DATA POVERTY IS THE NEXT FRONTIER IN ADDRESSING WIDENING INEQUALITY
The Web Foundation, set up by the inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee, announced the results of the 3rd Open Data Barometer, a global snapshot of the state of open government data in 92 countries. Open data is data that is openly published online and is free for all to access and reuse. For the first time, over half of the countries in the study have open data initiatives in place.
In stark contrast to the unauthorised revelations of Wiki-Leaks and more recently “the Panama Papers”, Open Data is the publishing of data – usually by governments - in reusable, machine-readable formats and, is seen as essential not only to pierce the veil of secrecy but to help corruption fighters unravel the complex webs through which illicit money circulates.
Commenting on the findings, Sir. Berners-Lee, said: “Inequality and poverty are about more than income – they are also about information. Seven years after I first demanded that governments open up their data to all, open data initiatives are now in place in more than half of countries we track. Yet their quality is variable, and benefits are concentrated in rich countries. Now is the time to resource and implement open data throughout the world, through projects such as the international Open Data Charter.”
Anne Jellema, Web Foundation CEO, summed up the critical nature of Open Data by saying: “Trying to use traditional data sources to tackle complex development challenges like climate change and hunger is like tunneling through rock in the dark with a teaspoon. It takes ages and you may come out in the wrong place. Making development data open is vital for fast and accurate collaboration on the Sustainable Development Goals, and the urgency now is to move from promises to implementation.”
A link to the full report is available in the show-notes.
HACKERS HITTING CAYMAN COMPANIES
Several businesses in the Caymans have been hit by “ransomware” scams in the last few months. “Ransomware” occurs when unauthorized and inadvertently installed software is installed on a PC, the software then encrypts important files and crooks extorting a ransom, to be paid in untraceable Bitcoin digital currency.
Industry experts say cybercrime of this type is an increasing concern in boardrooms across the Cayman Islands. Meanwhile, police believe such attacks are being significantly under-reported amid business fears of reputational damage.
Detective Sergeant John Williams, of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Financial Crime Unit, said there had been three reports since January of ransomware-type scams in the Cayman Islands.
But police are aware of several other incidents which went unreported.
“A lot of companies are concerned about their reputation and they don’t want clients walking out thinking they can’t keep their data secure,” said Detective Williams.
Williams said police treat cybercrime reports confidentially but need to be informed of all such incidents to help them get a clearer picture of what is happening and liaise with international investigators.
Anhill Carsana, a computer forensic examiner, with the police service, said “We encourage business to report to us, to see if there is any assistance we can give,” adding that “We have had a few incidents, but nobody is really reporting. We are aware that it is happening much more regularly.”
Micho Schumann, an IT expert with KPMG in the Cayman Islands, said the threat posed to the territory’s businesses by digital extortion or similar scams was growing.
“This is one of the top boardroom discussions right now. Companies are asking us about it because their investors, their clients are asking about it. In the last 12 months, the requests we are getting have skyrocketed,” said Mr. Schumann, who helps train companies to manage their staff and systems to avoid becoming victims.
BAHAMAS GOVERNMENT INVITES PUBLIC CONSULTATION FOR FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL
Bahamian Education, Science and Technology Minister the Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald announced the process for passing Freedom of Information Legislation has begun, and public consultation would be sought via a series of Town Hall Meetings.
Minister Fitzgerald said the Bill is of “utmost importance”, has “far-reaching implications” and will strengthen the country’s democracy.
He went on to say that “The Bill requires that due diligence is given to ensure that the new and progressive legislation is properly instituted from the onset,” he said. “Our aim is to have a very systematic implementation plan and in order for that to happen, we must have certain things in place.”
According to Minister Fitzgerald, the objective of the Bill is to give effect to “governmental accountability, transparency and public participation in national decision-making by granting to the public a general right of access to public records held by public authorities, subject to exemptions which balance that right against the public interest in exempting from government disclosure in certain circumstances.”
A committee comprising representatives from the Office of the Attorney General, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the College of the Bahamas (Legal Department), the Archives and the Data Protection Commissioner has been selected and has been meeting since June of 2015 to examine the provisions of the existing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to determine whether changes would be recommended in accordance with other jurisdictions and international best practices.
HAITI LAUNCHES ITS FIRST ONLINE EDUCATION PLATFORM
The launch of the first educational online platform to be developed in Haiti took place on Wednesday at the Hotel Montana, in the presence of the French Ambassador to Haiti, Elisabeth Béton Délègue.
The online teaching platform known as THESS (Hybrid Technology for Education, Science and Knowledge), was developed by the "École Supérieure d'Infotronique d'Haïti" (ESIH), and is open to all member universities of the Conference of Rectors and Presidents of Universities of Haiti (CORPUHA). Its objective is to increase youth employment capacity by facilitating access to university education.
