Five Caribbean businesses are closer to securing private investment having each received $25,000 USD through the LINK-Caribbean Investment Readiness Grant programme.
The recipients are Carepoint and Caribbean Transit Solutions of Barbados; Bluedot Media and Innovative Menu Solutions Ltd from Jamaica and SystemIz Incorporated from Trinidad and Tobago.
According to Chris McNair, Manager for Competitiveness and Innovation at Caribbean Export, “the grants will be used to assist firms in making the necessary improvements to their businesses with the aim of attracting greater investment from private investors, such as Business Angels within the next 6 months.” The firms were selected from more than 130 applications from across the region, 7 of which were chosen to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges in the hope of securing an investment readiness grant. LINK-Caribbean, a programme of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) supports the development of an early stage Investor eco-system within the region. Launched last September, it is funded by the World Bank and sponsored by the Canadian government.
Barbadian recipient Shannon Clarke from Carepoint expressed humility for his selection and spoke of looking forward to the guidance from Business Angels and importantly “their assistance to help push the adoption of ICT in the delivery of healthcare throughout the Caribbean”
Khalil Bryan of Caribbean Transport Solutions also from Barbados highlighted some of the key initiatives hosted by World Bank and Caribbean Export “Starting from 2015, their team hosted Entrepreneur sessions to sensitise us to key items that would prepare us to raise Capital to providing support as we deploy capital from the grant.
They have truly been a catalyst to improve the investment climate in the region - from building angel groups to disbursing grant funding to prepare us for investment. We appreciate the role that they have played and would encourage them to continue in this vein as entrepreneurship will truly be a catalyst to impact the economies of our region."
Aun Rahman, Financial Sector Specialist for the World Bank who also has responsibility for EPIC’s Access to Finance programme stated that the Bank is encouraged with the initial response to LINK-Caribbean’s first grant cycle. “We are looking forward to building a stronger pipeline of more applicants who will be eligible to become beneficiaries under the programme in future grant cycles.”
In addition to these grants, LINK-Caribbean provides other support activities to stimulate early stage investing in the region. It facilitates the development of deal-flow for early-stage investors through the Regional Angel Investor Network (RAIN). “We strongly encourage entrepreneurs and investors to join RAIN to uncover new investment opportunities throughout the Caribbean,” added Mr McNair.
Caribbean Telecommunications Union Promotes Using ICT To Empower Disabled
The head of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is calling for strong collaboration among stakeholders to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower people with disabilities (PWDs).
CTU Secretary General Bernadette Lewis says this requires the involvement of governments, people with disabilities and the organizations that serve them, ICT service providers, network operators, regulators; as well as the support of corporate citizens.
She was speaking at the demonstration of the features of the Caribbean Video Assistance Service (CVAS), which enables the deaf not only to call each other and communicate directly, but also to speak with trained sign language interpreters who relay conversations between them and hearing parties.
The proposed CVAS is a collaboration between the CTU and VTCSecure that uses a technological platform to facilitate communication, without expensive equipment, via an individual’s smart phone, computer or wireless device from virtually anywhere. VTCSecure is a global company that provides secure On-Demand, Video, Voice & Text Call Center Services.
Curacao Signs Agreement With AirBnB
The government of Curaçao has signed an agreement with homestay provider Airbnb, becoming the third destination in the Caribbean to do so.
According to Minister of Economic Development, Eugene Rhuggenaath and Finance Minister Kenneth Gijsbertha, who both signed the agreement earlier this week, it will “create a framework” to address issues including taxes, accommodation standards and regulations share aggregate data and support Curaçao’s tourism marketing campaigns.
Airbnb’s representative for the Caribbean and Central America, Shawn Sullivan, said the “agreement with the government of Curaçao is a great example of how governments and the private sector can work together to achieve mutually desired goals. Curaçao is an important and growing market for Airbnb and we are very excited to be working with the government to help grow sustainable tourism to the island.”
Airbnb plays an important role in Curaçao tourism industry, with one thousand listings across the island, and a typical host earns US$4,400 per year. The agreement brings new opportunities to grow Curaçao’s economy and to spawn new jobs with the sharing economy.
“Collaboration is vital determinant of success and competitiveness for both individual tourism entities and destinations alike. Through our collaborative efforts, we can achieve more effective and efficient tourism development and a greater degree of environmental and social-cultural sustainability. Therefore, I am very pleased with the agreement signed today with Airbnb,” Rhuggenaath said.
With this partnership, Airbnb will continue promoting tourism and highlighting Curaçao’s history and culture. The strategy focuses on the diversification of the tourism industry and maintaining a balance with citizens and visitors.
Asserting that in uncertain times the need for innovation increases, general manager of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) Marlene Street-Forrest said responsible authorities within the region must begin to embrace the changes dictated by global trends — including removing artificial currency controls and opening doors to new technology.
