PitchIT Caribbean, under the remit of the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project (CMIP), is intended to support growth-oriented mobile app businesses in the Caribbean. The programme is designed to strengthen the Caribbean mobile innovation ecosystem. And enable sustainable and competitive mobile enterprises to grow through activities that will target early stage investors and guide them to market readiness. The aim is to create a regional pool of high-growth potential mobile start-ups, with the capacity to release their apps to the market and raise additional capital to grow.
PITCHIT CARIBBEAN PRE-QUALIFIER EVENT
In August PitchIT Caribbean invited regional Tech entrepreneurs to participate in the Slush Global Impact Accelerator which will be held between November 22nd to December 2nd. Caribbean hopefuls for Slush Global Impact Accelerator 2017, were put through their paces at the PitchIT Caribbean's qualifying event. The event received more than 40 entries, from which ten were shortlisted to pitch. The top ten came from Antigua & Barbuda, Trinidad & Tobago, and Jamaica. On the 6th September, nine of the impact start-ups pitched virtually, with one team submitting a pre-recorded submission.
Following a spirited and robust judging session, the following three companies emerged as the top three:
Braata (Brawta) a local artisan gift box subscription service https://braatabox.com/
These three companies were submitted for evaluation by the Slush team to determine which one of them will go on to represent the Caribbean in Helsinki in November. We will bring news of the lucky winner in a later briefing.
C&W Communications Provides Update On Hurricane Irma Damage
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which left a trail of destruction across the Caribbean and parts of the US. C&W Communications, operator of the retail brand Flow, provided an update on the impact to its people, markets, and operations. As the largest full service communications operator in the region, C&W saw impacts across the region including in the islands of Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands (BVI), Turks & Caicos Islands, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. US-based employees in Florida were also affected by the storm.
"Clearly Irma was an historic event, and we have suffered some damage to both fixed and mobile networks in our markets that bore the full force of the storm." said John Reid, C&W's CEO. He went on to state that, "First and foremost, our initial assessment indicates that our people are fully accounted for in the affected countries." Reid continued, "I'm pleased to report that our mobile networks in Antigua and Anguilla are back up to pre-Irma usage levels. There was, however, significant impact to our systems and services in Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks & Caicos Islands."
C&W's attention is now wholly focused on rapidly restoring services to impacted customers across the region. Teams across the region are working around the clock to return services to normal. The Company has also established a Restoration Hub in Antigua, where technicians from across the C&W Group - Jamaica, Barbados, and Panama - as well as its parent Company Liberty Global will be dedicated to getting islands back online. The company also extended free credit across affected markets, enabling pre-pay mobile customers to get in contact with loved ones on their island or abroad without worrying about charges.
Prospering In The Technology Era Is Focus Of Barbados' International Business Week 2017
The Barbados International Business and Financial Services (IB&FS) sector will again be in the spotlight during this year's International Business Week, which runs from October 15th to 21st. Now in its ninth year, the week of activities was conceptualised to raise public awareness of the importance of the international business sector to the country and its contribution to the island's growth and development.
The Barbados International Business Association (BIBA), in collaboration with Invest Barbados and other strategic partners, have planned several informative and engaging activities and events, including the flagship event of this week – a two-day conference to be held on October 19th and 20th.
This year's conference, theme is 'Prospering in the Technological Era -Innovate, Integrate, Motivate', and provides a unique opportunity for delegates to gain an understanding of current issues affecting the international business and financial service sector and the global trends impacting its development.
This year's topics include: The Future of Work: Technology and Humanity; Artificial Intelligence – Is it bad for business?; Technology Transforming Lifestyles; Shifting Landscapes: The Gender Differential; Developed Market Debt is Rising – What are the Global Implications?; and Renewable Energy and Business.
San Pedro High Is The First School To Receive New Diginet Fiber Optic Internet
San Pedro High School and Belize Telemedia (BTL) celebrated the installation of DigiNet at the school, the fastest internet service in the country. San Pedro High is the first school on Ambergris Caye to have access to the DigiNet service as part of BTL's Internet to Schools Programme. DigiNet will boost the school's internet speed from 8Mbps to 60Mbps, making internet more reliable to the faculty and student body.
BTL and Huawei Marine, have successfully installed fiber optic submarine cables between Belize mainland and San Pedro, allowing Ambergris Caye to be the first location in the country to experience faster fiber optic internet service.
BTL CEO, Rochus Schreiber, highlighted the importance of internet and technology and how young Belizeans are taking advantage of it to create new careers for themselves.
