The PitchIT Caribbean Challenge is the biggest tech-entrepreneurship competition and showcase to be held in the Caribbean, and is to be held in St. Kitts and Nevis. Twenty-Five (25) entrepreneurs will travel to St. Kitts and Nevis to participate in the PitchIT Challenge Bootcamp. With the help of international and regional coaches, ten (10) finalists will be selected to pitch their business idea to a panel of business experts and investors.
Five (5) winners will each receive the following, valued at over USD$15,000: – US$5,000 in cash to be disbursed in two tranches based on the successful submission of required documents. – US$5,000 worth of coaching and mentoring. - US$4,000 valued trip to international pitching event (Demo Trek). – At least US$1,000 worth of online training, Access to facilities and back office services, where necessary.
ECLAC Assists Cayman Islands With New National Energy Policy
ECLAC’s contribution to the new policy was made through a joint initiative carried out with the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), aimed at promoting energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy technologies in the Caribbean. The policy also addresses support for increased energy security by reducing reliance on imported fossil based fuels.
In addition to decreased energy costs, the Cayman Islands’ goals for its energy sector include increased environmental sustainability, and a contribution to the economic development of the energy industry. The new NEP recommends that 70% of the islands’ total electricity generation should come from renewable energy sources by the year 2037.
In addition to boosting the use of renewable energy sources within the next 20 years, the policy also seeks to cut individual carbon dioxide emissions by more than two-thirds by 2037.
It is proposed that the policy be reviewed every five years, not only to monitor and report on progress, but also to reset the targets and implementation plans in recognition of opportunities that will arise from the constantly changing technological environment.
New Technology To Help Safeguard Caribbean Banks
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) sub-regional headquarters in the Caribbean has declared that block chain technology, a recent development in the field of financial technology, could be a possible solution to problems surrounding de-risking and the navigation of correspondent banking relationships.
An ECLAC report says that while there are still a number of issues to be resolved with the new technology, it could allow Caribbean banks to bypass correspondent banks altogether, in the process reducing transaction costs and increasing efficiency.
De-risking is a term used to describe the practice whereby correspondent banks, and large international banking institutions which provide banking services to smaller financial institutions, sever ties with financial institutions.
This happens in cases where they consider the risk of non-compliance with regulations intended to prevent money laundering and financing of terrorism to be too high compared to the returns. De-risking is affecting small and developing economies around the world but the small economies in the Caribbean have been among the hardest hit.
According to the report, a block chain is the implementation of cryptographic technology which enables data to be shared across a network of computers controlled by multiple organisations and individuals.
Cryptography is a method of storing and transmitting data in a secure form so only those for whom the information is intended can receive, read and process it. In its latest report, ECLAC says this new technology may offer an alternative means for financial service institutions to support cross-border transactions.
The report says the technology seems to have the potential to address the problem of de-risking by using an appropriately designed block chain-based settlement network to offer tools to improve surveillance of transactions, which would enable the detection of illicit financial transfers and thereby decrease risk and associated compliance costs.
CANTO Chairman Speaks At The Forum For The 'Internet of Things': Smarter Living In The Caribbean
Ahead of CANTO's 33rd Annual Conference and Trade Exhibition, to be held in the Dominican Republic, under theme, Reimagining ICT as a Tool for National Growth & Development in mid-July. The CANTO Chairman, Julian Wilkins spoke at the Forum for the “Internet of Things” (IoT): Smarter Living in the Caribbean.
The event was co-organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in partnership with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT), the UWI St. Augustine Campus and the Caribbean Telecommunication Union (CTU).
The Chairman was a panelist at the session entitled: IoT Security and Privacy, Policy, Legislation, Regulation and Infrastructure.
Wilkins emphasized that there is disparity between traditional operators and Over The Top Providers – OTTs - in the Caribbean. He mentioned that the European Union has recently published a proposal for 'regulation of Privacy and security rules for Over-the-top (OTT) players' thereby moving to eliminate the disparity between traditional operators and OTTs.
The Chairman concluded that from a global perspective regulators are starting to review existing regulatory frameworks to take account of OTTs in particular, data privacy and security.
