Tue | Sep 29, 2020

Data analytics, cybersecurity pitched as STEM school mandate

Published:Thursday | November 28, 2019 | 12:22 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer
Sean Thorpe
Sean Thorpe

Days after Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the Government plans to build six schools that will focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), a tech expert has recommended that the curriculum prioritise data analytics and cybersecurity.

Dr Sean Thorpe, dean of the School of Computing and Information Technology at the University of Technology, Jamaica, said studies undertaken by the Papine-based institution last year indicate that there was an undersupply of trained personnel in those fields.

“The current trends indicate that over the next decade, two decades, these are two positions that will be underfilled to support the need of not only the local market, but the global market. So in terms of the STEM profession in and of itself, we find that a lot of the issues relating to the application of STEM is driven by data and the insights from data,” Thorpe told The Gleaner.

“And the insight from data and the value of those insights from data now surround the subfield of study in computing called data analytics …. The security and privacy of that data in this global space is a persistent challenge.”

Also making recommendations was Damion Mitchell, chair of the Computer Information Sciences Department at Northern Caribbean University.

JAMAICA’S NEEDS

He told The Gleaner that the training offered by these specialised schools should coincide with the country’s needs.

“The key focus should be more so on how math and engineering can be used to advance the current landscape, as we have it in Jamaica, for our students to be trained in such a way so that they can easily adapt to things like the fourth industrial revolution … and how ready are our students to be acclimatised in these different domains.

“So definitely, it should be one that is steeped in the implementation of different technologies. I think that’s one of the first things I’d like to see from that standpoint,” he said.

Meanwhile, Thorpe dismissed concerns about the prospects of STEM graduates migrating to wealthier countries.

“You can actually attract the foreign work to come here. You can attract foreign investment to come here, so therefore you can export the mindset to work on a project in Israel, in the US, elsewhere from right here with these skill sets,” he told The Gleaner.

“But you are really building your own domestic market, ‘cause we don’t have that infrastructure in our own local market. And when I say local market, think about Jamaica and the entire Caribbean region.”

nickoy.wilson@gleanerjm.com