Learners, whether students or professionals, can follow their education online through a "student kit" that includes a tablet computer, an internet connection and a subscription to the digital library Cyberlibris.
GRENADA’S NEW RULING ON DRONES
The Grenadan government on Tuesday warned drone users that they must first obtain permission from the police before allowing the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)into the air.
“Cabinet has decided that persons who wish to operate a UAV should apply to the police stating the reason,” Planning Minister Oliver Joseph told reporters.
He explained that at present Grenada has no policy with regards to the operations of drones and is collaborating with the Antigua-based Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) to develop a policy for the use of drones.
Minister Joseph said that in the absence of an official policy the police will decide who receives permission for using drones in Grenada’s airspace. The Minister did not provide a reason for Cabinet’s decision.
Barbados recently announced a ban on using drones in its airspace until legislation and or a policy is enacted and enforced.
Joseph said that Grenada will not adopt the measure to totally ban the use of drones but instead has decided to let users apply to the police for permission.
BARBADOS FAIR TRADING COMMISSION LIMITS FLOW
Telecommunications company Cable & Wireless (Barbados) Limited (C&W), trading as FLOW, will not be able to increase prices on non-competitive services above three per cent for the next three years under the new Price Cap Plan 2016, imposed by the Bajan Fair Trading Commission’s (FTC).
The FTC announced its decision on a new Price Cap Plan 2016 for all customers of C&W, including those acquired as part of the acquisition of Columbus Telecommunications.
The FTC said in a statement that effective April 1st, 2016, the overall price increase on non-competitive services would be below or equal to the level of inflation, or three per cent per year, if inflation exceeds three per cent during that year.
According to the FTC, competitive services include “all regulated services for which the level of competition is deemed to be sufficient to prevent excessive pricing by the company”.
The regulatory body added that given the importance of residential services to customers, “a sub-cap with similar conditions to those imposed for the non-competitive services has also been placed on fixed-line services.
ST. MAARTEN REGULATOR TO MONITOR QUALITY OF SERVICE OF TELECOM OPERATORS
The Bureau of Telecommunications and Post St. Maarten purchased advanced measurement probes to effectively measure the quality of
Telecommunications services provided by St. Maarten’s Telecommunications Operators.
The equipment has extensive control capabilities that will allow the regulator to collect valuable data on mobile- and fixed telecom networks, to determine the actual performance of the network from the consumer’s perspective. Parameters such as network availability, coverage area, connectivity, throughput, download- and uploads speeds can now be measured with military precision, and a tailor made software solution will be used to store and analyze data.
Director of BTP, Mr. Antony Carty stated; “The policy on Quality of Service/Experience was approved back in 2015. I’m now very pleased to have equipment in place that can measure throughput in accordance with the QoS/Quality of Experience (QoE) policy. It will give us a clear overview of the actual performance of St. Maarten Service Providers, and we can hold them accountable for the level of service delivered.
By effectively measuring the QoS of the local networks, we also want to make ongoing efforts to assist providers in improving their services. All our findings will be shared with the service providers and they will then be given 6 months to make the necessary amendments to their networks, in order to be in compliance with the QoS/QoE values as outlined in the Quality of Service Standards document that was approved by the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunications.
BARBADOS IS NOT READY for a Cyber-Attack and They're Not Alone
BARBADOS IS NOT READY for a cyber attack. Neither are any of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, is the clear warning being given to the Region. The Inter-American Development Bank, Organisation of American States and Oxford University produced The 2016 cyber-security Report entitled, Are We Ready In Latin America
And The Caribbean?
They concluded that the region is highly vulnerable to potentially devastating cyber-attacks. According to the report, four out of every five countries in the region do not have a cyber-security strategy or plans for protecting critical infrastructure; two out of three countries do not have a command and control centre for cyber-security; and a large majority of prosecutors lack the capacity to punish cyber-crimes.
As a result of these findings the IDB and OAS called on the Latin America and the Caribbean to step up their efforts on cyber-security. The report noted that over the last several years, Barbados has taken initial steps to strengthen national cyber-security. It pointed out that three years ago, the Barbados Government’s Telecommunications Unit signed an agreement with the International Telecommunications Unit (ITU) to establish a national Computer Security Incident Response Team.
Caribbean Nations Sign off on Cyber Crime Action Plan
On the heals of the IDB & OAS Report, and following a recent five day regional summit on Cyber-Security in St. Lucia, regional governments have identified the following priority areas in a Cyber-security action plan which include training, legislation, technical capacity and law enforcement.
Caribbean countries have signed off on a plan of action to strengthen regional co-operation and help governments address cyber security vulnerabilities.