Jamaican Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, has said that the Data Protection Act is expected to be laid before Parliament for debate within three months.
The Minister, who was making his contribution to the 2017/18 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, said that work on the Bill is “far advanced.”
The Data Protection Act will safeguard, in general, the privacy of individuals in relation to personal data as well as govern the collection, regulation, processing, keeping, use and disclosure of certain information in physical or electronic form.
Dr. Wheatley further informed that the 2015 Cybercrimes Act will be reviewed this financial year, to address concerns about how sections of the law are interpreted and enforced, and a new Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Bill will be tabled.
He said work on the ICT legislation continued in earnest last year, with assistance from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Consultations on the proposed provisions were held with stakeholders in the areas of telecommunications, broadcasting, and subscriber cable operators and a draft ICT Act produced.
Additionally, work will commence for the establishment of a single ICT regulator. Minister Wheatley noted that the sector is governed by several regulators and “this variegated approach to regulation is no longer fit to respond to the converged ICT space or provide the responsive regulation that is required.”
“Consequently, this year, we will begin the process of amalgamating the relevant functions of the regulators to ensure that when the new ICT Act is promulgated, the new regulator is in place to undertake the revised functions,” the Minister said.
Turning to other matters, the Minister informed the House that candidates have been shortlisted for the position of Chief Executive Officer for eGov Jamaica, while the ICT Governance Framework and ICT Council were approved last year.
He said that by the end of April, a Government of Jamaica (GoJ) ICT Think Tank will be launched.
Google just Became The First Foreign Internet Company To Launch in Cuba
Google's servers in Cuba went live on Wednesday, making the internet giant the first foreign internet company to host content within the long cut-off country.
The servers are part of Google's global network of caching servers, called GGC nodes, the servers work by storing popular content — like a viral YouTube video — on a local server. Instead of having to travel the long distance through a submarine cable, which currently connects Cuba to the internet through Venezuela, Cubans will now be able to access content through the nearest Google server in their country.
"I think this will be very noticeable for Cubans," said Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Dyn, a global internet monitoring company. "The internet in Cuba will still be a painfully slow process. This is just another somewhat rare step forward. For Google services, which will be hosted in country, it will be a milestone."
Despite hopes that Cuba would begin opening up its internet access following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba in 2015, Cuba still has the lowest level of internet connectivity in the western hemisphere. For most Cubans, the internet can only be accessed through 240 public access wi-fi spots dotted around the country. An hour of internet access costs roughly $1.50, which for Cubans earning the country's average wage of $25 a month, can be prohibitively expensive.
Cuba's State Telecommunications company, Etecsa, recently begun running a pilot program to install internet connections in 2,000 homes throughout the country, but once the pilot is over the service will cost around $15 for 30 hours of internet at a slow speed of 128 kilobytes per second — a similarly off-putting price for most Cubans.
Google acknowledges that the deal won't do much to increase internet access for the average person in Cuba. In a blog post published last December to mark the signing of the deal between Cuba and the tech giant, Google executives wrote, "Cubans who already have access to the internet and want to use our services can expect to see an improvement in terms of quality of service and reduced latency for cached content."
Madory, however, said that it appeared that Google was rolling out the change slowly. When he tested the service on Wednesday morning using a server in Cuba he could access remotely, he was still being directed to Google services outside the country. "I can see the server is there and I can interact with it, but Cubans are not yet getting automatically connected to it."
Girls In ICT Day Marked By Hackathons Across The Caribbean
On Thursday girls and young women from 15 Jamaican schools gathered to compete in a Caribbean Hackathon in observance of the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) Girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Day.
The girls and young women were engaged in hands-on activities, guided by a tech mentor, using ICT to create, innovate and generate solutions to various challenges. The activities included mobile app building, animation, robotics, digital video production and digital art works, and web development.
The day-long immersion in ICT, the ‘hackathon’ will give the girls and young women, an opportunity to envision themselves, not only as users of technology, but creators.
