On the heels of International Women’s Day observed on Wednesday, preparations in parts of the region are being made for International Girls & Young Women in ICT Day, which will be observed on the 4th Thursay in April, which falls on the 27th this year.
Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) drive growth and innovation worldwide, infiltrating all aspects of our lives. These ongoing advances in ICTs effectively make digital literacy a prerequisite for employment and entrepreneurship opportunities and are leading to a projected shortage of at least 2 million ICT employees worldwide by 2020. Studies show that not enough young people are choosing careers in ICT - especially not enough young women. Expanding the global technology talent pool to include more women with ICT skills can help fill this gap. This means investing in girls and young women today.
In the Caribbean, we are seeing a growing number of companies investing in the ICT sector. Businesses such as the Microsoft Innovation Centre provide technical services empowering people to become entrepreneurs. Global companies like Vistaprint (based in Jamaica) and several local and global BPO companies, provide jobs to support the growing global tech markets.
Importantly, women are pioneering new innovations in the region. This was most recently evidenced in the mobile app development competition at PitchIt Caribbean, where all top spots were swept by women mobile tech entrepreneurs. In 2016, the global startup award, at the US led Global Entrepreneurship Summit, was won by a Jamaican woman who founded digital media company, Listen Mi Caribbean. Vendedy, a unique platform created by a Haitian woman, allows informal artisan producers to sell to expanded markets, and was recognized by Forbes with numerous awards.
Last week we drew attention to the Jamaican Girls Coding group and plans are under way to coordinate activities across the region.
The Girls in ICT Day Caribbean activity, is designed as a REGIONAL 1-DAY HACKATHON to take place across multiple countries. Hackathons are an excellent way to give girls a taste of what can be done with technology. To engage girls’ interest, it is crucial that they not only hear about technology, but also use it. Girls will see for themselves that you don’t need to be a math wizard to code, or a science expert to programme a robot. In a hackathon team, girls will discover that technology is all about creativity, collaboration and, most importantly, a lot of fun!
The intent is to create a dynamic environment where girls can engage in direct hands-on activities, using ICT to create, innovate and generate a solution, supported by various technology tools. One activity will be selected by a team of girls, to find a solution to a challenge from their corporate sponsors, with technical on-site support, from designated mentors. A panel of judges from the local tech industry will select the winning team at the end of the day.
Jamaican Minister Wheatley Is Renewables Champion Of The Year
Jamaican Minister of Science, Energy and Technology (MSET), Dr Andrew Wheatley received the Central American and Caribbean Renewable Energy Congress (RECAM) 2017 Renewables Champion of the Year Award, earlier this week.
A news release from the ministry said that the minister, who delivered the keynote ministerial opening address at the second RECAM Congress in Panama City on Tuesday, was one of two nominees in this category. The other nominee was Faro Energy, a company focused on bringing “international capital and solar experience to emerging markets.”
Wheatley’s name, along with the other nominee’s, was submitted via an online survey and judged by international industry players.
The competition had five categories:
• Most Innovative Project of the Region;
• Best Community Initiative in the Region;
• Developer of the Year;
• Solution Provider/Supplier of the Year, and
• Renewables Champion of the Year
According to the RECAM website, the Renewables Champion of the Year award goes to, “the company or individual that has done the most to support, drive or assists the growth of the renewable energy industry in Central America and the Caribbean.”
In his brief acceptance response, Wheatley thanked the RECAM organisers and industry players for recognising “the advancements Jamaica has made in increasing its adoption of renewables into its energy mix.”
He specifically highlighted the role played by: BMR Jamaica Wind, WRB Energy, Wigton Wind Farm, Eight Rivers Energy Company Ltd and the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS) “in supporting Jamaica on its journey to 30 in 30 (30 per cent of Jamaica’s electricity to be sourced from renewables by 2030).
The Congress, which closes today, has seen over 350 attendees – regional, senior renewable energy executives and policy makers – discussing green energy sector best practices, national policies, case studies in the field, and networking to facilitate and secure new contracts.
Fishers To Get Bad Weather Warning App
Fisherfolk in four Caribbean countries are shortly to be equipped with an early warning and emergency response tool in an effort to save their lives and property in circumstances of rough weather and sea conditions.