As the Caribbean awoke on Wednesday 6th to the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in history, users of FaceBook might have expected to be able to use FaceBook's Safety Check Feature, however it was conspicuous by its absence!
Hurricane Irma was Missing from Safety Check
When I contacted friends and family at 5am ECT (Eastern Caribbean Time), I suggested that they report their status using the FaceBook Safety Check feature, however the option was not available. Having checked for Hurricane Irma in the Safety Check system myself at 6 a.m. ECT it was still not possible to report your status for Hurricane Irma, and I posted to that effect on FaceBook. Approximately, ninety minutes later, I received comments indicating that the feature was available.
FaceBook Was Tardy
Given that Hurricane Irma had been anticipated since the weekend, and as predicted by forecasters made landfall in Antigua and Barbuda and much of the Eastern Caribbean on the morning of the 6th September, why was the feature missing for so long?
Despite the impending disaster being anticipated so far in advance, why were Caribbean FaceBook users unable to make use of what has become a standard feature of FaceBook during times of disaster? Why was FaceBook seemingly prodded into action? Were FaceBook's staff asleep at the switch or were there some other reasons for this apparent lapse or in-action? I suspect we will never know! However, with Hurricane José expected this weekend, let's hope that FaceBook get their act together!
Dominica's IOT Schools Project Creates Producers And Not Consumers
The National Telecommunications Regulator in Dominica successfully secured US$18,000 in grant funding. The NTRC entered the Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean, (FRIDA) grant competition, winning the programme's most technical category – Innovation for Internet Development.
Dominicans Found Broadband Internet Irrelevant
I asked Craig Nesty, Executive Director at the NTRC what was the motivation, behind the Internet of Things (IoT) School Project?
As a regulator part of our mandate is to increase broadband penetration. What we found through surveys and gap analysis, for the USF was that people basically found broadband to be irrelevant. Or they didn't see the benefits of the Internet or the value of the internet for the money they were paying. They could not equate, $89 a month, to FaceBook, especially in certain demographics.
Identifying a Meaningful Project
So we set about trying to determine how we could make the Internet more relevant. We also recognised that we in the Caribbean basically use the Internet for consumption of resources. We don't generate any content, we don't produce anything. So the inspiration behind the project was to give kids an opportunity to see how the Internet could be utilised. And how they could actually create something and generate useful information that could be used by vast cross section of society. We're talking about from disaster planners to farmers to environmental modellers.
Cue the Raspberry Pi
So when I came across this article where in England, they were introducing computing to kids as young as six years old. And they were doing that with the Raspberry Pi, which I thought that was pretty interesting. I recognised that this was an opportunity for us to do something similar perhaps not on the same scale. But if we could put a Raspberry Pi in every school, then every student would be aware that there was such a device. If we could show them through one project the types of things we can do with that one device, it might inspire them to further innovate and create and take full advantage of the internet.
The Digital Divide has not Been Bridge!
This is the only way I think we can bridge the digital divide and create that equalising effect that the internet should have brought about. Whichin my view it hasn't. A lot of people might think that's controversial, but to me the internet is a great amplifier, it enhances the capabilities you already have. So for us in Dominica we are consumers. We order a lot internationally and consume locally, and the internet has basically accelerated that. So it's essentially created a lot more capital flight, and we need to find a way to reverse that, and the IoT Schools Project is a small step in trying to address some of the problems that I see.
Government of Trinidad and Tobago Aims To Boost Its Jobs Through IDB Loan
The Government of Trinidad & Tobago, intends to use grant and loan funds from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to drive T&T's economic transformation/diversification using information technology enabled services (ITeS), to broaden opportunities in other economic sectors, especially with the current challenges in the oil and gas industry.
The Ministry of Planning and Development in Trinidad said on Wednesday that it was certain that an IDB loan and grant agreement would lead to the growth of the information technology sector in this country, along with high-paying jobs for well-qualified nationals of T&T.
In a statement, the Planning Ministry referenced the Global Services Promotion Programme, which is a loan and grant agreement funded by the IDB and being implemented by the ministry.
The question was asked on the most recent edition of ZIZ's Working for You on Tuesday 15th August, by show presenter Lesroy Williams.
The question was fielded by Ervin Williams, Managing Director of the local National Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (NTRC), who was a guest on the show along with the Commission's Chairman Cosbert Manchester and ECTEL Director Quincy Prentice, Nevis Director of Technology.
In answer to the question Williams said, "St. Kitts and Nevis was the first country in the Caribbean to attack that situation of establishing an IXP - Internet Exchange Point." We hear more in this clip from Working for You.
