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Caribbean Tech Roundup – Weekend of 8th SEPTEMBER 2017

Caribbean Tech Roundup


Welcome to The Caribbean Technology Round Up for the weekend of 8th September 2017, with host Russell Williams. Let me begin by expressing my condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones during the passage of Hurricane Irma. My thoughts are with those who suffered damage and the region as we brace for Jose.

Where was Facebook’s Safety Check During Hurricane Irma?

As the Caribbean awoke on Wednesday 6th to the most powerful Atlantic hurricane in history, users of FaceBook might have expected to be able to use FaceBook’s Safety Check Feature, however it was conspicuous by its absence!

Hurricane Irma was Missing from Safety Check

When I contacted friends and family at 5am ECT (Eastern Caribbean Time), I suggested that they report their status using the FaceBook Safety Check feature, however the option was not available. Having checked for Hurricane Irma in the Safety Check system myself at 6 a.m. ECT it was still not possible to report your status for Hurricane Irma, and I posted to that effect on FaceBook. Approximately, ninety minutes later, I received comments indicating that the feature was available.

FaceBook Were Tardy

Given that Hurricane Irma had been anticipated since the weekend, and as predicted by forecasters made landfall in Antigua and Barbuda and much of the Eastern Caribbean on the morning of the 6th September, why was the feature missing for so long?

Despite the impending disaster being anticipated so far in advance, why were Caribbean FaceBook users unable to make use of what has become a standard feature of FaceBook during times of disaster? Why was FaceBook seemingly prodded into action? Were FaceBook’s staff asleep at the switch or were there some other reasons for this apparent lapse or in-action? I suspect we will never know! However, with Hurricane José expected this weekend, let’s hope that FaceBook get their act together!


Dominica’s IoT Schools Project Creates Producers and Not Consumers!

The National Telecommunications Regulator in Dominica successfully secured US$18,000 in grant funding. The NTRC entered the Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean, (FRIDA) grant competition, winning the programme’s most technical category – Innovation for Internet Development.

Dominicans Found Broadband Internet Irrelevant

I asked Craig Nesty, Executive Director at the NTRC what was the motivation, behind the Internet of Things (IoT) School Project?

As a regulator part of our mandate is to increase broadband penetration. What we found through surveys and gap analysis, for the USF was that people basically found broadband to be irrelevant. Or they didn’t see the benefits of the Internet or the value of the internet for the money they were paying. They could not equate, $89 a month, to FaceBook, especially in certain demographics.


Identifying a Meaningful Project

So we set about trying to determine how we could make the Internet more relevant. We also recognised that we in the Caribbean basically use the Internet for consumption of resources. We don’t generate any content, we don’t produce anything. So the inspiration behind the project was to give kids an opportunity to see how the Internet could be utilised. And how they could actually create something and generate useful information that could be used by vast cross section of society. We’re talking about from disaster planners to farmers to environmental modelers.


Cue the Raspberry Pi

So when I came across this article where in England, they were introducing computing to kids as young as six years old. And they were doing that with the Raspberry Pi, which I thought that was pretty interesting. I recognised that this was an opportunity for us to do something similar perhaps not on the same scale. But if we could put a Raspberry Pi in every school, then every student would be aware that there was such a device. If we could show them through one project the types of things we can do with that one device, it might inspire them to further innovate and create and take full advantage of the internet.


The Digital Divide has not Been Bridge!

This is the only way I think we can bridge the digital divide and create that equalising effect that the internet should have brought about. Which, in my view it hasn’t. A lot of people might think that’s controversial, but to me the internet is a great amplifier, it enhances the capabilities you already have. So for us in Dominica we are consumers. We order a lot internationally and consume locally, and the internet has basically accelerated that. So it’s essentially created a lot more capital flight, and we need to find a way to reverse that, and the IoT Schools Project is a small step in trying to address some of the problems that I see.


Government of Trinidad & Tobago Aims to Boost IT Jobs Through IDB Loan

The Government of Trinidad & Tobago, intends to use grant and loan funds from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to drive T&T’s economic transformation/diversification using information technology enabled services (ITeS), to broaden opportunities in other economic sectors, especially with the current challenges in the oil and gas industry.

Loan Agreement will Boost IT Jobs

The Ministry of Planning and Development in Trinidad said on Wednesday that it was certain that an IDB loan and grant agreement would lead to the growth of the information technology sector in this country, along with high-paying jobs for well-qualified nationals of T&T.

In a statement, the Planning Ministry referenced the Global Services Promotion Programme, which is a loan and grant agreement funded by the IDB and being implemented by the ministry.


That’s The Caribbean Tech Round Up for this week, with me Russell Williams. For more detailed information on these stories visit the News Section on the WINN FM website, subscribe to the podcast on Soundcloud, follow me on social media or check the Blogs section at theitfacility.com. Thank you for listening and have a great weekend.