Trinidad & Tobago telecommunications provider bmobile began its first Connect @bmobile Technology Conference and Exposition at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad on Monday.
This first-of-its-kind conference and exposition in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region, differed from other technology conferences, as the design and format allowed industry stakeholders to actively participate and exchange ideas with leading global technology companies to facilitate the growth of ICT, managed services and data centre services.
Rakesh Goswami, TSTT’s executive vice president, Strategic Alliance, Enterprise and Tobago Operations, expanded on the objectives of hosting the conference: “The telecommunications industry is constantly evolving at rapid speeds and all users—operators, consumers and the business sector—are faced with daily challenges. Our Connect @bmobile Technology Conference and Exposition is a new experience which provides a rich exchange of ideas and solutions with multiple industry leaders from across the world, all focused on how an investment in technology will stimulate innovation, increase collaboration and drive growth, productivity and economic transformation towards national prosperity.”
Connect @bmobile began under the theme “Big Data and Innovations in Technology” Senior Technical Director, Product Innovation, and big data expert from AT&T, Learie Hercules, helped attendees discover how to use advanced analytics like any Fortune 500 company to grow their business globally.
Presentations by representatives from Google, eSource Capital Technologies Inc; Huawei, MITTEL, VmWare and AMITEIS’ brought awareness of real world and first-to-market applications that have empowered their businesses and catapulted them ahead in their respective fields.
3D Technology For Moruga Museum
A 3D Digitisation and Spherical Technology project produced by the University of St Andrews, UK, in conjunction with EULAC Virtual Workshops and presented through the cooperation of The University of the West Indies Museum, St Augustine campus and the National Museum and Art Gallery, was hosted at the Moruga Museum as part of a bigger project happening in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Facilitators Dr Karen Brown, Dr Allan Miller and Abeola Fabola, of the University of St Andrews, gave participants from four schools from the Moruga area hands-on experience in topics such as photogrammetry, laser scanning and structural lighting for creating digital representations of physical objects and spherical photography.
Pupils of Moruga Secondary, Cowen Hamilton Secondary, Princes Town East and Princes Town West expressed their enthusiasm for producing digital outputs representative of their heritage. As the workshop progressed, Eric Lewis, curator of the Moruga Museum, gave the pupils a historical and educational tour of the Moruga Museum and they particularly enjoyed learning about the Merikins and the fact that some of them are descendants of the Merikins.
They had a renewed respect for the Merikin elders of the community who were present at the workshop. They later spoke of using the knowledge gained in the 3D technology to promote their ancestry. During the workshop, artfacts from the Moruga Museum were selected and set up and the pupils were shown how to take the photographs using their smartphones and tablets.
Curator Lewis said that it was always a part of his objective that international museums would use the Moruga Museum as a database to show to the world.
“My hope is that more schools, universities and museums would come on board and use this as a research database. We need to expand all aspects of the museum, including the physical, not only to accommodate archaeological items but to facilitate local and international programmes such as this workshop here today.
Pushing The Value Of Science
Hon. Cardinal Warde, president of the Caribbean Diaspora for Science, Technology and Innovation, executive director of the Caribbean Science Foundation (CSF), and a professor of Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, grew up in Barbados.
He is therefore familiar with the Bajan folklore environment of yesteryear. Situations where young adults at play rode wooden scooters down sloping roads; made “guttaperks” and dung heaps; and hopped on and off travelling buses without falling.
Interestingly, though informal, science educators could make a case – if they so wished – that those pastimes experientially introduced students – and others – to the science and mathematics disciplines.
For example, persons who did not keep running after they hopped off a moving bus or, who did not gradually foot-break their scooter, often stumbled or fell flat on their faces because they disregarded their momentum – a law of science.
Those seemingly bygone era experiences informally connected youths to Science and Math but many perhaps did not know it. Now today, many school curricula in the United States of America have an interdisciplinary programme called STEM. In this approach, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are taught together and not separately.
Warde, a Yale graduate — also an inventor of 12 patents and faculty director of a six weeks intensive programme for gifted, under-represented minority high school seniors – is a leading advocate for the inclusion and promotion of STEM programmes in Caribbean schools.