Williams, went on to explained what an IXP is and it's benefits "An IXP is a switch that keeps local internet traffic local. For example if Quincy Prentice wants to send me an e-mail, currently that e-mail goes from here to Miami, switches and returns. If someone in St. Martin were to send me an e-mail it would go to Miami probably via Puerto Rico, switch and then return."
"Likewise if your department in Government was trying to send something to Inland Revenue, is likely to go to Miami, switch and return. Now that's local data some of it might be private and confidential and you look at it in two aspects. One, where the information is of national interest and private and confidential, why would you want to risk having it traversing other territories to get back to you? When you could safeguard it by putting in an IXP, and having it routed safely within territory or within the region. Secondly, speed of delivery, it would cut the delivery time in nanoseconds.
Mr. Williams, explained that a Committee spearheaded by the IT Department, which is led by Ms. Amecia Mussenden, who is also a Commissioner on the NTRC had been formed to implement the IXP. We have the switch here in St. Kitts, and they are building a framework, with the necessary policies and procedures. While not wanting to speak for the Director of Technology, Mr. Williams went onto say that, "I think we should have the IXP established probably within the first half of next year or before."
The concern is that by Williams' own, admission St. Kitts and Nevis was the first country to begin the movement towards implementing an IXP, yet the country is still unable to enjoy any of the benefits extolled! It has already been five long years since Packet Clearing House (PCH) donated the Internet Route Server, "the switch" as the pre-cursor to establishing the first IXP in the region.
In that time a raft of other countries have all beaten us to the punch! Countries as far north as the Bahamas and Haiti to Trinidad & Tobago in the south, all have IXPs. Indeed, of the five ECTEL Member states we're the only country not to have an IXP in operation! It's hard to conceive that the operational requirements of an IXP in St. Kitts and Nevis would differ so significantly, that we cannot simply adopt the framework in use by the other four member states.
My guess, better yet my advice to stakeholders in the Federation is to watch and pray, no be vigilant and press the NTRC and Department of Technology to deliver.
Jamaican Community Access Points To Be Powered By Solar Energy
Jamaica's Science, Energy and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley has announced plans for the utilisation of solar energy to power the more than 250 community access points (CAPs) providing public Internet and technology services islandwide.
This, Dr Wheatley said, is in order to reduce the high costs associated with operating the facilities and to ensure their sustainability. He was addressing yesterday's official opening of the $3.5-million Annotto Bay computer resource centre in St Mary, which was developed by the Universal Service Fund (USF), an agency of the ministry.
He noted that the ministry took the decision to provide solar-energy solutions, following a 2016 audit of the CAPs, which revealed that just over 70 were operating inefficiently, mainly due to high energy costs.
"We made a decision that... all sites must have, as a critical component, solar solutions. This is important in order to remove that burden... of the high cost of (electricity) from the communities," he said. He added that the solar project "is part of the sustainability programme of the USF". The USF's Director of Projects, Everold Simms, said that plans are being developed for the initial installation of solar solutions in six pilot centres and, thereafter, an overall rollout of the engagement.
The new CAP in Annotto Bay is the 256th facility that the USF has established and the seventh in St Mary.
Trinidad Parliamentarian Urges Gov't To Act On Cyber Laws
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is being urged to introduce legislation to protect citizens from the backlash of personal information and compromising photos being posted on social media platforms.
The call comes from Public Services Association president and Tobago House of Assembly Minority leader Watson Duke, who said it was grossly unfair what members of the public had to endure after such incidents.
"I am hereby calling upon the executive of the Government of T&T, led by Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley, to do the honourable thing and enact law to protect citizens against abuse on social media.
"Too much private information on persons' personal lives is being leaked on social media and creating havoc in the home. Social media should not be used to shame people, but rather for building social relationships."
Duke's call came hours after compromising photos of a woman clad in a police uniform was circulated via social media over the weekend.
Following the release of the photos, thousands of comments were posted about the officer's conduct, with some calling for her dismissal from the profession while also speculating about the effect it would have on the woman's personal and family relations. The T&T Police Service has since launched a probe into that matter.
Duke said while there were limitless uses for social media, such as education, maintaining relationships and keeping informed of the latest news, "embarrassing people and trying to put people out of work is not the purpose of social media, so therefore I am calling on the government to act with great haste before we have a country of wounded people."
Contacted on the matter, Public Administration and Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie assured that Government was working on several pieces of legislation to address the issue. In a release yesterday, he said the Data Protection Act and the Cybercrime Bill would effectively address the appropriate management and dissemination of content in the era of new media.
The Data Protection Act seeks to protect the personal privacy and information that is held by public bodies and the private sector. Cuffie said this act contained, "built in safeguards."
