Jamaican Minister of Finance Promotes Crowdfunding
While attending a United Nations Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last week, Jamaican Min. of Finance Dr. Peter Phillips stated that crowdfunding could be a
"genuinely exciting way of democratising finance", after being heralded as a potential source of financing for developing countries by experts and policy makers.
Crowdfunding is a method by which ordinary citizens invest money in businesses, social projects or charitable causes globally through electronic payments. The initiative has enabled many individuals and businesses across the globe to raise sizeable sums of money from strangers to get a project or business moving.
One of the earliest regional initiatives was introduced by the Jamaica National Small Business Loans Limited in 2013, under the global portal isupportjamaica.com. The platform seeks to raise funds for local start-up projects and foundations.
Last year, the total amount of financing raised through crowdfunding amounted to US$16 billion and is projected to reach $34 billion by the end of the year. By 2020, the World Bank estimates that developing countries alone will raise US$90 billion from the initiative.
"Access to affordable financing is of central importance, especially if we are to satisfy the development goals which are the heart of this conference. There is the prospect of crowdfunding being a viable solution for helping Jamaica, and other countries, channel financing to small and medium enterprises to grow private sector investment," the minister said.
Mobile Apps Helping Commuters in Barbados
A number of innovative Bajan companies are rolling out mobile apps to help Bajans with their commute and other transportation needs.
One such company Caribbean Transit Solutions (CTS), have developed BeepBus and BeepCab, the former is an application that gives commuters information on routes and other public passenger bus data. Where as the BeepCab app allows users to book/request taxi journeys on their mobile device, which will be satisfied by the nearest available taxi driver.
The company’s co-founders Khalil Bryan and Veronica Millington, explained “We evolved after having a meeting with some business angels under the Trident Angel initiative of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation and they advised us to expand the transportation idea.”
Regional Education Ministers Focus on Transforming Education
Guyana was the venue for the two day meeting of the CARICOM Council for Human & Social Development.
St Kitts and Nevis Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Shawn Richards, highlighted the inadequacy of incremental changes to the system to meet the needs of “radically changed” students in the digital age.
“The imperative therefore, is for systemic reform in areas such as teacher preparation and continued professional development in leadership training and several other technical areas,” he said.
The theme of the two-day meeting, “Safeguarding our Region’s Future: Reshaping Education for the 21st century, presented recommendations to the CARICOM Commission on Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy.
Assistant secretary-general, human and social development at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr Douglas Slater said the meeting “provided an opportunity to exchange ideas and recommend policy directions for education at all levels and in particular, for achieving the levels of innovation required for competitiveness”.
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With a number of Eastern Caribbean Currency Union member states facing high youth unemployment and stubbornly low economic growth numbers, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is leading a multi-stakeholder group from across the sub-region to host the OECS Business Think Tank and Hackathon in August.
Speaking about the event, Ms. Sybil Welsh Adviser at the ECCB said, “We didn't want to just hold a regular Hackathon or Code Sprint, just to say we were holding an event. We believe that such an event should seek to solve some of the challenges faced by the business community.” Ms. Welsh stated that a survey was sent to businesses and public sector organisations, to identify needs and challenges which would then be put to the development teams to solve.
Students, IT Professionals and creative thinkers from across the region will contribute to finding solutions to the challenges identified, and make presentations via video conference.
CARCIP St. Lucia Holds ICT Fair and Week of Activities
Caribbean Regional Communication Infrastructure Project , CARCIP in St. Lucia will be holding a week long ICT Fair and ICT Based Activities in August. During the week long fair which starts Aug. 10th to 15th attendees will be exposed to workshops and seminars in Cloud Computing, Gaming & Animation and Mobile Application Development. The activities culminate with St. Lucian's participating in the OECS Business Think Tank and Hackathon
Nominations are Now Open for the GEM-TECH Awards 2015
Last year the International Telecommunications Union – ITU and United Nations Women established, the Gender Equality Mainstream in Technology Awards, where the achievements of many amazing women in technology were recognised.
GEM-TECH winners from around the world, as well as some outstanding Global Achievers have really been making a difference to gender balance in the technology sector. The ITU is delighted to support our GEM-TECH partner, UN Women, in the 2015, and encourage all those committed to using ICTs to empower women to submit their entry to the awards competition,” said Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of ITU.
“If we want to end gender inequality by 2030, we need to use all the tools at our disposal, aim for bold and transformative changes and ensure that women are leaders in critical 21st century sectors. ICTs hold incredible promise and influence.” said Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Nominations of civil society, government, international organizations and private sector stakeholders can be made until 31st July. The 2015 GEM-TECH Awards ceremony will take place in New York in December. For more information on the 2014 and 2015 GEM-TECH Awards please see:
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In the aftermath of the June 24th cyber attacks on a number of the Jamaican Government websites, Dr. Andrew Wheatley, Opposition Spokesman on ICT, has made another call for the Government to underdake security audits of all government online services and websites.
Additionally, Dr. Wheatley is recommending that government websites be directed to use the secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) protocol. He's suggesting that this should be implemented as soon as possible. In a statement, he said the cyber attacks on the government websites is another indication that protective measures must be put in place to enhance security.