“We need to create a new population and raise appreciation and awareness of STEM and its applications. As you know, science is still not seen by many students as cool. As governments seek to improve maths scores and reform education, we need to help them and push the envelope and make STEM a household name. I believe that journalists have a role to play if governments in the Caribbean region are to reach their national goals. I invite you to step out of your comfort zone and find the job niche that awaits you.”
In a CSF press release this week, STEM in the Caribbean received another boost when two two-day workshops for primary teachers were held at the Genesis Academy, Kingston and the Wexford Hotel, Montego Bay, in Jamaica. The workshops were possible by grant funding from the Embassy of the United States of America to Jamaica, as well as through the cooperation of the Ministry of Education of Jamaica.
Teaching tools include UNESCO-approved micro-science kits which emphasize observation and experimentation, while drawing on the child’s own knowledge. The goal of using the teaching tools is to introduce the basics of the scientific method, and promote student interest and excitement in science and engineering. Similar workshops were held in Antigua, Barbados and St Vincent.
Late last November, the government of Antigua gave notice to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Disputes Settlement Body (DSB) that, if the United States did not reach “an appropriate and beneficial settlement” in relation to a legal adjudication made previously in its favour, it would act to recover the revenue it has lost.
At the root was a decision by the US government to invoke US federal laws namely, the Wire Act, the Travel Act, and Illegal Gambling Business Act to halt gaming companies incorporated in Antigua, and others, from providing such services on a cross border basis into the US.
In response, Antigua brought a WTO case against the US for the economic damage caused, and for violating its international obligations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The WTO’s arbitration panel found in Antigua’s favour and found that the US action had deprived Antigua of trade revenues.
In doing so, the arbitrator agreed to allow it to lift US intellectual property protection on up to US$21 million annually on, for example, copyrighted music, movies or books, in a manner that would enable the Antigua government to retain the royalties that would have otherwise gone to their US creators.
However, when it became apparent that the US was not prepared to reach a reasonable financial settlement, it informed the Disputes Settlement Body at its November 2016 meeting that it was prepared legally to enforce the suspension of copyright on the sale of US intellectual property, as allowed for by the WTO’s dispute settlement ruling of January 2013.
Grace Kennedy Brings Mobile Payments To Jamaica
Grace Kennedy Payment Services recently received a license and approval from the Bank of Jamaica to bring a mobile money solution to the island.
The service in question, Grace Kennedy Money Services (GKMS), is set to be offered at multiple locations around the island. It underwent a fairly wide-scale pilot project, with over 250 internal customers taking part over the course of nine months, and the early results were sufficiently positive to allow for expansions and official licensing.
GKMS operations will allow users to not only pay bills via the service, but also buy goods and services at retail outlets, add credit to mobile devices, and even engage in peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers among other services, which should allow it to fit nicely into several different industries on the island itself.
Those interested will be able to put the service to use starting this month, with GraceKennedy chief executive Don Wehby noting that the service would put Jamaica ahead of several other countries in the region.
Wehby further commented “GK MPay is a world-class service which makes use of the best technology in order to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for a range of transactions. This innovative product will help increase financial inclusion, while giving the financially savvy another safe, convenient way to transact business.”
Mobile payments have a great potential to add to a country’s ability to attract business interests and bolster internal customer experiences as well. It’s good news to see a new mobile payment option arrive on the scene, though it may not be all that helpful in the end.
C-Safe App by Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT) Being Utilised
C-SAFE; the free anti- crime app from the group, Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT), has already been downloaded more than 3,000 times and is used on a regular basis daily.
“C-SAFE has been downloaded about 3,500 times since it’s December 22 (2016) launch. The app is being accessed at least two to eight times a day, which means it’s being frequently utilised. So the usage is probably close to 30,000 in terms of the amount of times individuals are going on.” said co-founder, Gillian Wall.
They’re looking at tips, police alerts on theft, missing persons etc. People are also utilising the app to submit reports on electricity issues, water shortages, representation type issues, because there’s also that element,” Wall shared.
Users have the option to submit reports without including their personal information, such as gender, age and location. Regarding what the app is most frequently used to do, Ms. Wall told Newsday “the majority of the reports so far have been crime-related (as well as) water and electricity related. Those reports are all going to the relevant bodies.”
The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, through its Cyber Incident Response Team (CIRT), trained 80 Government Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts. Senior Advisor to the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Trevor Forrest, speaking at the opening of the workshop in Kingston, said that one of the imperatives of the Government is to create a knowledge-based society, which involves the increased use of technology.