The move is an acknowledgement that cyber-attacks are up in the region even as few cases are reported and addressed because of resource shortages and perceived reputational damage.
The plan calls on governments to “foster a culture of security," establish a regional network to gather electronic criminal evidence,
and mount regular exercises known as "cyber drills" to prepare for digital attacks.
BVI Telecoms Minister blasts Telecoms Regulator, and defends CCT
In the BVI, Minister responsible for the telecoms industry Mark Vanterpool yesterday launched a public broadside against the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), warning that the government will not allow the Commission to overlook the locally owned CCT Global Communications in relation to the allocation of the 700 MHz spectrum, which is necessary to facilitate much faster wireless internet through what is commonly known as 4G LTE.
He also indicated that he does not support what he said is the TRC’s plan to appeal a Supreme Court case it lost recently in its ‘spectrum’ battle with CCT.
The telecoms regulator had sought to block CCT from the spectrum awards process after the provider allegedly failed to meet certain requirements. But the court ruled against that position.
Minister Vanterpool went as far as to remind the telecoms regulator that, despite its efforts to block CCT from being awarded a slot on the spectrum, it is the government that owns the spectrum.
“I must remind them publicly here that the spectrum of this territory belongs to the government of this territory and the people. Therefore, we want to make sure that the people of this territory benefit, and therefore our local telecommunications company CCT must not be shut out on simple technicalities.”
PitchIT Caribbean Competition Open
PitchIT, a Canadian-Government funded programme concerned with mobile app development in the Caribbean, will host the region’s biggest tech entrepreneurship competition on June 3-4 in Montego Bay.
Registration for the competition is now open and will close on April 15th. Designed for ‘techprenuers’ in the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the two-day event is expected to feature 25 mobile app start-up teams who will pitch to a panel of judges and an audience of regional and global investors.
Five winners will each be awarded a coveted spot in PitchIT Caribbean business accelerators located in Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as US$5,000 in seed funding to develop their business. Business acceleration includes expert business and technology mentoring, network opportunities, working space and facilities, expense-paid trips to international conferences and competitions, intense product development and investor readiness training.
“At PitchIT Caribbean we are very focused on identifying, engaging and developing top tech talent across Caricom and this competition is one of our major activities toward that objective. So we want all tech entrepreneurs to sign up for a chance to give their start-up a big boost,” explained Keith Whyte, acting project manager, PitchIT Caribbean.
Tech entrepreneurs can sign up for the competition at http://challenge.pitchitcaribbean.com and completing the application form along with a pitch deck and an executive summary of their business or business idea.
GOOGLE AMONG COMPANIES PRESENTING AT CARIBBEAN WEEK IN NEW YORK
The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) will host its 5th Caribbean Week in New York, between June 1st to 4th and Google has confirmed their attendance. The internet and media titan will present, on how the Caribbean can increase its effectiveness in reaching the high-spending Generation Y traveler.
Meanwhile, popular online news publication Caribbean Journal will focus on how employees can become invaluable social media partners.
Both companies will present workshops at the event entitled, Climbing the Social (Media) Ladder, organized by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) as part of its programme for Caribbean Week New York.
“The development of social media marketing initiatives is a core part of the CTO’s programme to help our members and partners grow their businesses, and with research showing consumers will spend more time on social media in 2016 than ever before, this event is timely as we seek to discern how to move people from fans to customers,” said Sylma Brown, the CTO’s director of CTO USA Inc.
OVERSTOCK.COM INVESTS IN BARBADOS BASED FINTECH FIRM BITT
In February this year, Barbados based, Bitt launched a digitised Barbadian Dollar on the bitcoin blockchain, backed by the Central Bank of Barbados. The company which intends to digitise all of the currencies of the Caribbean, has received a sizable investment from Overstock.com
Speaking about the investment at a press conference in Barbados, Overstock.com CEO Dr. Patrick Byrne stated, "A major impediment to economic advancement around the world is the fact that the vast majority of humans are unbanked. Yet mobile penetration in some countries exceeds 100%. Bitt has a vision for the Caribbean of frictionless mobile cash”. He continued, "We respect and endorse that vision, and share a common desire to see online consensual exchange flourish globally.”
Bitt.com intends to use the proceeds from the investment to further its goal of building a financial ecosystem in the Caribbean that remedies the issues which people in the region experience daily, including high frictional fees from banks and other money services operations that make sending money in and out of the region cumbersome and costly.
"Regional small businesses find it financially prohibitive to offer online payment options to consumers and this places a drag on entrepreneurism in the Caribbean," said Bitt CEO and Co-Founder, Gabriel Abed. "Our aim is to use crypto-technology to turn our regional citizens into global citizens, giving them the ability to send or receive money directly via their phones, in seconds, from all corners of the globe."