The mobile phone app is being developed by the ICT4Fisheries Consortium in collaboration with the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) under the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR). It will work to reduce risks to fishers’ lives and livelihoods posed by climate change and climate variability.
Possible impacts of long-term climate change trends and short-term extreme weather events on Caribbean fisheries include damage to fishing and aquaculture community infrastructure — including roads, harbours, farms and houses caused by sea level rise and stronger storms — as well as unsafe fishing conditions and loss of life at sea as a result of strong storms and hurricanes, according to a 2015 study published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Other hazards influenced by climate, such as sargassum seaweed, are also of deep concern to fishers.
Using the app, fishers will be able to receive early warnings of risky weather and sea conditions. It will also be used to encourage fisherfolk to share their local knowledge to support and improve climate-smart fisheries planning, management and decision-making. The system will be integrated within existing national disaster risk management and emergency response frameworks, and its main focus will be on communications.
St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Dominica and Saint Lucia are the four countries in which the early warning system will be developed. The system will take into account the specific situations of target countries.
“ICT4Fisheries will not only develop and deploy the tools but will also provide training in their use and administration to country- and regional-level stakeholders,” the stakeholders said in a statement. The system should be in place by 2018.
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member states are taking steps to fully embrace the digital economy and has formed a special ICT Strategy Group to consider the region’s options for using technology more effectively to facilitate its integration agenda. The group is chaired by the OECS director general, Dr Didacus Jules.
The OECS ICT Strategy Group has been established to ensure that the region is positioned to take full advantage of the digital revolution by removing obstacles and creating new digital opportunities for people and businesses. The group is comprised of government ministers, telecom regulators, ICT experts and senior policy makers and builds on work already underway in the Eastern Caribbean to address some of the barriers to greater adoption of technology-based services.
“The future prosperity of our region is hinged to how well we leverage information and communications technology to enable the seamless movement of people, goods and capital in the sub-region. The OECS has already made significant strides in this regard. However, there is still more to be done. We must now take steps to ensure our institutions and industries adapt, and that our citizens are able to make full use of the potential of digital services and goods.
“The group has been tasked to accelerate the region’s move to a single market by systematically reducing regulatory obstacles and predatory market practices. The group will also help ensure that the OECS is aligned with the recently announced Caribbean Single ICT Space,” Jules said.
The strategies being developed by the group include a set of targeted actions to be delivered within the next twelve months. It is built on three pillars: affordable access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across the OECS; a level playing field for digital networks and technology-enabled services to flourish; enabling strategies for catalysing growth of the digital economy.
Speaking at the forum, OECS Commissioner, Ambassador Patrick Antoine said, "A digitally enabled, fully functional OECS Economic Union will contribute significantly to the region’s economy and create a host of new jobs and opportunities.
Our strategy is an ambitious and necessary programme of initiatives that target areas where we believe technology, generally, and Internet connectivity, specifically, can make a significant difference,”
Antoine continued, “We are fully aware that there is a window of opportunity for the region, and we must move quickly and decisively if we are to better help in the creation of jobs and growth. The formation of this OECS ICT Strategy Group is our starting point, and we are committed to accelerating the region’s transition to a single digital market and economy."
ICT Agencies Meet After CARICOM Heads of Goverment Approve Single ICT Space Road Map
Following the approval of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) single ICT roadmap earlier in February, the ICT cluster agencies in the region met last Friday to chart the way forward.
The meeting was held via videoconferencing, included representation from the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), the CARICOM Secretariat, CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD) and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU).
Discussions focused on developing an integrated work plan among the agencies towards the development of the single ICT space. The plan would include financial projections and sources of funding for the undertaking.
The single ICT space is conceptualised as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the region’s flagship programme. It encompasses the management of regional information, human resources, legislation and infrastructure in the sector to elicit maximum benefit for the region’s populace.
The undertaking is cross-sectoral and highly complex. The challenges include identifying the areas of strategic value, evaluating lessons learned and timely and appropriate decisions.
Jamaican Girls Who Code Inspire Others With Showing of 'Hidden Figures'
Learning how to code is good for your brain’s development and can take you to the top of your chosen profession, was the message from Melanie Subratie, chairperson of the Jamaica Girls Coding. She was addressing more than 80 girls mainly from high schools in Kingston and St Andrew, who were invited to watch a showing of the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures on Saturday..
