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CARIBBEAN TECH ROUND UP – WEEKEND OF 22ND SEPTEMBER 2017

Caribbean Tech Roundup

Machine Learning Helps to Pull the Plug on Electricity Theft in Jamaica

ESMAP Offers Technical Assistance

In Jamaica, about a quarter of electricity produced is stolen or “lost” through non-payment and/or accounting errors. Manual detection has failed to make a difference in reducing these losses.

A Technical Assistance Team of the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme or ESMAP has implemented a machine learning model to help the Jamaican utility, Jamaica Public Service (JPS) identify and decrease incidents of power theft.

Machine Learning Solution Tested

When traditional, labour-intensive methods failed to produce lasting results, Jamaica tried a different approach and sought the assistance of ESMAP. ESMAP’s machine learning model is based on an Open Source software solution, and is therefore available for free to any utility.

Electricity Theft a Major Jamaican Problem

Globally, billions of dollars are lost every year due to electricity theft, where electricity is distributed to customers but is never paid for. In 2014 alone, Jamaica’s total power transmission and distribution system reported 27% of losses (due to technical and non-technical reasons), close to double the regional average. While the utility company absorbs a portion of the cost, it also passes some of that cost onto consumers. Both actors therefore have an incentive to want to change this. 

Computer Code by Markus Spiske
JPS Turns to Machine Learning

Now, Jamaica is one of the first countries to use machine learning to tackle its electricity theft problem. The World Bank partnered with Chicago-based data science firm, The Impact Lab, and the Energy Sector Management Assistance programme (ESMAP) to use machine learning to improve JPS’ theft identification process among large and commercial accounts.

Steve Dixon, Director of Transmission & Distribution Asset Management at JPS, said, “Automating the analysis of daily transactions on electricity accounts will certainly improve the strike rate for detecting and addressing theft, ”

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OVER HALF-MILLION US DOLLARS AWARDED TO FIRMS AT LINK-CARIBBEAN’S HALFWAY MARK

Carib-Export & World Bank form Angel Network

As the halfway point of the two-year LINK-Caribbean Angel Investment Programme approaches, over US$500,000 has been awarded to 14 Caribbean companies to support their development to attract angel investment.

The World Bank Group, together with the Caribbean Export Development Agency, launched LINK-Caribbean last September, funded by the government of Canada. The investment facilitation programme aims to enable early-stage Caribbean entrepreneurs to raise capital from private investors, particularly business angel investors.

Angel Investor Ecosystem

It also aims to contribute toward the development of an angel investment ecosystem across the Caribbean, and early indicators would suggest that is exactly what is happening. With investment of US$1.6 million, the programme has awarded 11 investment readiness grants and 3 co-investment grants, and supported the growth of a Regional Angel Investor Network (RAIN) which now has business angels actively looking for early-stage and start-up businesses in which to invest.

It is encouraging to see the entrepreneurs coming forward to seek investment and get involved in the programme. We have some bright, talented entrepreneurs with great ideas and businesses that can integrate into the global markets. The support from World Bank Group via the LINK-Caribbean programme is just the first step.” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency.

Creating Funding Alternatives for Entrepreneurs

We are delighted to see that LINK-Caribbean has helped catalyze the growth of the Caribbean’s entrepreneurship ecosystem,” said Sophia Muradyan, Coordinator of the World Bank Group’s Entrepreneurship programme for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), which includes LINK-Caribbean.

The programme hosted the Caribbean Angel Investor Forum in May 2017 which helped to spur the development of new angel investment groups in the Bahamas. The region now has active angel groups in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic and Barbados. Increased awareness and understanding around angel investing has increased the number of entrepreneurs seeing investment.

We recognize that there is still a lack of knowledge as it relates to the various investment instruments available to entrepreneurs. Angel investing isn’t for everyone, but with greater understanding it’s becoming a viable option, as seen from the range of businesses applying to be part of the programme,” said Chris McNair, Manager of Competitiveness and Export Promotion at Caribbean Export.

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SMARTER CARIBBEAN ESSAY COMPETITION

SmartTerm, the cohesive school and learning management platform aimed at reinventing the way education is facilitated in the Caribbean, recently concluded its “Smarter Caribbean Essay Competition,” which was open to all Caribbean students aged 8-19 years.

The Importance of Technology in Schools

The theme of this year’s competition, “The Importance of Technology in Schools,” gave voice to students as they grappled with the lack of educational technology in Caribbean schools.

SmartTerm Essay Writing Competition
SmartTerm Essay Caribbean Essay Writing Competition

We wanted to get students thinking about how technology could help them become educated,” said Shamir Saddler, CEO of SmartTerm. “And while doing so, we wanted the winners to have technology at their fingertips. Giving back is part of our mission, and so we will continue to do so.”

Regional Participation

The competition, which garnered both national and regional attention, saw students from five countries participate: Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad, St. Lucia and Grenada.

The competition was broken down into three age groups: 8-11, 12-16, and 17-19 years of age. The three section winners, who came from Jamaica and Barbados, were Imani Chin of St. Andrew High School for Girls in Jamaica, Brannakay Hardie of Jonathan Grant High School in Jamaica, and Hope Joseph of Queen’s College in Barbados.

Section winners will each receive a tablet and money vouchers, while section runner-ups will receive money vouchers only — with the total in-kind value of all gifts totaling up to US$10,000. The winning schools will receive a free pilot of the SmartTerm school and learning management platform.

The response was outstanding. Not only were students actively participating by writing essays, but teachers and principals were engaged, too. We’ve had parents and teachers inquire about technology use inside and outside the classroom,” said Stuart Crooks, Chief Operating Officer of SmartTerm. “Education Technology is a conversation that needs to happen in the Caribbean, and we at SmartTerm are happy to spearhead it.”

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