She made the remarks at the opening of the 12th annual Investment and Capital Markets Conference at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston, adding, that regional governments should ditch protectionism where it inhibits development.
“We believe that the current traditional and protectionist approach to defending our regional currencies, while having some merit, should be executed with an understanding of how the larger growth agenda will play out against the background of truly mobile funds looking for a home in the global capital market,” the JSE head stated.
“For our local investment markets to grow, we must examine the best methods, products and services for future wealth creation, irrespective of their origination. Our future, we believe, is one in which we have a global outlook and continuously look to embrace more and more diverse products and services.”, continued, Ms. Street-Forrest.
Turning to the need for innovation, Street Forest said that regional stock exchanges and capital market participants must begin to look at “charting a future which includes examining and possibly introducing block chain technology (used to track bitcoin or digital money transactions) and embracing other innovative vehicles geared at energising young businesses, through the leveraging of venture capital and crowd-funding portals, to name a few.
“If we do not claim our space in providing these services with alacrity, then that which is vacant will be claimed, because as we know, nature abhors a vacuum,” she said.
Noting that technology is driving the pace of development globally and also providing greater opportunities for capital markets transparency, the JSE head pointed to the need for development of services and products “that will transparently drive the future prosperity of our investors and countries.
“Our options are clear. We need mechanisms that will ensure market confidence, and to this end we must speak more loudly about the inclusion specifically of products, such as a diaspora bond for regional development, depository receipts, ETFs (exchange-traded funds) and other fixed-income products for the retail industry, and we must trumpet how our stock markets can be used to increase transparency, stability and longevity and wealth creation.”
Regional Exchanges To Adopt New Platform Next Month
Three stock exchanges in the region will switch to a new trading platform next month, according to Marlene Street Forrest, general manager of the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE). Though the original plan was to migrate by the end of last year.
"We are going to migrate to a new platform by February 6," said Street Forrest in an address on Thursday at the JSE Capital Markets Conference in New Kingston.
The stock exchanges in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago will migrate to a new Web trading platform, which brings the exchanges closer together and with the option of integration in the future.
In early 2016, South Africa-based Securities Trading Technology (STT) won the contract to provide the new trading platform to the three exchanges. "We worked together so that the trading platform is shared by all three, and it will reduce the cost of transactions to the investing public," Street Forrest said.
"It will offer one book of securities traded seamlessly across all exchanges," said the head of the Barbados Stock Exchange, Marlon Yarde, at the conference.
The new system will be a Web-based interface. It allows for the trading of multiple asset classes from a single interface and to add new products quickly.
Proudli Technologies Wins Pitch Room At JSE Conference
Proudli connects manufacturers to clients in China through her e-commerce platform, and is headed by Renae Bruce Miller. Miller had the strongest pitch and business idea, said deputy general manager of the Jamaica stock Exchange, Robin Levy, in his judge's report.
As a result Proudli Technologies copped the young entrepreneur prize purse of $300,000 on Wednesday in the Venture Capital Pitch Room of the JSE Capital Markets Conference.
Proudli Technologies is a business-to-business sales development agency that forges market entry of high-value goods into the global marketplace using cross-border e-commerce technology. The company represents and manages multiple brands as their exclusive agents.
Bruce Miller was also one of five entrepreneurs who went to China in 2015 to compete for US$1 million in the US-China Investment Forum.
Two other entrepreneurs made pitches at the event, the first being Oshane Creary, a final-year student of the University of West Indies, who’s company, Lenders and Borrowers, is a fin-tech start-up that matches borrowers with micro lenders. Waheba Selassie was the other founder and creator of the Flush-o-wash toilet seat, which has been patented in 41 countries mainly in Europe.
Late last November, the government of Antigua gave notice to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Disputes Settlement Body (DSB) that, if the United States did not reach “an appropriate and beneficial settlement” in relation to a legal adjudication made previously in its favour, it would act to recover the revenue it has lost.
At the root was a decision by the US government to invoke US federal laws namely, the Wire Act, the Travel Act, and Illegal Gambling Business Act to halt gaming companies incorporated in Antigua, and others, from providing such services on a cross border basis into the US.
In response, Antigua brought a WTO case against the US for the economic damage caused, and for violating its international obligations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The WTO’s arbitration panel found in Antigua’s favour and found that the US action had deprived Antigua of trade revenues.
In doing so, the arbitrator agreed to allow it to lift US intellectual property protection on up to US$21 million annually on, for example, copyrighted music, movies or books, in a manner that would enable the Antigua government to retain the royalties that would have otherwise gone to their US creators.