The film depicts the story of a group of black women who played pivotal roles in the early days of the NASA, in particular John Glen’s landmark first orbit around the earth. The occasion was made possible by Jamaica Girls Coding in conjunction with the Seprod Foundation. The event was designed to inspire girls from Kingston High School, Trench Town Polytechic, Merlgrove High School, Campion College, Homestead Child Care Facilities and the Maxfield Park Children's Home to embrace what is possible when they enhance their skills in coding and mathematics.
“If you’re thinking of any profession, these skills can only get you to the top of that profession,” Subratie said while addressing the girls prior to the showing of the film. “And learning them is actually pretty good for your brain as it enhances critical thinking and many other areas,” she added.
She also expressed the view that there were themes in the movie that were relevant to Jamaica today, urging the girls to take the lessons home, use them wisely and empower themselves. Some of those themes found fertile ground with the girls who spoke glowingly about the movie afterwards.
“I thought it was really good because it showed how much girls can do even though we are in a generalized society where men should do this and women should do this,” said Lauren Campbell of the Lego Robotics Group who was in attendance at the viewing.
Julian Robinson co-founder of the Girls Who Code camp, added that “It was very inspiring. There are so many lessons; issues of breaking down barriers, striving for excellence, not allowing people to limit what you can do, the power of diversity and the importance of not having policies which discriminate against persons,” he said. “I hope it was an inspiration for the young ladies to show them that anything they set their minds on they can achieve anything in life and that they can be world beaters.”
For more than three years now, the Seprod Foundation has funded Jamaica Girls Coding, a programme under which young girls are taught coding, empowering them while improving on Jamaica’s knowledge economy.
Subratie believes that Jamaicans are creative and learning coding can take Jamaica to that next level. “Jamaicans are creative people, incredibly entrepreneurial so why not be creators of technology and not just consumers of it.” she stated.
The Department of Technology in the Nevis Island Administration is holding its first ICT Week of Activities at venues across the island this week, under the theme “An Introduction to ICT for Positive Social Economic Development”. Today the department will be holding their open day, we spoke with Director of Technology Mr. Quincy Prentice who told us what visiters could expect to see and learn today.
“We are hoping to have someone from the Consumer Affairs department launch an app that has been developed that allows users to compare prices at supermarkets and retail outlets across the island. Additionally, we will have Mr. Jevon Claxton will demonstrate drone technologies, and someone from the Nevis Island Government Information Service will give a presentation on Digital Video Production.”
Prentice continued, “as a musician in my spare time this is something close to my heart, as there will be a session by Antonio Liburd of Abo’s Digital Factory and Cory Massable Tyson of “Love we Festival” fame who will be giving a presentation Digital Audio Production.”
As you can see there is a little bit in there for everybody, and as I said it speaks to the pervasive nature of technology. We have gone through a vast array of topics and everyone of them has some aspect that touches on some aspect of technology, We want to bring persons closer to the technology and improve on their level of knowledge so they can improve the way use technology and gain further benefits.
Digicel Endorses Regional Co-Regulated Approach To Open Internet
Speaking at the 11th Capacity Caribbean Conference in Puerto Rico, David Geary, General Counsel for Digicel Caribbean, compared the debate on Net Neutrality to that of Brexit in the United Kingdom.
He outlined that no one really knows what either Brexit or Net Neutrality means as both mean different things to different people, and like the debate about ‘Soft Brexit’ and ‘Hard Brexit,’ some people are in favour of very extreme Net Neutrality – or ‘Hard Net Neutrality’ rules. “‘Hard Net Neutrality’ will be very damaging to the Caribbean,” said David Geary, during the panel discussion on the topic.
“Instead of copying other regions, the Caribbean needs to decide what is best for Caribbean consumers to promote jobs and investment in the region,” Geary continued.
He welcomed the case for co-regulation recently presented by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL), and also praised the leadership of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) on its initiative to formalise the partnership between industry, government and regulators by launching the Caribbean ICT Collaboration Committee. This Committee will consider all of the priorities of the Caribbean and propose the best approach to Net Neutrality for the Caribbean. It is due to produce these recommendations this year.