Sponsored by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) and the
Ministry, the training workshop is aimed at enhancing the education of these ICT professionals in basic cyber standards that should be adopted.
Mr. Forrest, said as the use of technology increased, that with “This increased use of technology not only brings increased opportunities for economic development and growth, but also increased opportunities for cyber crime,” he noted.
Mr. Forrest said that as criminals get greater exposure to technology, there will be a rise in cases, including identity and credit card information theft. “This is the reason cyber security and cyber standards are of such great importance, and also the reason for the workshop,” he explained.
Caribbean Telecommunications Union To Establish A Caribbean Collaboration Committee
In an effort to define and align the strategic ICT agenda in the region, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) brought several regional ICT stakeholders to meet in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this week.
With representation from across the sector including regulatory, Government and the technology industry operators. The forum’s highlight was the establishment of a new Caribbean ICT Collaboration Committee with a mandate to make recommendations to Caribbean Governments on key ICT issues affecting the region, which seems to have the approval of the telecom’s operators.
The Chairman of the newly formed Committee, Mr Lucien Blackmoore, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Science and Technology, Dominica, gave his commitment to this collaborative approach and looked forward to working with all the stakeholders to enable ICT development in the region.
Vice Chairman of the Caribbean ICT Collaboration Committee and CANTO Chairman, Mr Julian Wilkins commended the CTU on the establishment of this initiative. He added that CANTO was delighted to be part of this historic event and he looks forward to collaborating and cooperating with ICT stakeholders. He concluded that this is a great opportunity to make progress on a number of key ICT issues affecting the Caribbean.
More Interesting were Digicel’s comments. “With the ongoing ICT revolution, combined with the forces of globalization, there is no doubt that a collective approach is needed for advancing ICT-enabled development in the Caribbean—a long-standing and key area of focus for Digicel,” said Kieran Meskell, group head of Regulatory Affairs for Digicel, Caribbean and Central America.
Bahamas Hosts Regional Infrastructure Forum
Finance and media leaders met in the Bahamas on this week to discuss and launch a new infrastructure forum for the Caribbean.
There are significant challenges across the region to improving infrastructures. As Dr Warren Smith, then incoming President of the Caribbean Development Bank stated more than two years ago, “Over the next 10 years, some US$30 billion will be required to modernize and enhance the efficiency of the power, transportation, telecommunications, and water and waste-water sectors”.
This need will only increase as current infrastructures continue to age, but the challenges to address these problems are significant. Issues include viability, project risk and financing.
To help address this widespread concern, CIBC FirstCaribbean has joined forces with IJGlobal, the infrastructure arm of Euromoney Institutional Investor, and New Energy Events, the host of the annual Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF).
They launched the Caribbean Infrastructure Finance Forum (CARIF) in Nassau, The Bahamas earlier this week to begin addressing these concern.
According to Jon Whiteaker, Editor-In-Chief of IJGlobal, “Governments in the region are showing that they are willing but they need to ramp up dialogue with the private sector in order to achieve the efficient delivery of projects and good value for their investments. CARIF is the ideal forum for those discussions to take place.”
In October, we reported that Jamaican start-up BookFusion won the Inter-American Development Bank’s award for “Start-up with the Most Growth Potential”. Since then the company has set out to realise that potential and the having Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Information as a customer can only be a boost!
The Ministry has launched their digital library on BookFusion, enabling Schools, students, teachers & parents island wide access to the entire content of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) free of cost. The Digital Library consists of over 70 educational and reading resources at no cost to readers.
Together, BookFusion and the Ministry aim to increase students’ access to content in and out of school, while providing sustainable digital solutions for the distribution of eBooks and digital content to students, teachers and educational institutions throughout the country.
Google Signs A Deal With Cuba's Telecommunications Monopoly
Google signed an agreement with the Cuban government on Monday granting Internet users there quicker access to its branded content.
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, signed the deal with Mayra Arevich Marin, president of state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. It grants Cubans speedy access to the Google Global Cache network, which stores content from sites like Gmail and YouTube on servers located closer to end users.
Currently, Internet access is limited to slow and expensive Wi-Fi hot spots, so it was not clear how the deal would actually impact service in the short term.
“This deal allows ETECSA to use our technology to reduce latency by caching some of our most popular high bandwidth content like YouTube videos at a local level,” a Google statement said.
