The new administration in Trinidad & Tobago has joined that of St. Kitts & Nevis, in taking a moment of pause to re-evaluate it's school laptop distribution. Across the region there was a raft of such programmes which to many were thought to be ill-conceived, unsustainable and poorly implemented at best or otherwise politically motivated gimmicks.
At a briefing held by Trinidad's Education Minister Anthony Garcia, he revealed that “Students will not be given personal laptops,” Garcia said. “Laptops will be the property of the school.” Fifty laptops will be for a school’s Form 1 pool of students, while 50 will be for the Form 2 pool, the minister explained. Some 12,600 laptops will be supplied in the new term but will be the property of the schools, at a cost of $63 million, compared to an annual cost of $253 million under the previous arrangement.
Garcia justified the cutback in laptops by lamenting on the “colossal waste” and a need to get “value for money”, as he alluded to pupil misuse of laptops to play games instead of studying. He bemoaned a lack of backup for the laptops including teacher training and Internet access at schools.
Garcia said that a study conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the laptop programme found problems arising from the former regime’s alleged lack of an “ICT Policy”, citing one pupil saying that a lack of Internet access had led pupils to use the laptops mainly to play games and record school fights. He said the provision of one laptop per pupil was found to be counter productive as it led to no increase in student performance in core subject-areas.
Costa Rica To Host Second Meeting Of ECLAC's ICT, Science Conference
The second session of the conference on Science, Innovation and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) will begin Monday 12th in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The event will coincide with the inauguration of the World Information Technology Forum (WITFOR 2016), which will bring together representatives of government, industry and ICT associations, as well as academics to analyse the latest proposals aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by the United Nations.
The inter-governmental meeting, organised by ECLAC and Costa Rica’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications, has the support of the German Agency for International Cooperation and the European Commission. It will be broadcast live via the Internet on the Conference’s Web site at http://innovalac.cepal.org/2/en
On September 13th, at the seminar ‘Innovation in a Digital World’, delegates from 15 countries will join representatives of companies in the digital ecosystem and of international organisations to debate the Internet’s disruptive effects on production, the on-demand economy, digital innovation and SMEs, infrastructure for hyper-connectivity, and competition and collaboration for leading digital transformation and innovation.
Two documents will be launched at the event dubbed Science, Technology and Innovation in the Digital Economy. They are The Situation of Latin America and the Caribbean and the State of Broadband in Latin America and the Caribbean 2016, the annual report of ECLAC’s Regional Broadband Observatory.
The Conference on Science, Innovation and ICTs was created in 2012 as a subsidiary body of ECLAC to promote the development and improvement of national policies, as well as bilateral, regional and international cooperation. The first meeting was held in Santiago, Chile, in June 2014.
Jamaican Investment Club Alpha Angels Score A Hit
Perfect pick! Montego Bay-based Alpha Angels made an impressive selection for its very first start-up investment - mSurvey.
Just five months ago, Montego Bay-based Alpha Angels made an impressive selection for its very first start-up investment in mSurvey, which is a mobile survey platform. Now the high-growth tech start-up has won the attention and banked investment from the investment arm of the Kenyan mobile network operator, Safaricom, known for the successful creation of mobile money M-PESA, with over 21 million customers and over US$20 billion of transactions.
The company also secured capital from Cross Culture Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley, and other investors such as the CTO of Salesforce. mSurvey, founded by Caribbean national Kenfield Griffith, is the only global mobile-first research survey platform that uses SMS and mobile messaging technology to collect on-demand data from consumers.
The CEO, who migrated from Montserrat to Kenya to find an unsaturated market for his business idea, created a scalable business in the African country which now boasts 3.1 million customer engagements. mSurvey was also featured in an article by the leading technology media hub, TechCrunch, which is a big win for the start-up who has clients like Harvard, McKinsey, Safaricom and Digicel. mSurvey is working on scaling to the Caribbean market and further grow its business.
C&WJ Minority Owners Vote Down Resolution In Protest & Demand Financial Transparency From Company Directors
Minority share-holders of Cable & Wireless Jamaica (C&WJ) on Wednesday defied the board of directors and voted against a standard resolution to set pay for auditor KPMG in order to make a wider point on transparency.