“The Caribbean region needs to be at the centre of the new digital economy and we cannot afford to sit back while jobs and investment go to other parts of the world,” closed Geary.
ICT On The Agenda of CARICOM Heads Inter-Sessional Summit
As Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders began their two-day inter-sessional summit in Guyana on Thursday, crime and security, economic development and international relations were high on their agenda, but so too is ICT.
The regional leaders will also discuss the Single Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Space with LaRocque describing ICT as a sector in its own right as well as an enabler of development.
He said a roadmap to this end will be before the CARICOM leaders and issues that it will cover include regionally harmonised ICT policies, legislation, technical standards, networks and services, roaming rates, spectrum and broadband matters and regional best practices.
The St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards is establishing a number of Technical Committee’s in order to establish national standards, and they began with ICT. ICT stakeholders met with officials from the Bureau and CROSQ – CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality – on Wednesday to estblish the Technical Committee for ICT.
Mr. Fulgence St. Prix of CROSQ gave some background for the need for standards.
“St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards is developing their standards infrastructure so that they can begin declaring national standards, and as part of that process, they need to have technical committees in place. Standards development is about the experts, they are the ones who develop the standards and not the staff of a bureau, and CROSQ is here to provide technical assistance to the St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards to have things in place.”
When asked, why ICT standards were important. Mr. St. Prix, stated that standards help improve competitiveness and grow an economy, and the National Bureau set about identifying priority areas.
“The management team at the bureau under took a proceess and identified some six sectors that they would being a process of standards development. These were identified from national priority development plan established in 2015 based on discussions with stakeholders and review of the budget address. ICT is a sector that government has shown priority in developing.”
We asked where St. Kitts and Nevis stood in this effort compared to our regional neighbours, and St. Prix said St. Kitts and Nevis is the first bureau to move on ICT.
As it pertains to other regional member states within CARICOM, others have identified ICT as a priority however, they have not really moved to develop National Standards in the ICT Sector. So we could say that the St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards is a pioneer in moving forward with developing standards, in that sector.
Antigua- Barbuda To Host ICT Week and Symposium
The rapid pace of innovation in information and communication technologies (ICT) is impacting every aspect of Caribbean life. There is a clarion call for the region to keep abreast with and understand the potential of these new and revolutionary technologies to overcome the challenges faced by the Caribbean and to drive economic growth.
It is imperative that Caribbean leaders consider the opportunities presented by the ICT revolution and adopt the technologies that can transform all sectors and promote social and economic development.
It’s against this backdrop, the government of Antigua and Barbuda, in collaboration with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), will host it’s ICT Week and Symposium on Monday 20th March 2017.
Bernadette Lewis, the Secretary General of the CTU noted that the theme for the Symposium is “ICT: Driving 21st Century Intelligent Services”. She explained the purpose of the Week’s activities as being “to raise awareness of the ICT revolution, the implications for policy, legislation and regulations and how they can be employed to transform existing operations; to foster social inclusion; provide ICT-based solutions to the challenges we face in the region and promote national and regional development.”
The week’s activities include a number of ICT events which include a Smart Caribbean Conference, 15th Caribbean Ministerial Strategic ICT Seminar, 3rd Caribbean Stakeholders Meeting: Cyber security and Cyber Crime and culminates with the Training Programme on Mobile Money for Financial Inclusion.
CTU Presents Road Map For ICT Single Space
The Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), Ms. Bernadette Lewis addressed the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community on 17th February, 2017 in Guyana.
On the subject of the Vision and Roadmap for the CARICOM Single ICT Space, Ms. Lewis made a presentation on behalf of the CTU, the lead agency for the development of the document. She noted the contribution of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security,
the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration, the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency, the CARICOM Secretariat and many other organisations and individuals from the public and private sectors and civil society, who were consulted in developing the Roadmap.
Having been asked by the CARICOM Head responsible for Science and Technology Hon Dr. Keith Mitchel Prime Minister of Grenada to present a high-level view of the Roadmap to the Conference, the Secretary General stated the vision for the CARICOM Single ICT Space as: an ICT-enabled borderless space that fosters economic, social and cultural integration for the betterment of Caribbean citizens. She defined it as an ecosystem of regionally harmonised ICT policies, legislation, regulations, technical standards, best practices, networks and services.
