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Belize attends STI Forum in New York

HighlightsBelize attends STI Forum in New York

Photo: Belize’s delegation to STI forum in New York

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Mon. May 20, 2024

For the first time, a Belize delegation attended the 9th Annual Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) Forum at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City.

Led by Dr. Hon. Louis Zabaneh, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), and his delegation, Belize’s participation at the two-day forum, held on May 8 and 9, was facilitated through Belize’s Ambassador to the UN, Carlos Fuller.

“We had the opportunity to visit the United Nations, the 9th Forum for Science, Technology, and Innovation with other stakeholders who were invited from around the world,” Dr. Zabaneh told Amandala today. “I had the privilege to present CARICOM’s statement and also Belize’s statement,” he said.

Dr. Zabaneh noted that Belize has invested in a new competency-based education framework to lay the foundation for STEAM education, as part of an effort to prepare citizens for the fourth industrial revolution driven by STI.

Since January, Belize has had a National Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Committee comprising stakeholders and top Belizean scientists working abroad, including Dr. Aaron Lewis, Dr. Dorian Arnold, Dr. Sydney Taegar, and Dr. Arlie Petters. “We are preparing our first National Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy that will lay out the foundation for the next 10 years and prepare us for the next 30 years of advancement,” said Dr. Zabaneh.

Belize aims to present the draft STI strategy to the Cabinet by the end of June, followed by a detailed work plan to be completed by the end of the year, with full implementation expected to be in full swing with the next administration.

The government is also working on involving the private sector, civil society, and academia in the STI strategy to ensure that it reflects their visions and concerns. “The strategy is reflecting already the ideas, the vision, the concerns of each of these stakeholder groups,” said Dr. Zabaneh.

He explained that the government has made significant investments in academia, such as the Itz’at Academy and STEAM education programs which are expanding, with the goal of having one STEAM high school in each district.

He also mentioned ongoing efforts to modernize laws to incentivize business adoption of new technologies, particularly those that protect the environment and address climate change.

Dr. Zabaneh shared plans to evolve the University of Belize’s campus in Belmopan into a global campus by attracting 4-5 international universities to offer courses not available in the country, and developing a science, technology, and innovation park to drive export-oriented businesses in STI fields.

“If we look and are visionary enough to see the opportunities that exist within Central America, the Caribbean, and Southern Mexico, then it becomes more than viable,” he said. “I think that this is an exciting time, and what is critical is that we are having genuine consultations already.”

Other members of the Belizean delegation included Namrita Balani, Director of Science and Technology; Dr. Dorian Arnold, Computer Scientist and Director of Computer Science and Informatics at Emory University, USA; Dr. Sydney Taegar, Director of Optics, Research and Development at Nokia, USA; and Dr. Aaron Lewis, Physicist and Data Scientist, USA.

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