However, when it became apparent that the US was not prepared to reach a reasonable financial settlement, it informed the Disputes Settlement Body at its November 2016 meeting that it was prepared legally to enforce the suspension of copyright on the sale of US intellectual property, as allowed for by the WTO’s dispute settlement ruling of January 2013.
Grace Kennedy Brings Mobile Payments To Jamaica
Grace Kennedy Payment Services recently received a license and approval from the Bank of Jamaica to bring a mobile money solution to the island.
The service in question, Grace Kennedy Money Services (GKMS), is set to be offered at multiple locations around the island. It underwent a fairly wide-scale pilot project, with over 250 internal customers taking part over the course of nine months, and the early results were sufficiently positive to allow for expansions and official licensing.
GKMS operations will allow users to not only pay bills via the service, but also buy goods and services at retail outlets, add credit to mobile devices, and even engage in peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers among other services, which should allow it to fit nicely into several different industries on the island itself.
Those interested will be able to put the service to use starting this month, with GraceKennedy chief executive Don Wehby noting that the service would put Jamaica ahead of several other countries in the region.
Wehby further commented “GK MPay is a world-class service which makes use of the best technology in order to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for a range of transactions. This innovative product will help increase financial inclusion, while giving the financially savvy another safe, convenient way to transact business.”
Mobile payments have a great potential to add to a country’s ability to attract business interests and bolster internal customer experiences as well. It’s good news to see a new mobile payment option arrive on the scene, though it may not be all that helpful in the end.
C-Safe App by Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT) Being Utilised
C-SAFE; the free anti- crime app from the group, Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT), has already been downloaded more than 3,000 times and is used on a regular basis daily.
“C-SAFE has been downloaded about 3,500 times since it’s December 22 (2016) launch. The app is being accessed at least two to eight times a day, which means it’s being frequently utilised. So the usage is probably close to 30,000 in terms of the amount of times individuals are going on.” said co-founder, Gillian Wall.
They’re looking at tips, police alerts on theft, missing persons etc. People are also utilising the app to submit reports on electricity issues, water shortages, representation type issues, because there’s also that element,” Wall shared.
Users have the option to submit reports without including their personal information, such as gender, age and location. Regarding what the app is most frequently used to do, Ms. Wall told Newsday “the majority of the reports so far have been crime-related (as well as) water and electricity related. Those reports are all going to the relevant bodies.”
Trinidad & Tobago telecommunications provider bmobile began its first Connect @bmobile Technology Conference and Exposition at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad on Monday.
This first-of-its-kind conference and exposition in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region, differed from other technology conferences, as the design and format allowed industry stakeholders to actively participate and exchange ideas with leading global technology companies to facilitate the growth of ICT, managed services and data centre services.
Rakesh Goswami, TSTT’s executive vice president, Strategic Alliance, Enterprise and Tobago Operations, expanded on the objectives of hosting the conference: “The telecommunications industry is constantly evolving at rapid speeds and all users—operators, consumers and the business sector—are faced with daily challenges. Our Connect @bmobile Technology Conference and Exposition is a new experience which provides a rich exchange of ideas and solutions with multiple industry leaders from across the world, all focused on how an investment in technology will stimulate innovation, increase collaboration and drive growth, productivity and economic transformation towards national prosperity.”
Connect @bmobile began under the theme “Big Data and Innovations in Technology” Senior Technical Director, Product Innovation, and big data expert from AT&T, Learie Hercules, helped attendees discover how to use advanced analytics like any Fortune 500 company to grow their business globally.
Presentations by representatives from Google, eSource Capital Technologies Inc; Huawei, MITTEL, VmWare and AMITEIS’ brought awareness of real world and first-to-market applications that have empowered their businesses and catapulted them ahead in their respective fields.
3D Technology For Moruga Museum
A 3D Digitisation and Spherical Technology project produced by the University of St Andrews, UK, in conjunction with EULAC Virtual Workshops and presented through the cooperation of The University of the West Indies Museum, St Augustine campus and the National Museum and Art Gallery, was hosted at the Moruga Museum as part of a bigger project happening in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Facilitators Dr Karen Brown, Dr Allan Miller and Abeola Fabola, of the University of St Andrews, gave participants from four schools from the Moruga area hands-on experience in topics such as photogrammetry, laser scanning and structural lighting for creating digital representations of physical objects and spherical photography.
Pupils of Moruga Secondary, Cowen Hamilton Secondary, Princes Town East and Princes Town West expressed their enthusiasm for producing digital outputs representative of their heritage. As the workshop progressed, Eric Lewis, curator of the Moruga Museum, gave the pupils a historical and educational tour of the Moruga Museum and they particularly enjoyed learning about the Merikins and the fact that some of them are descendants of the Merikins.