The Secretary General explained that the objective of the CARICOM Single ICT Space is to provide the ICT-enabled foundation for enhancing both CARICOM’s functional cooperation and fulfilling the social, cultural and economic imperatives of the region.
The French telecoms company Orange is to build a 1,900km subsea cable connecting French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe as part of an investment programme that will also see the company expand its fibre and 4G plan. The plan was announced by Stéphane Richard, Orange’s CEO, during a trip to French Guiana, the territory on the South American mainland that is legally part of France.
"Today, French Guiana is one of the regions with the most dynamic demographics
in France," said Richard. "It is to accompany the growth of traffic that Orange will invest €35 million to deploy a new submarine cable between Kourou in Guyana, Martinique and Guadeloupe." Kourou is the site of Arianespace’s space port from which many communications satellites have been launched.
The new subsea cable, due to be in service by the second half of next year, will also interconnect with the East Caribbean Fibre System (ECFS) to give French Guiana a direct link to the American continent. French Guiana is also connected to the Suriname-Guyana Submarine Cable System (SGSCS).
This additional EFCS connection will make it possible to secure more traffic to and from the US, which represents more than 80% of the volume, said Richard in Cayenne.
Nevis To Hold Its First ICT Week Of Activities
The Department of Technology in the Nevis Island Administration will host its first ICT Week of Activities at venues across the island beginning Saturday 11th February. The theme of the week is “An Introduction to ICT for Positive Social Economic Development”, we spoke with Director of Technology Mr. Quincy Prentice to learn more.
We asked how the department planned to set about achieving the goal of the week’s theme, and why now?
Prentice said that this was a long term objective, “We won’t fully achieve the goal in a week, but we are hoping to start to bridge the gap in a number of areas. For instance bridging the gaps in the knowledge base of users or consumers of various ICT products and services and also in the bridging gaps in the knowledge base of providers of those ICT based goods and services.”
He continued, “The overall idea is that ICT has been out there for a while and persons are using ICTs on a day to day basis without truly understanding how it works or knowing how fully utilise or to maximise the use of it. So we’re hoping provide some of that knowledge that would assist persons enhancing their use of ICT for their own benefit and that would then redound to improving our social and economic development.” Prentice stated.
We asked who the activities were targeted at and how they were going to be reached.
“Our target would be a wide range of civil society, including school children and youths. We have two talks planned at the two high schools, Gingerland Secondary School and Charlestown Secondary School. We are particularly encouraging students following any of the ICT related programmes whether it be, Computer Science, Information Technology or EDPM to come to those session or persons who might not be enrolled to hear what we have to say as it pertains to ICT as a career.” Prentice explained.
He also indicated that they have prepared content particularly for the youth, “We have sessions on cyber-bullying and cyber-security, those are issues we want to improve their level of awareness on so that hopefully it would improve their use and the way they use ICTs”
We will carry more of our interview with the NIA’s Director of Technology and their ICT Week of activities however, you can visit ictweek.niagov.com to access the full schedule of events in subsequent broadcasts.
Dominica Exploring Use Of GIS In Monitoring and Managing Diseases
Dominica is exploring the feasibility of developing a Geographical Information System (GIS) in monitoring and managing the black sigatoka disease. This is being done through a two day workshop organized by the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute, (CARDI) in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Black sigatoka disease has been identified as one of the major constraints to banana and plantain production in the Caribbean. Since the disease was confirmed in Dominica in 2011, the disease has significantly impacted the island’s banana and plantain production as well as cost the country millions in managing it.
The use of Geographical information systems (GIS) is growing in importance as a decision making tool for the agricultural sector as they provide valuable information that can be used to cost effectively and efficiently monitor, predict and manage the spread of agricultural pests and diseases.
The use of geographical information system tools is being considered as part of the suite of options in the development of an integrated management plan for black sigatoka disease.
The workshop, formed part of CARDI and CBD’s project at developing an integrated disease management program for Black Sigatoka in Dominica, Guyana, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.