The Cable

The new administration in Trinidad & Tobago has joined that of St. Kitts & Nevis, in taking a moment of pause to re-evaluate it's school laptop distribution. Across the region there was a raft of such programmes which to many were thought to be ill-conceived, unsustainable and poorly implemented at best or otherwise politically motivated gimmicks.

At a briefing held by Trinidad's Education Minister Anthony Garcia, he revealed that “Students will not be given personal laptops,” Garcia said. “Laptops will be the property of the school.” Fifty laptops will be for a school’s Form 1 pool of students, while 50 will be for the Form 2 pool, the minister explained. Some 12,600 laptops will be supplied in the new term but will be the property of the schools, at a cost of $63 million, compared to an annual cost of $253 million under the previous arrangement.

Garcia justified the cutback in laptops by lamenting on the “colossal waste” and a need to get “value for money”, as he alluded to pupil misuse of laptops to play games instead of studying. He bemoaned a lack of backup for the laptops including teacher training and Internet access at schools. 

Garcia said that a study conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the laptop programme found problems arising from the former regime’s alleged lack of an “ICT Policy”, citing one pupil saying that a lack of Internet access had led pupils to use the laptops mainly to play games and record school fights. He said the provision of one laptop per pupil was found to be counter productive as it led to no increase in student performance in core subject-areas. 

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Costa Rica To Host Second Meeting Of ECLAC's ICT, Science Conference

The second session of the conference on Science, Innovation and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) will begin Monday 12th in San Jose, Costa Rica. 

The event will coincide with the inauguration of the World Information Technology Forum (WITFOR 2016), which will bring together representatives of government, industry and ICT associations, as well as academics to analyse the latest proposals aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by the United Nations. 

The inter-governmental meeting, organised by ECLAC and Costa Rica’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications, has the support of the German Agency for International Cooperation and the European Commission. It will be broadcast live via the Internet on the Conference’s Web site at http://innovalac.cepal.org/2/en 

On September 13th, at the seminar ‘Innovation in a Digital World’, delegates from 15 countries will join representatives of companies in the digital ecosystem and of international organisations to debate the Internet’s disruptive effects on production, the on-demand economy, digital innovation and SMEs, infrastructure for hyper-connectivity, and competition and collaboration for leading digital transformation and innovation. 

Two documents will be launched at the event dubbed Science, Technology and Innovation in the Digital Economy. They are The Situation of Latin America and the Caribbean and the State of Broadband in Latin America and the Caribbean 2016, the annual report of ECLAC’s Regional Broadband Observatory. 

The Conference on Science, Innovation and ICTs was created in 2012 as a subsidiary body of ECLAC to promote the development and improvement of national policies, as well as bilateral, regional and international cooperation. The first meeting was held in Santiago, Chile, in June 2014. 

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Jamaican Investment Club Alpha Angels Score A Hit

Perfect pick! Montego Bay-based Alpha Angels made an impressive selection for its very first start-up investment - mSurvey. 

Just five months ago, Montego Bay-based Alpha Angels made an impressive selection for its very first start-up investment in mSurvey, which is a mobile survey platform. Now the high-growth tech start-up has won the attention and  banked investment from the investment arm of the Kenyan mobile network operator, Safaricom, known for the successful creation of mobile money M-PESA, with over 21 million customers and over US$20 billion of transactions. 

The company also secured capital from Cross Culture Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley, and other investors such as the CTO of Salesforce. mSurvey, founded by Caribbean national Kenfield Griffith, is the only global mobile-first research survey platform that uses SMS and mobile messaging technology to collect on-demand data from consumers. 

The CEO, who migrated from Montserrat to Kenya to find an unsaturated market for his business idea, created a scalable business in the African country which now boasts 3.1 million customer engagements. mSurvey was also featured in an article by the leading technology media hub, TechCrunch, which is a big win for the start-up who has clients like Harvard, McKinsey, Safaricom and Digicel. mSurvey is working on scaling to the Caribbean market and further grow its business. 

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C&WJ Minority Owners Vote Down Resolution In Protest & Demand Financial Transparency From Company Directors

Minority share-holders of Cable & Wireless Jamaica (C&WJ) on Wednesday defied the board of directors and voted against a standard resolution to set pay for auditor KPMG in order to make a wider point on transparency. 

Voting on resolution was subsequently adjourned for 30 days when C&WJ shareholders can vote via poll on the matter. The shareholders at the annual general meeting on Wednesday demanded independent verification of the heavily fluctuating multi-billion-dollar non-cash charges, which lead the company into losses. Annual losses at C&WJ once topped $20 billion back in 2012. 

It was a rare display of minority shareholders exercising their voting power at an AGM. "It's a win for minority shareholders for the moment," minority shareholder Orette Staple declared to the Financial Gleaner just after the adjournment of the AGM. 

As context, the resolutions to be voted on at AGMs are circulated to shareholders beforehand in the company's annual report, and votes on them tend to be mere formalities. However, the C&WJ 29th AGM will go down as the date minority shareholders took a stand - and held their ground in the face of push back from management. 

"We have not heard, to my knowledge, a frank and credible reason for changing the auditors other than you are vexed with the numbers. That's not good enough," said C&WJ Managing Director Garfield Sinclair. That led to a chorus of shareholders shouting "transparency". 

The auditors received payment of $53 million for the year ending March 2016, up from $50 million the previous, according to disclosures in the annual report. But the fee was not the matter of contention. 

At the core of the issue, is that the shareholders want the auditors or some other independent body to verify these non-cash expense charges, which violently fluctuate on an annual basis. 

Some shareholders questioned whether the auditors rigorously test these impairment and depreciation charges, or whether the charges are estimates that increasingly reflect opinion rather than fact. "How much of these assets that were written off are still active and functional," asked a shareholder, a Mr Minott, at the meeting. 

C&WJ, which trades as FLOW Jamaica and who's parent company C&W has been acquired by Liberty Global, posted its first annual profit in a decade at year end March 2016 due in part to these non-cash impairment charges (bundled as exceptional items) effectively shifting from an expense of $6.9 billion in 2014-15 towards income of $1.13 billion in 2015-16. 

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Presenter Profile

An IT Professional for more than 20 years and an entrepreneur for more than a decade, Russell Williams is the founder of,The IT Facility and has extensive experience as a Consultant, IT Trainer and facilitator and is happy to answer your questions. E-mail them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or follow him on Twitter @RwilliamsKN, G+ google.com/+RussellWilliamsKN and on facebook.com/Ru`ssellWilliamsKN

 

 

 

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