The ‘hackathon’, led by a group of women consultants through a joint partnership between Cotton Tree Consulting and Change Makers Development Ltd, will take place simultaneously, in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
“Scotiabank is pleased to be part of an initiative that will inspire and excite our girls through their engagement with technology. This unique opportunity is one we are sure will not only encourage interest but ultimately galvanise the talent of Jamaican women in the development of the ICT industry,” said Yanique Forbes Patrick, vice-president of marketing at Scotiabank, regional platinum sponsor of the hackathon.
The event was also supported regionally by Gold Sponsor LOOP in partnership with the University of the West Indies.
The Ministry of Telecommunications has invited the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) to clearly demonstrate that it has the network capacity to ensure that the people of Guyana have access to quality data services.
According to the ministry, the request was made to guarantee that the Guyanese people would not be adversely affected by a cessation of a bypass link Digicel is accused of having to Suriname.
GT&T in a statement on Saturday had accused its telecommunications counterpart, Digicel, of having an illegal, unlicensed trans-border link between Guyana and Suriname. GT&T said that it knows the bypass is causing very real and significant harm to Guyana, costing the country about US$30M over the last five years.
However, according to the Ministry, its intention is to arrive at a resolution that will be in the best interest of the people of Guyana. The entity said that the claims made against Digicel have proven to be a complex matter, exacerbated by demands of the market for adequate voice and data services.
The statement read, “Among the issues to be considered are whether GT&T has sufficient data capacity to meet the needs of the market and the degree of congestion of its network.”
The Ministry stressed that its request of GT&T to show proof of its ability to properly serve the Guyanese people should not be interpreted as condoning the illegal activity.
Ultimately, the Ministry of Public Telecommunications which is headed by Minister Cathy Hughes said that to prevent the resurgence of similar claims by telecommunications companies against their competitors, there should be a fully liberalised and competitive sector.
The Jamaica Library Service Embraces the Use Of Technology In Its Service Delivery
Jamaica’s library community has been evolving and remains quite relevant in a technologically-driven society through the array of services it offers to meet the demands of users.
The Jamaica Library Service (JLS) offers free access to computers, internet and other electronic resources to enable persons to utilize a range of informational, educational and recreational resources.
The Service consists of 119 fixed locations, with a mobile library service which caters to some 370 communities island wide. More than 600 JLS staff members participated in customer service, digital literacy and social media courses, while some 2,000 library users received training in basic computer and digital literacy.
Additionally, well-trained computer specialists are available in the thirteen parish library networks to ensure that technical problems are solved quickly and users enjoy reliable and efficient computer services. Basic computer training is also offered to members of the public.
Director General at the JLS, Karen Barton, said that through a US$2-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries Initiative, and US$1.1 million from the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, that the library’s services have gone way beyond just lending books, and now expands to meeting the demands of the entire community.
Ms. Barton explained “We are expecting to reach as many Jamaicans as possible, who have access to all our libraries and mobile units. We are also on a mission to increase our membership as many persons feel that the library is just about books, but the library is more like the community hub, where you can fulfil educational and academic needs and so, we are targeting a large number of persons in order for the community to be transformed through technology,”
On April 1st, the JLS implemented an Integrated Library Management System (ILMS) called Koha, to improve the efficiency of the library’s operations as well as service for users. Koha, an automated open-source management system will allow library users to obtain access to search online catalogues from anywhere in the world.
Jamaica's USF To Provide Wifi Downtown and Olympic Gardens
The Universal Service Fund (USF) continues its quest to provide 100 per cent Internet penetration across Jamaica with Wi-Fi hotspots to be provided at the St William Grant Park in downtown Kingston and in Olympic Gardens.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the USF, Suzette Buchanan, said that in addition to fulfilling its mandate, she hopes these hotspots will also assist in facilitating entrepreneurship.
She explained that the Olympic Gardens should be a busy commercial area shortly and, as such, “the hotspot being created there, is to complement the entertainment activities along the thoroughfare, and to also assist in providing income for small entrepreneurs in the vicinity”.
“We have St William Grant Park, which will also provide connectivity to the market,” she said, adding that the hotspots should be functioning by the first week in April.
