I LOVE the energy generated by people fulfilling purpose and I am even more intrigued when they are young Guyanese.
Social entrepreneur, software developer and educator Eldon Marks is a young man I admire greatly. For the last few years he has facilitated the Technology and Your Business training for exhibitors for the Women in Business Expo and they received content that assisted in elevating their businesses.
He is on a personal mission to create enabling environments for innovation and tech-industry growth in Guyana and has spent 13 years as a lecturer and mentor to students of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Guyana. During his time at the university, he founded a social-impact-led tech community under the brand Version75 Solutions (currently V75 Inc.), as well as co-founded weOwn space, a shared office space and ecosystem for entrepreneurs.
He left the university in 2017 to pursue these and other social-impact initiatives, full time. In August of 2017, he along with his V75 network planned and executed what was Guyana’s first online digital industry exhibition, devX. The data gathered from the devX online platform revealed key intervention points with regard to growing the local tech industry. With this insight, in July 2018 he and his V75 team founded Nexus Hub Inc., a non-profit technology and innovation centre for tech-industry growth and development.
I have utilised weOwn space for many of my training sessions but was very curious about Nexus Hub, so I decided to find out. Nexus Hub is a non-profit technology and innovation centre. The NeXus model is based on three primary objectives: to foster collaboration (through the physical space, online platform and select tech movements); To support innovation (through the provided collaborative ecosystem as well as an inventory of tech toys); To create opportunities (through paid apprenticeships, scholarship funds, networking and promotion of local talent). It comes in three forms: a physical space, an online community, as well as several tech movements
“My inspiration for Nexus came in 2017, the V75 Network collaborated on devX, which was Guyana’s first digital-industry exhibition ; it was an online exhibition powered by a platform that V75 built and we had accompanying offline events such as themed showcases, tech talks, a code sprint and even a tech fete. This took place throughout the month of August.
From the platform we built, we managed to index over 70 local tech entities who submitted over 200 of their works under categories such as tech research, graphics, animation, tech services, robotics / embedded programming, apps and websites.
Around that time we had done our research into the conditions which are necessary for tech industries to grow and economies to benefit; we observed a link among collaboration, innovation, technological change, global market penetration and economic growth,” Eldon Marks said.
With these findings, Marks and team immediately knew that they faced a problem which needed a tailored solution, so they went back to the drawing board and came up with the NeXus Model. Thirty persons on average at the hub during the week and one in six are women. I have a feeling the young women are planning to change that soon.
This hub is great for youth with a keen interest in tech and a passion to learn it. Once on the path, they are allowed to explore and their progression depends on how they use what they are taught to produce.
In about 10 months they facilitated the training and employment of 12 Conversational AI specialists who have built conversational experiences for over 20 million users thus far. When I heard this I was taken aback, but was also excited about where technology is going in Guyana and the impact this can have for young people who desire a career in the tech industry
The Nexus model has won an IDB Lab grant (US150K) to continue its work. While Marks has not received funding from the government, they have supported in other ways such as affording a venue for their first Hack Solve.
The team has grand plans for the future which increases my enthusiasm, although I do not consider myself a technologically inclined person. These are a few of the things in the making: a mini-tech park, a complex to house a number of tech entities which assist in training and employing more technologists with full funding to support a steady delivery of marketable, home-grown innovations. Nexus Hub has plans to expand throughout Guyana and possibly beyond these 83,000 square miles.
I am convinced this movement will afford many young people a chance to make their dreams a reality and I have met some of them. Let’s continue to be a beacon of hope for our young people as we continue this beautiful journey called life BEYOND THE RUNWAY.