Voting on resolution was subsequently adjourned for 30 days when C&WJ shareholders can vote via poll on the matter. The shareholders at the annual general meeting on Wednesday demanded independent verification of the heavily fluctuating multi-billion-dollar non-cash charges, which lead the company into losses. Annual losses at C&WJ once topped $20 billion back in 2012.
It was a rare display of minority shareholders exercising their voting power at an AGM. "It's a win for minority shareholders for the moment," minority shareholder Orette Staple declared to the Financial Gleaner just after the adjournment of the AGM.
As context, the resolutions to be voted on at AGMs are circulated to shareholders beforehand in the company's annual report, and votes on them tend to be mere formalities. However, the C&WJ 29th AGM will go down as the date minority shareholders took a stand - and held their ground in the face of push back from management.
"We have not heard, to my knowledge, a frank and credible reason for changing the auditors other than you are vexed with the numbers. That's not good enough," said C&WJ Managing Director Garfield Sinclair. That led to a chorus of shareholders shouting "transparency".
The auditors received payment of $53 million for the year ending March 2016, up from $50 million the previous, according to disclosures in the annual report. But the fee was not the matter of contention.
At the core of the issue, is that the shareholders want the auditors or some other independent body to verify these non-cash expense charges, which violently fluctuate on an annual basis.
Some shareholders questioned whether the auditors rigorously test these impairment and depreciation charges, or whether the charges are estimates that increasingly reflect opinion rather than fact. "How much of these assets that were written off are still active and functional," asked a shareholder, a Mr Minott, at the meeting.
C&WJ, which trades as FLOW Jamaica and who's parent company C&W has been acquired by Liberty Global, posted its first annual profit in a decade at year end March 2016 due in part to these non-cash impairment charges (bundled as exceptional items) effectively shifting from an expense of $6.9 billion in 2014-15 towards income of $1.13 billion in 2015-16.
Jamaica’s Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley is unapologetic and standing firm on his Government’s stance to support for net neutrality, which is the principle of equal access to Internet content and applications.
Last year, there was widespread concern from mobile phones customers in Jamaica that a local phone company was blocking WhatsApp calls, to which Dr Wheatley's opinion is that, phone providers should reassess their business models and become more innovative.
He says for Caribbean countries to become greater producers of technology, there must be an unhindered environment for innovation, creativity and freedom of expression. However, Dr Wheatley says there seems to be some confusion with the application of net neutrality rules in US and the EU compared with the Caribbean. He says each Caribbean country must determine how best these rules work for their economic goals.
Call For Caribbean Animators To Tell Our Story
Over the past fifteen years of the Animae Caribe Festival we have been encouraging artists, animators and writers to create their own content. The message is consistent “We need to become creators and not just consumers”. Young dynamic entrepreneurs like Trinidadian Jeunanne Atkins creator of 'Bim and Bam' and Alison Latchman creator of 'Magnus the Mongoose' from Jamaica and a few others have worked incessantly over the years to develop their stories. That's the opinion of Camile Selvon Abrahams, founder of the event.
You too can be part of this evolution. “We are creating a platform for crowd funding, (this will be announced closer to the festival) match funding and an angel investment pitch for six animated series ready for production.” Says Ms. Abrahams founder of Animae Caribe. With mentoring from members of the Diaspora in the global animation industry this is a unique but innovative approach to creating diverse content.
Submissions are open until the end of August for animators to submit their short stories as part of the 16th Anniversary of Animae Caribe Festival.
Jamaican Business Access TV To Air In Barbados and Trinidad
Jamaican based Business Access Television has entered an agreement with Digicel Play to air its business and lifestyle-focused content in Trinidad and Barbados.
Garth Walker and Leighton Davis launched the television station last year in partnership with telecoms provider FLOW, noting that the channel would benefit from the provider’s strong local distribution and IP video technology. Expectations were that the partnership would extend to Caribbean-wide distribution.
From its successful start in Jamaica, expanding across the Caribbean region is the next phase of the company’s development after adding On Point to its scheduling — a Jamaica-based business current affairs programme created and produced by BATV. The expansion is expected to have a positive impact on Jamaican entrepreneurs as it increases their potential customer base.