Additionally, the CEO said that there are plans to provide hotspots in Spanish Town, St Catherine; Mandeville in Manchester; and Junction in St Elizabeth. “Based on our research, our findings indicate that even though Jamaicans have devices, a very small percentage of these individuals are connected,” she said.
“We want to encourage Jamaicans to utilise their online services. If you are paying your taxes, you can pay it online, and you can also visit our Government websites to see what is available to you, to keep yourself updated and to be educated,” Buchanan added.
The USF started providing free Wi-Fi in public spaces in late 2016 and has already provided free Wi-Fi at Devon House in Kingston as well as the Mandela Park in Half-Way Tree square.
PWC Works With Bitt To Propel The Caribbean's Digital Evolution
The Barbados-based FinTech company, Bitt Inc. and the professional services firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) announced that they have executed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) whereby the two entities, while remaining independent, will work together to deepen the use of blockchain technology across the Caribbean.
The MOU is with respect to advisory services that PwC may provide to companies seeking to utilize blockchain technology, including those relating to the advancement of Bitt services such as the use of electronic money, digitalfiat currency, block-chain technology, and virtual currency services throughout the Caribbean.
“This understanding firmly places Bitt and PwC as the drivers of the regional re-design of the Caribbean’s financial services using blockchain technology,” said Gabriel Abed, Bitt’s CEO and Co-Founder.
Commercial banks, central banks and other institutions seeking to pilot Bitt’s software will benefit from access to PwC’s deep, global FinancialTechnology expertise in blockchain research and knowledge, marketplace strategy, operational readiness and technology services.
Oliver Jordan, PwC Partner and lead for Advisory services in the East Caribbean, said, “We at PwC see enormous potential for blockchain in financial services to which end we developed the strategic and implementation capabilities necessary to help financial institutions, technology companies and startups take advantage of this transformative technology.”
“We have agreed to work alongside Bitt on future institutional blockchain technology implementations by, for example, central banks, commercial banks and government institutions throughout the region because not only does blockchain offer the promise of cost reduction and efficiency, but it could also enable revenue growth, and higher-quality service. Across the PwC Global network, we have already seen enormous potential for blockchain to deliver substantial value to financial services- and we intend to continue to lead the way across the financial services landscape in the Caribbean,” he added.
Globally, PwC offers ‘Blockchain Services‘ and has developed the strategic and implementation capabilities necessary to help financial institutions, technology companies and startups take advantage of this transformative technology.
Bitt’s vision is to provide the Caribbean with access to innovative software that improves efficiency and ease of money transfer throughout the Caribbean and beyond.
One week before International Girls in ICT Day, Nuria Simo, Chief Information Officer and General Manager, Department of Information Technology of the Inter-American Bank (IDB), says the time is ripe to see more women holding leadership positions in T&T’s ICT sector. She made this statement during her recent visit to the American Chamber of Commerce T&T’s office in Port-of-Spain.
Following Simo’s meeting with senior female ICT executives fron AmCham’s member companies, the business organisation and the IDB launched their Women in Leadership Mentorship Programme.
Addressing the group of leading women in the field of Information Technology, Simo led the discussion on the challenges she and many other women face when navigating the ladder of success.
“We need role models for girls and young women to see that it is possible to be successful in senior ICT positions,” she said.
The mentorship programme, which will be done in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, seeks to pair five mentees with senior regional professionals in the fields of science, information technology and economics.
The mentors were selected from the IDB’s vast network of professionals, an organisation which is known for its stance on gender parity in the workplace. AmCham’s CEO Nirad Tewarie said: “This initiative is an extension of the theme of our recently concluded Women’s Leadership Seminar held in February, under the hashtag #BeBoldForChange.
Tewarie continued, “We are ensuring that we make a conscious effort to not only add to the discussion but to be part of the solution.”
He went to say, “We are fully committed to seeing this through along with our partner the IDB, and it is our hope that this pilot project can serve as a template that other business service organisations can adopt and that we can expand.”
