Adric Walter has been living in Rotterdam for nineteen years and people are always asking him when he is coming back to Curaçao. “I’m not coming back, but I’m not staying away either,” he tells me. These co-existing realities are an essential part of who he is and how he contributes to the island. Geographical borders don’t have to limit us and there’s a wealth of knowledge, ideas and inspiration that we can share with one another from across the ocean.
Adric sees himself as somebody who, by virtue of his upbringing and education, has an unfair technical advantage. He believes that with this advantage comes the responsibility of using his skills and knowledge to help as many people as he can in reaching their full potential.
The plans for the 2019 Tech Meetup series began before the last year’s event had even finished, and he has pulled out all the stops this time around. With four times the number of registered attendees and events taking place at five locations over eight days, the Meetups will bring together more than one thousand people from business, technology, education and government. Adric handpicked the presenters and contributors with three key themes in mind; #WomeninTech, #KidsinTech and #TechagainstPoverty; subjects which he believes are essential for our survival in the digital economy. He describes this year’s event as “Human-centric and technology-driven.”
“We need women in tech, for what they can contribute to the field and as role models for the younger generation.” This is something that Adric experienced firsthand growing up. His mother worked at IBM and her influence was vital in paving the path that he followed. While his childhood friends obsessed over car makes and models, Adric memorised the serial numbers on the computer parts that his mother brought home.
He began programming at age eleven and what began as a hobby became a passion that saw him going to university in the Netherlands to study computer science. Adric’s mother instilled in him a fascination for technology, but his father’s career as a social worker was just as significant and brought him an awareness of inequality and injustice at a young age. He speaks passionately about his desire to make technology accessible to everyone, regardless of gender, age, occupation or income level. Technology levels the playing field, offering a path out of poverty, he tells me. We’ve seen this all over the world. There is nervous chatter from a small number of people about jobs being lost in the digital revolution, but the reality is going to prove very different. Technology of the future will eliminate some jobs, but it will also create many new opportunities. Preparation is key so that we are ready for the changes that are coming.
Adric is concerned that education is not keeping up with developments in technology and that our young people will suffer as a result of this. “We are motivating kids to do things that will be irrelevant in the future,” he says, using his own occupation as an example of a job that didn’t exist when he was in school. While he agrees that formal education has a role to play in preparing kids for the future, he points out that we don’t have to wait for the government to change the syllabus. Parents and teachers can make a huge positive impact by organising initiatives such as after school tech sessions and weekend activities. That’s exactly why the Tech Meetups included several fun events for children at Sambil Mall. Kids took part in a drone workshop, a 3D printing event and a Snapology demo, all of which were designed to inspire, empower and bring technology to life in an interactive and engaging way. Like the rest of the Meetups, these activities were free of charge and open to everyone. Adric explains to me that keeping admission free is one of the core principles of the Meetups. Providing open access is fundamental to the event and he is committed to maintaining this in future years.
As we discuss the future, Adric is positive about how tech can elevate the island. “The people of Curaçao have an incredible inventiveness,” he tells me. “Look at how well organised Carnival is! We just need to channel that energy and ingenuity in the right direction.” Although he is optimistic, he is also mindful of the dangers of inactivity and apathy. If we do the right things, we can take control of the economy and become leaders in the region. Curaçao with its climate, location and multi-lingual population has a lot to offer, but if we don’t adopt technology, make no mistake, we will fall behind.
Adric says that it’s not just the residents of Curaçao who are responsible for change. He believes that the local community overseas has a significant role to play in using knowledge gained abroad to help the people at home. People from here move around a lot and they always come home with new ideas. “We are duty-bound to help our country,” he says. “It’s not optional.”
The first Curaçao Tech Meetups in 2018 resulted in two startups being launched on the island after the founders met at the events. Adric has even higher hopes for this year. “I work for my grandchildren,” he explains. “I want them to be able to look back at what I did with my career and see how it has positively impacted them.”
Adric Walter is a Microsoft Azure Cloud Architect at Rubicon Cloud Advisor in Rotterdam.