First Look

Jamaica to host regional Hackathon



Jamaica Information Service | 2015-05-14 00:00:00

Jamaica is slated to host a regional “Hackathon,” which aims to employ the use of technology in finding solutions to real-life problems and to enhance growth in critical sectors.

A hackathon (also known as a hack day, hackfest or codefest) is an event where computer programmers and others involved in software and hardware development collaborate intensively on software projects.

Making the announcement today (May 12), State Minister for Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson, said the event to be held in two weeks will focus on the areas of energy conservation, tourism and agriculture.

“We are looking at how we can relate to (and address) real-life problems in critical sectors in the region (through the incorporation of technology)”, he said.

Mr. Robinson was addressing a Symposium on the Impact of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) on Growth, Opportunity and Service Delivery in the Caribbean, at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters in St. Andrew.

He informed that the first area of focus is on energy conservation and management “which is an important issue for not just us in Jamaica but for all Caribbean countries.” “(We will explore) how can you use the technology to facilitate better management of our energy, while we are obviously looking for alternatives to heavy fuel oils,” he said.

Minister Robinson said the next area is tourism and how it can be ensured that visitors spend more outside the country’s traditional hotels.

“In Jamaica, we know all-inclusive hotels dominate the hotel landscape, but there are a large number of other offerings that can have a greater economic impact on the country, if tourists get outside the hotel, and spend money – whether they be in bed and breakfast-type settings or in attractions,” he said.

The third area of focus is on the agricultural sector, and how to ensure farmers and producers are connected to buyers.

“That’s a huge issue here, where you have huge variances where farmers produce significant amounts of crops and they (go to waste). You will find, on the other hand, persons who are looking for produce and can’t find it and (we need to examine) how we can connect them,” he said.

The State Minister said the Government is of the belief that ICTs have the potential to drive transformation within the economy, hence the staging of the event.

He noted that the hackathon will be staged in collaboration with the Entrepreneurship Programme for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC) through its Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project (CMIP).

EPIC is a seven-year $20 million programme funded by the Government of Canada that seeks to build an enabling ecosystem to foster high-growth and sustainable enterprises throughout the Caribbean. EPIC has three core activity pillars: mobile innovation, climate technology, and women-led entrepreneurship.

The CMIP is a multifaceted approach to enable the growth of sustainable and competitive mobile enterprises. It consists of a series of regional and local ecosystem activities that will be managed by a central mobile innovation hub with support from six additional hubs (mHubs) throughout the region.

The symposium was hosted by the Mona ICT Policy Centre, Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC), UWI in partnership with the World Bank and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) out of Canada.

It allowed for the examination of the World Development Report (WDR) 2016 – Internet for Development, which explores the Internet’s impact on economic growth, on social and economic opportunities, and on the efficiency of public service delivery.

In order to help countries better leverage the Internet for development, the WDR will identify the policy reforms in the ICT and complementary sectors, and in community development.

In his remarks, Director, Mona ICT Policy Centre, CARIMAC, Professor Hopeton Dunn, said the symposium provided an opportunity for the region to contribute to the WDR, which should entail informed and evidence-based analysis of growth, and importantly of development, using the tools of ICTs and the Internet.

Co-Director, WDR 2016, and Development Economist and Chief Economist at the World Bank, Dr. Uwe Deichmann, said the WDR will propose that the Internet is not a shortcut to development by itself.

“The Internet can be a powerful enabler or accelerator of development, if we put the policies in place that allow people, businesses and Governments to take full advantage of the opportunities that the Internet has brought,” he said.




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