They had a renewed respect for the Merikin elders of the community who were present at the workshop. They later spoke of using the knowledge gained in the 3D technology to promote their ancestry. During the workshop, artfacts from the Moruga Museum were selected and set up and the pupils were shown how to take the photographs using their smartphones and tablets.
Curator Lewis said that it was always a part of his objective that international museums would use the Moruga Museum as a database to show to the world.
“My hope is that more schools, universities and museums would come on board and use this as a research database. We need to expand all aspects of the museum, including the physical, not only to accommodate archaeological items but to facilitate local and international programmes such as this workshop here today.
Pushing The Value Of Science
Hon. Cardinal Warde, president of the Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology and Innovation, executive director of the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), and a professor of Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, grew up in Barbados.
He is therefore familiar with the Bajan folklore environment of yesteryear. Situations where young adults at play rode wooden scooters down sloping roads; made “guttaperks” and dung heaps; and hopped on and off travelling buses without falling.
Interestingly, though informal, science educators could make a case – if they so wished – that those pastimes experientially introduced students – and others – to the science and mathematics disciplines.
For example, persons who did not keep running after they hopped off a moving bus or, who did not gradually foot-break their scooter, often stumbled or fell flat on their faces because they disregarded their momentum – a law of science.
Those seemingly bygone era experiences informally connected youths to Science and Math but many perhaps did not know it. Now today, many school curricula in the United States of America have an interdisciplinary programme called STEM. In this approach, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are taught together and not separately.
Warde, a Yale graduate — also an inventor of 12 patents and faculty director of a six weeks intensive programme for gifted, under-represented minority high school seniors – is a leading advocate for the inclusion and promotion of STEM programmes in Caribbean schools.
“We need to create a new population and raise appreciation and awareness of STEM and its applications. As you know, science is still not seen by many students as cool. As governments seek to improve maths scores and reform education, we need to help them and push the envelope and make STEM a household name. I believe that journalists have a role to play if governments in the Caribbean region are to reach their national goals. I invite you to step out of your comfort zone and find the job niche that awaits you.”
In a CSF press release this week, STEM in the Caribbean received another boost when two two-day workshops for primary teachers were held at the Genesis Academy, Kingston and the Wexford Hotel, Montego Bay, in Jamaica. The workshops were possible by grant funding from the Embassy of the United States of America to Jamaica, as well as through the cooperation of the Ministry of Education of Jamaica.
Teaching tools include UNESCO-approved micro-science kits which emphasize observation and experimentation, while drawing on the child’s own knowledge. The goal of using the teaching tools is to introduce the basics of the scientific method, and promote student interest and excitement in science and engineering. Similar workshops were held in Antigua, Barbados and St Vincent.
In October, we reported that Jamaican start-up BookFusion won the Inter-American Development Bank’s award for “Start-up with the Most Growth Potential”. Since then the company has set out to realise that potential and the having Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Information as a customer can only be a boost!
The Ministry has launched their digital library on BookFusion, enabling Schools, students, teachers & parents island wide access to the entire content of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) free of cost. The Digital Library consists of over 70 educational and reading resources at no cost to readers.
Together, BookFusion and the Ministry aim to increase students’ access to content in and out of school, while providing sustainable digital solutions for the distribution of eBooks and digital content to students, teachers and educational institutions throughout the country.
Google Signs A Deal With Cuba's Telecommunications Monopoly
Google signed an agreement with the Cuban government on Monday granting Internet users there quicker access to its branded content.
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, signed the deal with Mayra Arevich Marin, president of state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. It grants Cubans speedy access to the Google Global Cache network, which stores content from sites like Gmail and YouTube on servers located closer to end users.
Currently, Internet access is limited to slow and expensive Wi-Fi hot spots, so it was not clear how the deal would actually impact service in the short term.
“This deal allows ETECSA to use our technology to reduce latency by caching some of our most popular high bandwidth content like YouTube videos at a local level,” a Google statement said.
“This may improve reception of cached materials, but not for example email which depends on local bandwidth,” a local telecommunications technician said, requesting anonymity for fear of losing his job.
Yahoo Breaks Its Own Record Data Breach
In late September, Yahoo disclosed that back in 2014 they suffered what was then the biggest data loss in history when 500M customer records were accessed. This week, they informed the world that that number has bettered by a 2013 breach in which 1 Billion records were stolen.
So what does this tell us beyond the fact that Yahoo’s security seems to have more holes than a tea bag? Well it underscores the value of the data being held by internet companies, and the lengths criminals are prepared to go to get the goldmine of data users are sometimes not only required to give, but willing give up.
The key take away that you should hold onto is you and your data are a very valuable commodity so guard it closely. You should therefore be very circumspect when it comes to giving over personal information, and be very careful what real information you give. For security tips follow the link in the show notes.