Columbus International to acquire Dominica's Marpin
Barbados-based telecoms provider Columbus International, which was purchased by Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) in a USD1.85 billion deal that completed in April this year, is said to be closing in on its own takeover of Dominica’s Marpin Telecoms & Broadcasting.
The purchase of the Marpin, which provides cable TV, broadband and dial-up internet access, plus local and international cable telephony services, is being carried out through CWC unit LIME Dominica. Dominica Vibes News cites an unnamed source as saying that the deal is expected to have been completed by the end of last month; the purchase price has not been disclosed.
Number Portability Up and Running in Jamaica, Finally!
After many delays and missed deadlines, the promise of number portability has finally been delivered in Jamaica. Having been implemented for only three days there are reports that there has been a steady shift between the providers.
Information obtained by the Jamaican OBSERVER ONLINE indicate that 503 Digicel customers have switched to use LIME, while only 50 LIME users decided to move to Digicel. Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Minister Phillip Paulwell said he was delighted with the progress and implementation of Number Portability in Jamaica. “In fact, we have done better than we thought we would, in terms of some of the technical challenges that normally go with such implementation,” Paulwell said. With Number Portability, fixed line and mobile phone customers can switch networks while keeping their original phone numbers.
Bitcoin has long been shrouded in mystery, and regarded with suspicion if not completely associated with criminality. However, the technology does have positive uses. Bitcoin Caribbean, is a Facebook group that has been formed to discuss and explore the use of the digital currency, as an alternative means of payment within the Caribbean.
In an earlier edition of the Caribbean Tech Roundup we reported that the OECS held a two day conference to explore options and opportunities presented by e-Payments for businesses and citizens of the sub-region.
Bitcoin Caribbean is a forum which solicits discussion on Bitcoin, the BlockChain and other crypto-technologies, and how they can be used to reduce transactions costs not only for purchases, but fund-transfers and in political process. You can learn more and be part of the discussion by joining the group, Bitcoin Caribbean on FaceBook.
Cable Theft in Jamaica puts Lives and Livelihoods at Risk
Telecommunications company LIME, is calling for urgent government intervention to address the problem of vandalism of its cable infrastructure, as damage soars to $80M JMD, approximately US$700,000 for first half of the year.
Leading the call for greater support for the combined LIME and Columbus Communications operations, is Ronnie Thompson. He told the Jamaica Observer that since the resurgence of the scrap metal industry, the company has been experiencing frequent vandalism of its copper cables.
What's more, Thompson stated that if the Government does not step in immediately, the company could see triple-digit figures for theft this year, after surpassing last year's $80-million record in just six months. The criminals have also been stealing the company's batteries and fuel.
"When we lose $1 million, the loss multiplies because the nation is affected by the inability to communicate. The businesses, schools, hospitals and fire stations are affected, and that is a threat to people's lives," he said.
Caribbean Countries move Closer to Joint Management of Radio Frequencies
Countries of the Eastern Caribbean are working together to promote more efficient use of their wireless communications frequencies, also known as Spectrum, for greater social good. A new agreement, has been drafted to minimise cross-border interference between countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the French Caribbean territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique. The new agreement will aid in the roll-out of regionwide 4G mobile broadband telecommunications networks.
The draft agreement was developed at a recent workshop on spectrum management, hosted by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) in Grenada last month.
The workshop, formed part of a harmonised caribbean spectrum planning and management project that aims to bring the spectrum policies of various Caribbean countries into closer synchronisation. Among the benefits of the closer collaboration are the adoption of common frequencies and international protocols for disaster management and emergency telecommunications.
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That's the view of Jamaican Min. of State for Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Julian Robinson. The minister was speaking following a workshop on open map and open data held at the Mona School of Business, University of the West Indies.
Min. Robinson said “Open Data is a tremendous resource that offers prospects for wealth creation.” He remarked, by making government data available to technology innovators and entrepreneurs it provides them the opportunity to develop applications for various sectors
The minister also highlighted that “ open Government data also serves to enhance public sector transparency and accountability.” The workshop was intended to inform public and private sector stakeholders, as the government forms a framework for open data development, which it hopes will stimulate entrepreneurship and job creation.
Belizean Creates Exclusive Social Network
Andre Gray is the creator of iBelizean, a social network specifically for those of Belizean origin and those interested in all things pertaining to Belizean lifestyle and culture.
The platform enables those in the Belizean diaspora to connect or reconnect and engage in a dialogue specifically with Belizean nationals seeking to deepen their national and cultural roots. “This is a lot more intimate and natural than creating Belizean groups, events and forums on large, generic social networks.” says Gray, the creator of the platform.
An added benefit is that posts shared on the platform can also be shared across the more traditional Social Networks.
Bajans Set to Pay Additional “Cell Phone” Tax
The notion of an “air time” tax on cell phone calls was first mooted in a budget statement back in 2009, but the implementation was not executed.
However, effective August 1st, Bajan cell phone users who already pay VAT on air time, can expect to pay an additional 3c/minute in “air-time excise duty”. The new duty is expected to raise some $32.7M annually, for the Treasury.
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