In welcoming BATV to the service, Digicel Play Group CEO, John Suranyi, commented: “We are focused on delivering a great cross-section of content to our customers. BATV is a great example of locally produced Jamaican content with regional ambitions. We are delighted to be bringing it to a Caribbean audience.”
ONLINE BANKING ON THE INCREASE IN T&T
Electronic banking (eBanking) is a growing trend in Trinidad and Tobago (TT) and if banks are to remain competitive, they need to offer customers secure, reliable, easy-to-use online services. That’s the idea behind the RepublicMobile Application (App) from Republic Bank Limited (RBL), which is available for free download at Apple’s App Store, Google Play Store and on BlackBerry World.
The service offers customers the usual features, account balances, transaction history and eStatements as well as conduct transfers between personal and third party Republic Bank accounts, real time Credit Card payments and VTM (Visa Travel Money®) card loading and utility bill payments.
“We made use of the two-factor authentication system mandatory around September or October 2015 for all of our Internet banking customers, so that if your user name and password are compromised, you can use your matrix card when logging in.
This is a huge security feature because with the amount of malware (malicious software) that the public is exposed to online, fraudsters can capture your user name and password by loading software onto your system, often key logger programmes.” Wong said the Republic IDsecure card mitigates the risk of this by adding a very strong security process to authenticate who the user is.
THE CARIBBEAN EXPORT IS PARTNERING WITH THE WORLD BANK GROUP TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO FINANCE FOR CARIBBEAN ENTREPRENEURS
The new program, LINK-CARIBBEAN, aims to stimulate private investment into early-stage enterprises by providing funding products that help entrepreneurs raise capital. The program will also develop a Regional Angel Investor Network (RAIN Caribbean) which will support the development of an early-stage investment community in the Caribbean.
It is part of the World Bank Group’s Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), a seven-year, CAD20 million program funded by the government of Canada that seeks to build a supportive ecosystem for high-growth and sustainable enterprises throughout the Caribbean. It will involve the provision of investment facilitation grants to entrepreneurs as well as non-funding activities to stimulate angel investing and support the development of deal-flow for early-stage investment.
EPIC’s Access to Finance component has already supported the establishment and development of the Caribbean’s first three angel groups, in Barbados and Jamaica. These angel groups have made investments in the areas of media technology, agricultural machinery, and mobile applications. They are also looking to further build their portfolios.
12TH CARIBBEAN INTERNET GOVERNANCE FORUM MEETS IN BELIZE
The Caribbean Internet Governance Forum (CIGF) is a regional, multi-stakeholder forum initiatedby the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat in 2005 to coordinate a regional approach to Internet Governance. The forum has since met annually and has delivered significant and pioneering benefits to the region as well as
to the global Internet community, contributing significantly to deepening the understanding of Caribbean stakeholders of Internet Governance issues, structures, processes and their implications for the region.
The 12th CIGF will focus on accelerating Internet development in the Caribbean. It will addressareas of high priority, including Cybersecurity, CcTLD Operations, Local Digital Content Development, Broadband Access and Affordability and Net Neutrality. It will focus on establishing national structures to support the work of the CIGF; continue the work of policy development and finalise the Regional Internet Governance Policy Framework (Issue 3.
Among the key findings of the most recent review of the electronic communications sector in ECTEL Member States, is that Investment in the sector has seen an increase among the Member States.
For the second year running, sector investment recorded double digit growth. Following the 35 per cent increase for the previous period, investment in the telecommunications sector increased a further 29 per cent to $157 million. This was again driven by infrastructure upgrades for the launch of 4G/HSPA+ mobile broadband service in the Member States.
Fixed broadband subscription growth also accelerated. The number of fixed broadband subscriptions rose 11 per cent resulting in a fixed broadband penetration rate of 19.2 per cent up from 17.2 per cent in the previous period.
The annual electronic communications review for the period March 2014 to 2015 also indicated that 4G/HSPA+ mobile broadband service is now available in all ECTEL Member States. As consumers in the
Member States migrated from 2G to 4G service, the number of mobile broadband subscriptions grew by more than 400 per cent to 205,000, according to the review.
