The Department of Culture of the Ministry of Education, Youth, Culture and Sports and the organizers of the St. Maarten Innovations, Initiatives and Industries Link-Up Event (SMILE) jointly announced today the confirmation of Ragnar Siil of Creativity Lab as one of the keynote speakers of this year’s SMILE event on March 25- 26, 2022.

Formerly Secretary of State for the Arts of Estonia and Chairman of the European Union Expert Group on Cultural and Creative Sectors, Ragnar Siil is a Founder and Director of Creativity Lab (, a leading cultural policy and creative industries think-tank and consultancy.

Siil has been closely related to the development of the “E-residency” wonder of Estonia. When the Soviet Union fell apart, the newly created country decided to go fully for e-government. Estonian residents are only asked to meet with government once. After this, all correspondence is channeled digitally in a customer friendly way. The sole exception being the optional exchanging of vows when getting married; this still has to happen in person. Banking has also been a predominantly digital affair for decades.

The novel approach to service brought a highly successful IT sector to the country. This expanded as many international creative companies, also from the Caribbean, have obtained digital e-residency in Estonia. By means of its move to cut bureaucracy, Estonia grew to one of the world’s foremost digital hubs.

By inviting Siil, the Department of Culture highlights the necessity to boost the creative economy of St Maarten. This year’s SMILE theme is “Sustainable Economies Post COVID”, trying to explore opportunities beyond the pandemic. The Caribbean creative economy has been dubbed one of the region’s greatest growth opportunities in amongst others the well-known study “The Orange Economy: an Infinite Opportunity” by  Felipe Buitrago Restrepo and Iván Duque Márquez.  An earlier announced speaker, awarded movie director Ignas van Schaick, also befits this economic bracket.

Ragnar is also a Director of the Board of the Cultural Policy Designers Network (, a European network of independent cultural policy experts. He is a strategy adviser for governments, cultural organizations and creative enterprises, and a researcher at Estonian Business School on creative clusters management. Previously, Ragnar Siil has advised drafting of cultural policies and creative industries strategies and worked with projects in more than 25 countries.

SHTA and 360* of Innovation thank the Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Atlas Risk Insurances, Grant Thornton, the Central Bank of Curacao & St. Maarten, Dynaf, the Department of Culture of MECYS, ShowMe Caribbean, Guardian Group and host University of St. Maarten for cooperating on SMILE’s 2022 edition.

The St. Maarten Innovations, Initiatives & Industries Link-Up Event (SMILE) was founded in the wake of hurricane Irma to inspire the Northeastern Caribbean business community with best practices in innovation and sustainability, local and international. As of its first edition in 2018, SMILE has proven a great opportunity for professionals to get (re)connected and obtain new professional updates and ideas and enhance skills.

SMILE will be held on Friday March 25 and Saturday March 26, 2022, at the University of St. Maarten. In cooperation with the Department of Culture, extra attention to this year’s SMILE event will go out to creative entrepreneurs of the region

Early bird season started this week: interested people who want to participate at SMILE, both domestic and foreign, can contact the SMILE project office at or call +1-721-542-0108. More information can be found at

For this edition, a close eye is kept on the developments pertaining to the pandemic to guarantee safety. If the status at the time requires reduced crowd size, tickets will be allocated on a first-come-first-serve basis. 

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