Odayne pushing Jamaica's digital revolution

Friday, August 23, 2019

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More than 220 Jamaicans have been awarded Chevening Scholarships since it was first introduced in 1983. Chevening is the United Kingdom Government's global scholarship programme that offers future leaders the opportunity to study in the UK. This year, 19 outstanding young Jamaicans were selected for the scholarships. Over this week the Jamaica Observer will share the stories of some of the 2019-2020 awardees.

BORN and raised in one of the most volatile communities in Montego Bay, St James, Odayne Haughton learned some of life's most important lessons from a tender age — a few through irreplaceable losses.

He first became aware of his potential to make a difference after his older brother was fatally shot in his community. That incident ignited a flame of community building and youth engagement which has intensified over the years.

Now, Haughton, a 2019/2020 Chevening scholar bound for the University of Westminster to read for an MSc in Digital Business and Innovation, is keen to contribute to his country's development in other areas, as he looks forward to bringing back knowledge and skills to propel Jamaica into a tech-driven digital economy.

The Cornwall College graduate, who already holds an MSc in Computing from The University of the West Indies, currently serves as a system's security analyst at the Bank of Jamaica.

“I believe that Jamaica is shifting towards a knowledge-driven digital economy where data collection will not only be needed for planning, but crucial in developing essential strategies that will address current and future challenges,” said Haughton.

“So, Caribbean nations must become more tech-versed with leaders who facilitate an enabling policy environment for technologically oriented investments and innovation. The time is ripe and Jamaica is ready,” added Haughton, who is also a Prime Minister Youth Awardee.

According to Haughton, his studies at Westminster will enable him to draw upon world-renowned academic and professional experts who have been leading in the field of the digital economy.

“Courses such as 'big data analytics' will provide me with the expertise in statistical knowledge, with applications to big data analytics cases, while courses such as cybersecurity and blockchain technologies would facilitate the exploration of challenges, including digital trust, in relation to building a world-class digital economy in Jamaica,” he argued.

“The prime minister's vision is to ensure that every citizen can operate in a digital society, where transactions are efficient, secure and centralised. This starts from a centralised identification system with a connection of all government systems into one centralised portal.

“I envision myself championing the Jamaican digital economy team to help shape a more efficient Jamaica,” Haughton declared.

As a member of the Jamaica Financial Technology Working Group and a youth leader on several government boards, the 26-year-old Haughton said he has in-depth understanding of intersecting challenges faced by the Government and Jamaica's central bank.

“Certain government policies are of an analogue era and mismatched with today's digital era, while the central bank faces challenges in appropriately advising the Government and educating the public on emerging technologies,” said Haughton.

He added: “I hope to one day be in a position to influence policies that emphasise on the development of technology, innovation and affordable, appropriately designed scientific infrastructures. These are pivotal for the success of any economy in the new world…

“I am extremely grateful and excited for this opportunity and I dream that more young people from inner-city communities will leap onto various, similar platforms of success,” he said.

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