There was a modicum of good news for employment in the sector in at least two Member States. Following a 22 per cent contraction in the number of persons employed full time in the telecoms sector, there was a 1 per cent increase in sector employment.
One Month SPISE Camp Grooms Future Caribbean Scientists
Now in its fifth year, the annual Student Programme for Innovation in Science and Engineering -SPISE programme, hosted by the Caribbean Science Foundation, aims to groom the region’s next generation of leaders in science, technology and engineering. For one month, students from around the Caribbean were immersed in an intensive programme of study, doing university-level courses in robotics, electronics, computer programming and Mandarin, among others.
Yvette Lemonias-Seale, vice president, corporate services and bank secretary, of the CDB said, “We’re very happy to once again support SPISE, as we believe that science, technology and engineering are critical to the Caribbean’s economic growth and development. Through this programme, talented students from across the region are given the opportunity to develop their skills in a number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics areas. We hope that this will in turn encourage them to pursue careers in these areas, and by doing so, contribute to economic growth and development in the Caribbean,”
Students demonstrated what they had learned over the four weeks to their parents, friends, and sponsors. As part of their final project presentations, students showed off their newly acquired Mandarin language and dance skills, presented computer games that they had developed and programmed themselves, and demoed wind turbines made out of PVC pipes, and robots that could move underwater.
SPISE is led by Professor Cardinal Warde of MIT, and is modeled after the well-known and highly successful Minority Introduction to Engineering and Science (MITES) programme at MIT, for which Warde has served as the faculty director for over 15 years. All post SPISE students also have the opportunity to be assisted with their college applications, and to participate in research internships in the Caribbean and abroad.
There were 19 participants in the 2016 programme, hailing from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St Lucia, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Guyana and Martinique. It is the first time that a student from the French-speaking Caribbean has participated in the programme.
Blink BMobile Partners With NIHERST On Science Initiative
Now in its 17th year, the Caribbean Youth Science Forum (CYSF), facilitated by Trinidad & Tobago's National Institute of Higher Education, Science and Technology (NIHERST), has an even stronger appeal. This year, with the support of communications company, blink | bmobile, some 150 sixth-form students, on the cusp of entering university, were introduced to STEM based careers through lectures, workshops and field trips with leading scientists and innovators.
Camille Campbell, Chief Marketing Officer (Ag) at TSTT, commended the National Institute of Higher Education, Science and Technology (NIHERST) for its commitment to STEM Education stating, “It is important to inspire the next generation of Caribbean thinkers and innovators and part of this is introducing them to different, lucrative career paths that have potential to impact the world. We can no longer rely on the comfort and security of the oil and gas industry so it’s therefore critical that we expose our future leaders to careers that are aligned to Science, Technology and Innovation”.
Participants of the week-long residential camp were introduced to a wide range of career options from mobile application development and structural and civil engineering to electro-physiology, medical physics, sports psychology and neuroscience.
The budding scientists and innovators were also given the opportunity to interact with top scientists such as Dr Colin Carew, Director and Founder of the new Innovation and Inclusion Initiative at the MIT Media Lab. Dr Carew delivered the keynote address at CYSF 2016 where he focused on the Caribbean as a World Class Epicenter of Technology and Innovation.
It is estimated that by 2020, there will be some 6.1 billion smartphone users worldwide. At CYSF 2016, leading app development company, NOVO Technology Inc were on hand to introduce participants to the exciting and ever expanding world of creating mobile apps. The interactive hour-long session, aptly titled “Welcome to the Appverse”, delved into the process of creation and app design and even introduced to the often neglected elements of economics, management and marketing.
JAMAICA'S USF PROVIDES $430 MILLION FOR ICT INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT IN TERTIARY INSTITUTIONS
The Universal Service Fund (USF of) Jamaica has provided nearly $430 million in information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure development support for several tertiary institutions over the past four years. Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Hugh Cross, says this entailed the installation of broadband Internet service and state-of-the-art equipment, among other key inputs. The Universal Service Fund, which falls under the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, is a statutory agency established by Government to assist with the rapid deployment of Internet services and support infrastructure.
