to 8th over five locations on the island and included presentations, workshops, a hackathon and kids’ activities. Presentations were held at Central Bank Curaçao from Monday through Thursday taking in all aspects of technology and featuring representatives from a wide variety of industries. This year’s Meetups focused on three hashtags; #WomeninTech, #KidsinTech and #TechagainstPoverty. Each day had a particular theme and comprised a series of inspiring and informative talks by tech professionals and evangelisers.

Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath opened the series with a keynote speech in which he acknowledged the importance of holding such an event on the island while emphasis­ing the necessity for leaders in Tech to take hold of the reins and move forward with or without government support. Many of the key messages from presenters and partic­ipants centered around the need to be pre­pared for the changes being brought about by advances in technology and the importance of making sure that no-one is left behind.

Event organiser Adric Walter said, “We have to take it out of the boardroom and into the bario” and this idea underpinned the Meetups as a whole. Registration and attendance were free of charge for all events with the exception of the one-day digital leadership workshop at a luxury villa in Jan Thiel. The Meetups also included a number of networking events at UNO in Pietermaai and concluded on Sunday, September 8th with a vegan food event at the Bario Hotel in Otrobanda.

HIGHLIGHTS

Yithza Davelaar, Motivational speaker Yithza Davelaar is an educational consultant and motivational speaker. She is the founder of the Islandessa Foundation, an organ­isation dedicated to promoting Personal Development on the island of Curaçao. Yithza took a long and winding road to her current role which involved a 20-year detour through a career she did not enjoy. This experience gave her a number of valuable insights. One of these was a desire to help other people identify their strengths and talents, and to use this awareness to choose careers that bring them joy as well as a pay­check. Yithza says that every person has 10 – 15 talents; activities that make time fly by without us even realising. However, many people don’t recognise these as talents and end up in jobs where their greatest abilities are not being put to use.  After attending a seminar some years ago, Yithza learnt about Positive Education, a term coined by psychologist Martin Seligman whose ideas have taken legs and seen educators in the Netherlands getting certified as ‘talent fluisterers’ (talent whis­perers). These fluisterers are trained to have conversations with young people to help them see and acknowledge their talents and to promote life skills such as integrity, resil­ience and grit. Next year, 100 teachers on Bonaire will be certified as talent fluisterers, focused on using positive reinforcement to help young people make career choices that will bring them mental enrichment and hap­piness as well as material success.

 Miles B.M. Mercera,  President & CEO – CHATA One of the biggest challenges that Curaçao faces as a tourist destination is the fact that many people have never heard of us. Miles highlighted the importance of destination events such as Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival, Flavors of Curaçao and the Meetups in putting the island on the map and boost­ing Curaçao’s international reputation.  On average, 44 visitor arrivals to Curaçao translates to one new job in the tourism sec­tor. With approximately 11,000 people on the island working in tourism, promoting our­selves as a destination is a priority. Another is attracting guests who will contribute to the economy. Curiously, Brazilian tourists are the most lavish visitors to our island spending an average of $250.24 per day, almost twice the average $132.78 per day of a Dutch tourist.

Visitor numbers to Curaçao increased by 16% in the past year but our tourism sector is still dwarfed by neighbouring Aruba. We have approximately 3,000 hotel rooms; about the same number as one wing of a Las Vegas hotel. By contrast, Aruba will have almost 15,000 hotel rooms by the end of 2019.  So, how can technology boost visitor num­bers to our island? Miles suggests improving Wifi access. Island-wide free Wifi is a big draw for tourists as well as businesspeople and digital nomads. We also need to encour­age more tourist attractions and services online. For visitors, less hassle = more spent and that applies to all aspects of their trip.

Aces Suares, Founder – Nos Ta Konekta  Ace Suares is passionate about bringing technology to everybody on Curaçao. In his presentation on children and technology, he pointed out the inequality of internet access on the island. In some barios, 90% of kids grow up with regular internet access whilst in others, only 1 in 10 children can get online.

Getting kids involved in a digital project where they can see the results of their par­ticipation is a great way to demonstrate firsthand the benefits of technology and that’s exactly what Ace did in a Geolocation project in Otrobanda with 12 HAVO students. Several parts of our island have yet to be adequately and accurately added to Google Maps and other online location software. The students identified a number of loca­tions which were not represented online and set about remedying this situation. By uploading street and alley names, the kids learned about satellites, GPS and most importantly how their personal contribution can benefit the community.

 In another project, Nos Ta Konekta organ­ised 3 weeks of activities to promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) for elementary school stu­dents. The kids learned about coding and engineering. In the final week of the project, they used LEGO WEDO to build and program a variety of tools. These activities teach kids to love technology and demonstrate how they can participate and benefit from tech now and in the future.

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