Microsoft seeks partners for Jamaican Innovation Centre

Friday, December 27, 2013    

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MICROSOFT wants to build private sector partnerships to establish a Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC) in Jamaica, says Marcelle Smart, Microsoft Jamaica country manager.

The US-based electronics and computer software giant has already developed the necessary links with the government, The University of the West Indies and Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), she said. The MIC, which would be the first in the English-speaking Caribbean, would provide services designed to stimulate local software development through training, industry partnerships and innovation.

"We are passing the baton to the entire private sector," Smart said. "Their assistance is needed to provide the seed funding that will be used to work with the Inter-American Development Bank to make the MIC a reality."

The Microsoft country manager was addressing a luncheon attended by its partner representatives, as well as a large number of local software developers, at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston last week.

Julian Robinson, State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining said, "Persons who have supported this initiative... understand how technology can transform their own businesses."

Minister Robinson added that Microsoft had many options, but they chose Jamaica. He pointed out that, "Jamaica has a pool of talented and skilled developers who can build applications and solutions which can help their own business and the country."

Earl Jarrett, the general manager of JNBS, said he was part of a team from the company which visited the Microsoft main campus in Redmond, Washington last October lo learn about their latest innovations. He said, "Microsoft, of course, has had positive experiences with Jamaica, particularly through the successes of the Northern Caribbean University teams in the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition."

During that tour, the idea was mooted for establishing a Microsoft Innovation Centre in Jamaica, and he suggested then that The University of the West Indies (UWI) represented an ideal partner through which an Innovation Centre could be initiated. Jarrett said the discussions began, "to embrace the UWI and to encourage Microsoft to come to Jamaica."

Professor Archibald McDonald, Principal of the UWI, said the university's role as an educational institution gives it "a vested interest in supporting our nation's creative capacity."

The professor added that countries have been able to make significant advances in their socioeconomic well-being, as a result of refocusing their interest in software design and technological innovation.

"The Microsoft innovation centre marks Jamaica's official introduction into this new mode of economic development," he said.

Microsoft business manager Shemiel Da'Briel, who is of Jamaican heritage, called on the local private sector to show their support for the MIC by pledging funds, employing software developers to build applications for their businesses, or to employ developers as interns so they could learn about the businesses.

"We need your support to continue the work we are doing," she said, in an appeal to the business community. "Support takes many forms and we encourage you to join us in this effort."





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