The Current Landscape
Many of us would know that the "Nature Isle", of Dominica has 365 rivers and is regularly exposed to natural disasters, which make disaster management and climate change action essential to the development of this Caribbean island state. Every school in Dominica receives Internet connectivity and most schools have an Internet lab. However, very little technological development results from the use of the labs and most school programmes are focused on learning basic digital skills.
Changing the Landscape
The National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) in Dominica, has sought to feed two birds with one cherry, by changing the modus operandi of the school based IT education and addressing the challenges of Climate Change. The NTRC entered the Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean, (FRIDA) grant competition and won the US$18,000 prize in the programme's most technical category – Innovation for Internet Development.
Their project aims to reduce the barriers for the adoption of technology in a small island developing state and to expose students and teachers to the benefits of the Internet on a national level.
Open Source Technology
The hardware required will include Rasberry Pi boards, Arduino, and a host of climatic sensors and cameras. The software will be developed by leveraging open source solutions already available and would require students to develop skills and knowledge in Python, PHP, web server technologies and Internet protocols.
Community Engagement and Empowerment
The software will allow the locally captured weather data to be posted on the school's website and other national websites, therefore making this valuable data available to communities. This will enable local stakeholders to be better informed about their prevailing weather conditions and act accordingly.
The system will be built by students and teachers, with the support of local technical volunteers. The process should also inspire and motivate them to continue the building process and seek out other IoT projects to work on.
Social Media and Technology Communications Are Taking Over
That opinion was shared by Guyana's Hon. Cathy Humes, Minister of Public Telecommunications, as she discussed matters concerning digital developments in Caribbean Media at the 48th Annual General Assembly of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union.
The focus of Ms. Humes's discussion was the way in which "social media and technology have taken over communication."
She also said that "broadcasting is becoming dead and content is no longer exclusively delivered through broadcasting". She drew parallels with the way, applications such as Uber and Airbnb have respectively taken over the taxi industry and the hotel industry.
On a grand scale it is safe to say that modern technology has indeed taken over communication, as Ms. Humes explained: "content is now being delivered at all times and over 60 billion messages are being relayed a day via Facebook and Whatsapp." This is enough to show why the broadcasting industry must learn to use technology to its advantage to "get it out there and get it right."
Ms. Humes ended by stressing that "if we do not move, we will be pushed" because although highly competitive, creativity and innovation in technology should be appreciated and taken advantage of. Her solution is to retrain, retool and redeploy workers.
Concerns Are Surfacing With The Region's IXPs
BVI's Ideal Scenario
Some six years after the commissioning of the IXP in the BVI, it appears that all is not as it should be. According to Bevil Wooding, "It is actually not true to say the internet is up and running in the BVI; it is not up and running."
Effectively, the IXP allows networks to interconnect and exchange information without first having to go through one or more third-party networks in other jurisdictions.
When Plans Meet Reality!
Telecommunication providers in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) have refused to use interconnection arrangements in the territory that could make the internet cheaper and faster for their customers, said Internet Strategist and Advisor to the Caribbean Telecommunications Union Bevil Wooding.
Ahead of the launch of an upgraded version of the IXP technology locally, telecom providers are being told to connect, stay connected, and stop depriving customers of better internet services, Wooding said. "When I say they are stopping pairing, it means that, instead of sending the traffic to the exchange point [in the BVI], they continue to send it back up to Miami."
That results in local customers being charged double to use the internet, Wooding said. "You are paying twice. You're going to send it out to be exchanged in Miami or some other place only to be brought back in to be consumed by a user. That is the issue that the local IXP is designed to solve." By launching a local exchange point in the BVI, you are giving local [internet] traffic a local option for being exchanged to get to a local consumer.
Wooding said that local telecommunication providers should get on board, especially with the impending upgrade to the IXP in the territory. "We are saying enough is enough. It is time for better, faster, cheaper, local internet. The citizens deserve it; the internet users deserve it."
BVI is Not Alone
At news time reports coming out of Jamaica suggest that there are similar issues with local ISPs in Jamaica by-passing the local exchange point. This is something we will watch and report on as it develops.
PitchIT Caribbean, under the remit of the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project (CMIP), is a two-tiered partnership approach to support growth-oriented mobile app businesses in the Caribbean. The programme is designed to strengthen the Caribbean mobile innovation ecosystem and enable sustainable and competitive mobile enterprises to grow through activities that will target early stage innovators and guide them to market readiness. The aim is for the creation of a regional pool of high-growth potential mobile start-ups with the capacity to release their apps to the market and raise additional capital to grow.