“This may improve reception of cached materials, but not for example email which depends on local bandwidth,” a local telecommunications technician said, requesting anonymity for fear of losing his job.
Yahoo Breaks Its Own Record Data Breach
In late September, Yahoo disclosed that back in 2014 they suffered what was then the biggest data loss in history when 500M customer records were accessed. This week, they informed the world that that number has bettered by a 2013 breach in which 1 Billion records were stolen.
So what does this tell us beyond the fact that Yahoo’s security seems to have more holes than a tea bag? Well it underscores the value of the data being held by internet companies, and the lengths criminals are prepared to go to get the goldmine of data users are sometimes not only required to give, but willing give up.
The key take away that you should hold onto is you and your data are a very valuable commodity so guard it closely. You should therefore be very circumspect when it comes to giving over personal information, and be very careful what real information you give. For security tips follow the link in the show notes.
Free and Open Source Software, or FOSS allows for the free use and modification of software developed by the Open Source Community. Such software drives much of the internet through applications and operating systems such as Apache, Linux, Mozilla’s FireFox and others. More recently the software behemoth Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation.
The Government of Guyana through the eGovernment Agency in the Ministry of Public Telecommunications has initiated a process to develop a policy on the use of Free and Open Source Software within the public sector.
To that end the eGovernment Agency has published the draft policy document for interested persons and stakeholders to submit comments. The deadline for feedback is Friday 9th December, 2016. A link to the draft policy is available in the show notes.
The document is available on GitHub at https://github.com/Vidyaratha/RFC_draftFOSSpolicy
Jamaica Moves Ahead With Plans To Create Single ICT Regulator
The Government of Jamaica is moving ahead with plans to establish a single regulator for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
Jamaica’s Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, said the legislative and regulatory changes necessary to facilitate the move are expected to be brought to Parliament in 2017.
He noted that the objective is to ensure cohesion across the sector “thereby creating a more modern fit-for-purpose framework”. The Minister was speaking at the Spectrum Management Authority’s (SMA) 15th Anniversary Awards Dinner in New Kingston.
Meanwhile, he noted the urgency for Jamaica to make the transition from analogue to digital transmission. He pointed out that a number of countries have already made the switch, enabling them to deliver more high-quality content in order to meet market demand.
“In the case of the United States, this switch has helped to free up valuable broadcast spectrum for public-safety communications by groups such as the police, fire departments and rescue squads,” he pointed out.
ECTEL Reviewing Universal Service Fund Regulations
All around the world governments levy a small tax on the revenues of telecommunications companies, which are credited to a “Universal Service Fund”. The purpose of this fund is to finance projects to make telecommunications service available to underserved communities and parts of the country where, for commercial reasons the telecom’s companies might not ordinarily serve.
The Eastern Caribbean is no exception, however there has been growing concern not surprisingly mainly from among the service providers themselves, but also other stakeholders that these funds are accumulating but seldom used.
During a break at ECTEL’s 77th Board Meeting in Basseterre St. Kitts, ECTEL Managing Director Mr. Embert Charles was asked for an overview of the changes to USF regulations.
“ECTEL is obligated under the treaty to provide continues advice and guidance on the use of the Universal Service Funds, these are essentially national funds set up by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) so they are responsible for the management of the fund. But what we do is get involved in the process of setting rules and policies that are harmonised across the ECTEL member states.” Mr. Charles said.
He explained that ECTEL had begun a consultation on proposed changes to the regulations governing the USF.
“In essence some of the work, speaks to adjusting the framework and parameters for who can contribute to the fund and defining what is Universal Service as well as who can contribute and actually access the funds. We had challenges in the past that because of the limited interpretation of the rules by some of the NTRCs there was a very slow roll-out of programmes and projects under the fund. That was criticised from the point of view that there were a lot of projects that could be done, but only the service providers could access the funds.”
The Managing Director was aware that there was criticism of the fund, but pointed out that they had to observe the regulations.
“We had challenges in the past that because of the limited interpretation of the rules by some of the NTRCs there was a very slow roll-out of programmes and projects under the fund. That was criticised from the point of view that there were a lot of projects that could be done, but only the service providers could access the funds.”
“But those were rules at the time, we could not break the rules, unless the rules change we have to go by the rules. But there can be some latitude and some NTRCs have done that and we advice others to follow cautiously.”