Speaking of the USF's contribution of $200M to the UWI Open Campus Dr. Cross told Jamaica's Information Service (JIS) that the intervention transforms the open campuses to world class facilities, which would also have impact to students living outside of Kingston who access them.
Dr. Cross also pointed out that $144 million was allocated for the provision of new state-of-the-art simulators at the Caribbean Maritime Institute’s (CMI) main campus at Palisadoes Park in Kingston.
The institute was facing the prospect of decertification by the International Maritime Organization, because some of their key equipment, primarily simulators, which are critical to the academic programme, were deemed outdated.
Dr. Cross stated that as a result of the USF’s intervention, “they now have modern simulators which rival the best anywhere in the world”. The intervention included the provision of a 125-kilowatt solar-energy system to ensure there is a dedicated and stable power supply to operate the equipment.
CXC LAUNCHES GREEN ENGINEERING SYLLABUS IN GUYANA
Giving an overview of the syllabus at the launch held at the Theatre Guild, Georgetown, subject panel member, was Dr. Paulette Bynoe. Dr. Bynoe said the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) Green Engineering course has two units- Introduction to Green Engineering and Application of Green Engineering and Principles
Some of the modules studied include, concepts and issues, Theoretical Framework of Green Engineering and Green Engineering in Practice, the utilization of sustainable materials and energy, sustainable designs and green engineering solutions and the environmental consequences of using different energy sources.
Dr. Paulette Bynoe. said the syllabus has been designed in such a way to ensure that the focus is not only students’ ability to recall, with the focus being knowledge and comprehension, application of knowledge and practical ability.
“This allows students to really exercise their problem solving and critical thinking skills -very important for engineering- so it is not a case where a student will cram and pass the exam. We don’t need that sort of thing. The knowledge is important but we have to begin to transcend the knowledge if we are going to make a decision in the world today,” she said.
CODE OF PRACTICE ON SAFEGUARDING THE OPEN INTERNET SIGNED AT CANTO 2016
SAN JUAN -- Day one of the ongoing CANTO 32nd Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition which is taking place in San Juan, Puerto Rico from July 31st - August 5th was full of thought provoking and forward thinking discussions, presentations and panels.
One notable event coming out of the days proceeding's was the signing ceremony of a Voluntary Code of Practice on Safeguarding the Open Internet. Chairman of CANTO, Julian Wilkins speaking after the signing said: "the region continues to grapple with the changing landscape of ICT, the signing of the Code is important as through CANTO it provides a unified approach which is sometimes needed, as
compared to individual approaches." He added that, "CANTO will continue to facilitate individual assistance as well as regional approach to ICT issues when and where needed".
Digicel's Denis O'Brien, delivered a feature address as part of the morning session, which touched a number of burning topics now engaging the region's ICT agenda including Net Neutrality and safeguarding the Open Internet.
Day one also included a panel on Converged Regulation, sessions entitled "Technology on Steroids - Living in a Modern World"; "Strengthening Cooperation Between Telecoms Operators and National Disaster Offices"; Corporate Social Responsibility Awareness" and "Modernizing Regulatory Frameworks".
Founded in 1985 as a non-profit association of 8 telephone operating companies,CANTO is recognized as the leading trade association of the ICT sector for shaping information and communication in the Caribbean. CANTO has now grown to over 120 members in more than 31 countries.
CUFFIE CALLS FOR CARIBBEAN ICT SOLUTIONS
Trinidad and Tobago's Public Administration and Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie made the call for solutions tailor-made to meet the Information Communication Techology (ICT) needs of the Caribbean. He made the call at CANTO's 32nd annual Conference and Trade Exhibition being held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
As a panelist on the first Ministerial Roundtable of the Conference Minister Cuffie - according to a press release from his Ministry - acknowledged the varied membership of CANTO including major international telecommunications/ ICT providers who had a significant presence in the Caribbean Region.
He called upon these providers to make a greater effort in developing solutions that meet the specific needs of Caribbean countries and urged them to avoid pre-packaged solutions that may have been utilized elsewhere and which had not resulted in expected benefits despite significant investments on the part of Governments.