I spoke with Melissa Johnson Senior Projects and Portfolio Officer at UWI and Project Manager at PitchIT Caribbean to find out more about PitchIT and the opportunities offered by Slush 2017. I began by asking her to give some background on PitchIT Caribbean.
"PitchIT is an offshoot of CMIP the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Programme we work specifically with entrepreneurs in the tech and tech enabled business field. Intended to support startups support entrepreneurial development and contribute to the growth of the Caribbean Tech ecosystem"
I asked how the Caribbean is participating in this year's Slush Global Impact Accelerator, and what activities are being held?
"So the slush Caribbean Global Impact Accelerator qualifying competition is the entry point for Caribbean tech firms with the solutions to key global challenges, and who are focused on Impact being able to interact with their global colleagues in Helsinki Finland. It is open to entrepreneurs who are operating registered businesses and was incomes are not exceeding a million pounds and who are very much focused on impact and really changing the landscape of the spaces in which they operate. All tech firms are eligible to apply it's not just persons who may have been a part of the PitchIT Caribbean programme."
I asked if past participants of PitchIT activities participate?
"The competition is also open to entrepreneurs who are in PitchIT, who are currently or have been part of the hubs. Those are the support firms who have been providing much-needed support in terms of advice, guidance and incubation services to entrepreneurs across the Caribbean."
Slush Global Impact Accelerator is a programme created in collaboration with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and multiple global partners. The purpose of GIA is to create a leading global programme to support startups that are looking to solve some of the most pressing global challenges and to contribute to the discussion on impact investing.
Slush Global Impact Accelerator 2017 brings impactful entrepreneurs from emerging markets to Helsinki to accelerate their business, attract additional financing and make an even greater impact on their societies and beyond. The programme includes online pre-event coaching and the Helsinki boot camp programme from November 22–December 2, 2017 culminating in Slush.
The deadline for the Caribbean competition is the 23rd August and persons interested in taking part can apply here, http://www.pitchitcaribbean.com/community/slush/
Jamaica Is Pushing The Boundaries In Geospatial Mapping
In an interview with the BBC the head of Jamaica's National Spatial Data Division Rowan Richards explain how the country is using geospatial data to improve disaster recovery planning and preparation.
Mr. Richards said, "Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean we sit smack in the middle of the line of attack where hurricanes are concerned and we can utilise a lot of data that is available within the map arena to deploy resources if a hurricane hits us. Also, if a certain area is particularly vulnerable where will most flooding occur? Or what is the social economic and other demographic characteristics of a particular area? So utilising all of that information we can provide better responses to disasters."
Richards also explained some of the challenges that his department had to overcome in making this data freely available, saying:
"You know that is something that has always been in a challenge not just in Jamaica, but across the entire Caribbean. The private sector needs information in order to help with the advanced development in various different areas. We have been working out within all government as well as a push at the United Nations level to ensure that there is free and open access geospatial data."
He also gave an example of how geospatial information can be used to market the tourism dependent country
I'm extremely optimistic. Can you imagine, a country like Jamaica which depends on tourism. As a tourist before I actually come to Jamaica and this is a plug for Jamaica. I can go into my computer, look at what a particular site might look like, take a virtual walk along that site along that road, see what the surrounding conditions are. I am completely optimistic. A couple years ago we weren't at this stage and now we are at a stage where all our entities have come together for sharing to members of the public.
Facilitating Innovation In Corporate Trinidad and Tobago
With the aim of facilitating a greater awareness of programmes which will assist businesses to incorporate innovation into their processes, the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) in partnership with the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CCIC) hosted a session entitled 'Encouraging Innovation in Corporate TT'.
CARIRI and the CCIC have established a strong relationship that is built on both organizations' desire for diversification and growth in the economy.
This particular session was geared towards promoting the intent of the CCIC to remain proactive in providing avenues for businesses in the Central area and this was the platform that CARIRI chose to promote two new initiatives geared toward assisting organisations.
The first is the Innovation Gap Analysis Programme (iGap) which is intended to identify and engage potential innovations in existing companies and will also address the need to develop a culture of Innovation in private sector enterprises, particularly SMEs. This initiative is based on the recognition that SMEs are particularly vulnerable to the rapidly changing dynamics of the international economic environment and, to remain competitive, these enterprises must keep their value proposition current, relevant and valuable to customers.
The Data Innovation Solutions Centre (DISC) is the second initiative. It involves Business Intelligence and Data Analytics which will use the respective organisations' data to provide information that can assist in making more sustainable and innovative business decisions.