As the Caribbean region gears up to collectively brainstorm on how to make our economies prosper, I think it's only fitting to discuss here one growth driver that, in my view, has largely been neglected: The cultural and creative industries.
In many countries around the globe these industries are seen as important contributors to economic growth, accounting for more than seven percent of the world's GDP, according to Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative at the United Nations. This is expected to grow to at least 10 percent annually.
Unfortunately, in Jamaica, these industries have mostly been marketed as leisure activities and generally are not given the financial and policy support needed to maximize their returns.
A significant number of young Jamaicans are involved in the creative and cultural sector, performing at internationally accepted standards solely for leisure, and yet over 27% of Jamaican youth are unemployed. This clearly indicates that, in Jamaica, these industries could offer one answer to the problem of youth employment.
I was encouraged by Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's recent announcement establishing, a National Commission on Cultural and Creative Industries. This will work towards enabling policy and legislative framework to maximize the benefits of the cultural and creative industries. It's a long overdue but clear step in the right direction and signals that Jamaica has finally recognized the sector's income generating capacity. It is a progressive move that must go beyond playing politics.
UNESCO identified the creative industries as "increasingly important components of the modern post-industrial knowledge based economies." Stating that they not only account for higher growth and job creation, these industries are also vehicles of cultural identity, which play an important role in fostering cultural diversity.
But the perennial problem is the effort it takes to market the products. Fortunately for young people living in 2012, Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) have created a unique marketing opportunity, which avoid many of the impeding factors of the past while boosting the attractiveness of the product at the same time.
Both supporting the digital distribution of the content, as well as enhancing the digital experience, ICT widens the products' reach by improving the relationship between the user and content, often eliminating the middle man. As a result, Jamaicans' work has the potential to be global in seconds.
My blogs pay testament to the value of ICT, most of which are solely published on international websites. This then, creates opportunities I would never have had before with a limited audience.
And just last week, the Institute of Jamaica, through sponsorship from Chase Fund, launched a virtual Created by a very young staff, this marks an evolution in the concept of museum attendance in Jamaica. The virtual tours enhance the museum experience, and opens up Jamaican Art to a global audience.
Think about it. If you are a writer, you no longer need to go through the pain and cost associated with publishing --eBooks are now acceptable forms of publishing. One company in Jamaica, eMedia Interactive for example, has been making waves with its digital magazines. Similarly, musicians no longer need to worry about favoritism or money to get their music on the air as online platforms such as YouTube can provide significant exposure.
The web also provides additional markets as global barriers are almost non-existent. Through platforms such as Microworks and E-Lancing young people have access to a greater global space for international collaboration and to market their creative talents. The world is our oyster.
Let's not forget that Jamaica is known across the globe for its reggae and vibrant culture, all of which form part of its cultural and creative identity. Many young people are forced to take on traditional careers where their full potential is never reached.
Merging the creative and cultural industries with ICT is a natural marriage. Now, let us begin promoting the cultural and creative industries as being equally important to the growth of the Jamaican economy and the development of the country.
Meekel Beecher is a Youth Ambassador to the United Nations General Assembly