WHATSAPP ENCRYPTS ALL ITS USERS' COMMUNICATIONS
If you’re a user of the most recent or current version of WhatsApp you might have noticed a message with a yellow background earlier this week indicating that your messages are now encrypted.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you would have noticed that encryption has become a regular part of most news broadcasts and our everyday vocabulary, but what is encryption?
Simply put, encryption is a means of “scrambling information” and making it meaningless, unless you have another piece of information known as a key to decrypt it.
With end-to-end encryption, messages are scrambled as they leave the sender's device and can only be decrypted by the recipient's device. It renders messages unreadable if they are intercepted, for example by criminals or law enforcement.
The security setting is enabled by default, and some agencies are pleased. Amnesty International called the move a "huge victory" for free speech, others perhaps less so.
Digicel Urges Young Smartphone Videographers To Film And Win
In preparation for the observance of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day in May, the 10th Annual World Telecommunication and Information Society Day Video Competition was launched in Jamaica, and Digicel is challenging students from ages 15 to 18 to submit an entry to the Video Competition for a chance to win trip to Puerto Rico, tablets and cash prizes.
Using a smartphone or video camera, each participant must create a three (3) minute video under the theme: "Inspiring ICT Innovations: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem through Sustainable Strategic Partnerships".
Students are encouraged to use their creativity to demonstrate how Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) inspires innovative ideas, products and services; and fosters entrepreneurship by utilizing and encouraging partnerships in their country.
Digicel Head of Public Relations, Elon Parkinson, encouraged interested persons to, "Get creative. Stretch the boundaries of your imagination. Be bold. Be different. But, most of all, do your research and come up with a video that could go viral!"
CDB Supports Drive For Better Data To Boost Caribbean Development
In 2012, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) approved financing for a collaborative project with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat. The project involved enhancing the capacity of countries in the Region and the OECS Commission to compile and disseminate data on human development.
The Implementation of DevInfo and Strengthening Capacity to Manage for Results project, guides beneficiaries on the effective use of the features of DevInfo, a robust tool that can be used to monitor and report on their progress on Caribbean-specific Millennium Development Goals and other development indicators and targets.
Representatives from statistics agencies in the participating countries gathered in Barbados for the Project’s Midterm Review Meeting, chaired by Edward Greene, Division Chief, Technical Cooperation Division. During the opening session Greene noted, “The Midterm Review is important for you as beneficiaries and for CDB, UNICEF and CARICOM as this occasion provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved, what needs to be completed and what needs to be improved.”
“The DevInfo platform that this project is focusing on provides an opportunity to address this emerging agenda that our region is dealing with. The platform is needed now, more than ever, because of the urgency of requirements for data, because of the urgency of requirements for evidence-based decision making,” said Muriel Mafico, Deputy Representative, UNICEF.
“DevInfo will play a very important part in the tracking and dissemination of progress in achievement of SDGs. CDB is committed to this process. We intend to continue to work with our development partners to forge a partnership to track and to implement the Sustainable Development Goals,” added Monica La Bennett, Deputy Director, Corporate Planning, CDB.
Partners encouraged participants to continue making good use of DevInfo to support evidence-based decision making as they work toward achieving development goals.
Underscoring the importance of the timely capture of accurate data Dr. Philomen Harrison, Project Director, Regional Statistics, CARICOM Secretariat, stressed “This software will be as powerful a tool as the data it contains. The success of the project will depend on the combined effort and commitment of the producers of the statistics as well as the users in maintaining the system and in encouraging the use of the system,”
Female Entrepreneurs in St. Lucia to Receive Training in Digital Marketing
At least twenty female entrepreneurs will receive training in Digital Marketing under the Saint Lucian Women & Girls in ICT Campaign, which is a joint initiative of the Saint Lucia Coalition of Services & Industry (SLCSI) and the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP) in St. Lucia.
The Women & Girls in ICT Campaign was developed as a means to dismantle barriers preventing equal opportunities for growth and development in ICT. The campaign will result in young girls and women receiving specific support and opportunities to be educated and engaged in ICT tools. The outcome of which is greater empowerment in ICT and the ability to pass on these skills and knowledge to a wider sector of the St. Lucian community.
Entrepreneurs at the training workshop will learn how to boost their ability to engage with customers through social media, increase sales and revenue through their enhanced ability to market their products and services.Digital Marketing involves the promotion of products or services via one or more forms of electronic media and has become one of the most impactful marketing tools for entrepreneurs. Direct Marketing allows entrepreneurs to not only reach a large number of their target audience efficiently but also cost effectively.
According to SLCSI Executive Director Yvonne Agard, training is an early component of the Women and Girls in ICT campaign, the official launch of which is deliberately set for April, the month dedicated to the international observance of Girls in ICT.