Jamaican Minister Ties ICT Achievements To Huge Spending
Jamaican Energy, Science and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley announced on Tuesday the rollout of additional access points for free public Wi-Fi, as he highlighted other achievements in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) field.
The minister announced the developments — which include free Wi-Fi in public spaces and broadband connections in educational institutions — during his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Parliament.
As it relates to the Universal Service Fund ConnectJa public Wi-Fi programme, Wheatley announced that four other arears will enjoy free Wi-Fi access. The USFConnectJa programme was launched last year when free public Wi-Fi networks were installed at Devon House and Mandela Park (HWT) at a cost of over JA$4M.
The minister disclosed that the coming months will see the continued rollout of public Wi-Fi both in urban and rural areas. The project is designed to provide greater and easier access to broadband internet service for Jamaicans across the island.
“This initiative is expected to fuel the government’s plans of creating a knowledge-based society by removing any barrier that currently exists for citizens who may be unable to afford connectivity,” Wheatley said Tuesday.
The total number of broadband connections completed by government as at March 31st stood at 430, which includes 212 educational institutions, 41 library sites, 68 post offices, 60 Ministry of Health sites and 49 Jamaica Constabulary Force sites.
The minister said 12 special projects were completed for the fiscal year 2016/2017. He disclosed that millions were spent to help upgrade and improve the ICT infrastructure of the following service entities: Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI), College of Agriculture Science and Education (CASE), MICO University, University of Technology (UTECH),
He said the Mico University “well advanced” in its plans to become the main hub for ICT teacher training in the Caribbean. He said this is made possible by funding from the USF of US$358,150 to establish 12 smart class rooms throughout the campus and for the installation of campus-wide Wi-Fi networks.
The USF contributed JA$20M for the upgrading of the Wi-Fi network infrastructure throughout the campus of the UTECH.
ALIV Challenges BTC Statement On Network Sharing
Former cellular monopolist the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and mobile newcomer Aliv have locked horns over a long-delayed co-location agreement, after a press release by the former was immediately contradicted by the latter. In a statement released by BTC last week, the operator announced that it had signed an agreement for tower sharing with Aliv, allowing the new entrant to offer mobile services in areas where it has yet to complete its own infrastructure rollout.
According to the statement, BTC would charge Aliv a ‘nominal fee’ for the use of its mobile sites, with the smaller company operating as an MVNO in such areas. BTC noted that whilst it would receive ‘some level of compensation,’ it stressed that the payment ‘pales in comparison to the investment that we have made over the many years we have provided services’. As such, the incumbent suggested that Aliv’s participation in the sector was not fair and did not represent ‘competition in its true essence.’
BTC added that it had received co-location requests for more than 30 sites across Andros and Grand Bahama as well as numerous sites in Abaco, Acklins, Berry Island among others.
In a rebuttal to BTC’s statement, Aliv revealed that it had not signed an agreement, having only received the final terms of the co-location from BTC the day before BTC published its statement. Consequently, Aliv is still reviewing the document to ensure that the offer met its requirements. For its part, Aliv also pointed out that BTC has dragged its feet on the matter, noting in its statement: ‘We have been waiting for these final terms since summer 2016, when we first and proactively requested co-location from BTC. We welcome BTC’s recent decision to provide co-location to Aliv, despite the length of time that this has taken.’
The newcomer also took issue with the accuracy of other parts of BTC’s statement, with Aliv keen to dispute BTC’s claim that it would only receive a nominal fee for co-location. Aliv would instead be paying a ‘market rate’ for its use of the sites: ‘In line with the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) regulations, the rate that BTC will charge Aliv is the same rate offered to other such third parties currently using BTC sites in a similar fashion’. Finally, Aliv CEO Damian Blackburn refuted BTC’s claim that its smaller rival would be operating as an MVNO on its network, saying: I would like to assure the people of the Bahamas that this is not an MVNO agreement where the MVNO leases the network from a mobile operator. Instead, this agreement will enable Aliv to deploy its world-class LTE network on every island, rock and cay of the Bahamas, and BTC will earn the industry standard market rate in return for use of its towers.’
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Mr Blackburn indicated in late March that BTC had yet to comply with an order from the regulator to provide Aliv with a national roaming service for a two-year period, whilst the latter completed the rollout of its own infrastructure. Telecoms watchdog URCA also encouraged the two mobile providers to share infrastructure wherever possible, but the official claims BTC has been slow to cooperate with the newcomer, forcing it revert to its original plan to simply rollout all new infrastructure.
The number of internet connections in the Dominican Republic soared by over 22 percent year on year to reach 6.1 million at the end of January, having grown 26 percent in 2016 as a whole, according to data published by telecommunications regulator Indotel.
However, Indotel’s chairman Jose del Castillo Savinon emphasizes that aim is to boost internet penetration from the current figure of less than 50 percent of the population to at least 70 percent over the next three years. The country’s Republica Digital programme calls for substantially increased fibre-optic coverage to meet the goal, starting with the introduction of broadband services in ten more provinces via a backbone network to be rolled out by state utilities giant ETED. The fibre-optic backbone “will connect nearly all of the country’s 32 provinces via 55 nodes nationwide,” said the Indotel head.
The watchdog added that total of 8.70 million mobile telephone lines were in operation in the Dominican Republic at the end of January, three-quarters of which were pre-paid. There were also 1.11 million fixed lines, 228,502 IP lines.
Caribbean Leaders Urged To Embrace ICT
In keeping with the theme of ICT Week and Symposium Antigua and Barbuda; ICT – Driving 21st Century Intelligent Services, Melford Nicholas, minister of information, broadcasting, telecommunications and information technology stated, “ICT has disrupted the financial order. Technology has a way of working around the established order. The Caribbean should not fear the disruptive nature of ICT – but embrace it.”
Melford was speaking at the 15th Caribbean Ministerial Strategic Seminar in Antigua and Barbuda. He made a strong call to the region to embrace the emerging technologies as the Caribbean is facing the reality of how cash will become a thing of the past.
He added, “We should open our minds to the possibility of the financial sector. We should find ourselves a new sitting place in the world order, and if we respond well, we would find ourselves in a position to exploit opportunities.”
These seminars are designed to raise awareness of the emerging technologies, their implications for policy, legislation and regulations and their potential to foster national and regional development. It further explored new modes of providing secure financial services for all citizens, the use of cryptocurrencies, innovative ways of financing the region’s ICT-enabled development, and advancing the Caribbean’s participation in the information age.
Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the CTU, made a strong call to policy makers to examine the potential impact of ICT on development.
“ICT are cross-cutting, enabling tools. It is imperative therefore that policymakers from all sectors collectively examine the impact of ICT on the development of their respective sectors,” she said.
The seminar addressed various issues critical to the region such as ICT-enabled financial solutions; financing options for ICT projects; security matters and 21st century financial services for all, presented by line-up of industry expert speakers.
Caribbean ministers of government from Barbados, Dominica, Grenada and Saint Lucia, as well as senior officials from diverse sectors including ICT, finance, national security, health and education attended the seminar, as ICT is a cross-cutting area that transcends various sectors.
Book Fusion Almost Scuppered By Caribbean Stereotypes
Book Fusion is an internationally acclaimed online book publishing platform founded by Jamaican Dwayne Campbell. But as we hear the success was almost shot down by traditional parental aspirations, we hear more from founder Dwayne Campbell as to how he got his project going.
So when I was in University at the time, you know everybody coming from the Caribbean usually your parents want you to be a doctor or a lawyer or you know then engineer. So when I was back in Jamaica I did my high school website at the time in the HT ML and CSS so I had assumed I could teach myself computers you know and programming. So I went there with the goal of doing becoming a doctor so I started with biology but then eventually I'm you know it was repeating the same content from six form so I switched to Chemical Engineering.
And then I was volunteering in a computer science lab which was a student-run lab where they provided servers and resources for students to learn and develop and I found myself spending a lot of time in this environment until I ended up working there as a Systems Administrator so by the time I was ready to switch my major to computer science, that would have extended the time needed to graduate so I decided to do a minor or in it instead.
We will hear more from Book Fusion in subsequent episodes.