CARIBBEAN YOUTH ADVANCES POST-COVID RECOVERY EFFORTS WITH INTERNATIONAL HACKATHON
The virtual competition invited tech-savvy innovators from Belize, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago to develop new ideas that support the COVID-19 recovery response.
July 28th, 2021. The Trust for the Americas, an NGO affiliated to the Organization of American States (OAS), keeps nurturing innovation and Open Government in the region with the competition “Byte the π: Caribbean Hackathon”. This virtual hackathon invited public sector and civil society participants from Belize, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago, to use Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) to develop disruptive ideas that help foster post COVID-19 recovery efforts.
The event (link) was organized in collaboration with the Developing the Caribbean (DevCa) initiative, The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) of Trinidad and Tobago, the Institute of Law and Economics (ILE) of Jamaica, the Statistical Institute of Belize (SIB), the Ministry of Youth, Sports & E-Governance of Belize, The Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE), The Belize Tourism Board (BTB), and the OAS National Office in Belize; with the financial support of Citi Foundation and the United States of America Embassy in Belmopan.
The hackathon focused on the “Open Response + Open Recovery for COVID-19" campaign, which seeks to highlight Open Government fundamental values, such as transparency, participation, inclusion, and accountability. All crucial for the recovery phase. The 60 participants, divided into 18 teams, were encouraged to use the given 48 hours to come up with solutions that address everyday local challenges in the following two areas of work: economic recovery through tourism, and access to health care, in particular COVID-19 testing and vaccination facilities.
“COVID 19 has presented the world with significant challenges and opportunities. However, as the world begins to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, through vaccinations and subsidence of restrictions, a new trial faces us: economic recovery. Hackathons have historically provided a means of sparking collaboration between problem seekers and solvers. In resource constrained environments, facilitating these interactions and conversations can be challenging and therefore require creative approaches to motivate stakeholders to have a conversation”, stated Mr. Miguel Andrews, CARIRI Calibration Lab Manager.
“We believe that there are many opportunities in the current digital ecosystem to face these economic and health care challenges, and the work done by the participants was proof of that. Also, the young hackers, theorizers and doers were benefited from expert coaching and mentoring, industry expert guidance and curated domain open dataset starter kits to assist in their solution development. With the DIA – Democratizing Innovation in the Americas program, we aim to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship by enabling Caribbean youth to create community improvement solutions integrating ICTs in a virtual, safe and collaborative environment.”, shared Rodrigo Iriani, Senior Program Manager of DIA at The Trust for the Americas.
A panel of judges, formed by Mrs. Alexia Peralta, incoming Director for the E-Governance and Digitalization Unit in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and E-Governance of Belize; Mr. Leroy Almendarez, Director of the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE); Mr. Luiz Octavio Coimbra, OAS Representative in Belize; Mrs. Gena Foster, Medical Doctor for the Ministry of Health and Wellness in Jamaica; Mr. Jeevan Persad, member of the Faculty of Engineering at The University of The West Indies (UWI); Keyan Murdock, Customer Relation Personnel for First Global Bank Jamaica; Mrs. Bryanna Chang, Field Service Analyst for Nestle Corporation Jamaica; Mr. Dale Wilson, Chief of Information of Teleios Systems Limited; and Mrs. Kemby Ross Jones, Founder of Rent My Tutor, assessed every presented pitch based on technologies used, utility, target audience and reach, problem solving capability, novelty, visual appeal and financial sustainability.
To recognize the hard work, creativity and proactivity of participants, cash prizes of USD 800 were awarded to the first place of Belize and Jamaica, whereas USD 625 were granted to the winner of Trinidad and Tobago.
- 1st Place in Jamaica: Team UCC designed Access to Health, a web application that would allow users to book appointments for COVID-19 testing and vaccination, and to download the results.
- 1st Place in Belize: Aesthetics Marketing Solutions pitched CaribTravels, a web page and app that alerts tourists interested in visiting Caribbean countries on the changes regarding the country’s travel policy during the pandemic and regulated events.
- 1st Place in Trinidad and Tobago: TT Vaccine Hub, by the team Hack O Holics, presented a platform to sign up for vaccination, make appointments for medical house visits, professional guidance for people affected by COVID-19 and daily SMS updates.
Virtual Youth Innovation Training
The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) and Republic Bank Limited (RBL) under its Power to Make a Difference programme have launched a new and exciting free education programme for the students of the nation called Virtual Youth Innovation Training.
CARIRI and RBL have partnered to continue to educate our nation’s youths virtually in a time of a global pandemic on the fundamentals of Coding and Mobile App Development. This programme is designed to provide young people with a modular introduction to coding using the principles of mobile app and game development. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, it introduces the Computer Science field, the fundamentals of coding and the careers which can be pursued.
This programme, which is free to participants, will engage 600 youths in schools from across Trinidad and Tobago via online training to be able to understand coding and its importance in creating and building various applications, some levels also include the steps that it takes to generate and commercialize an app.
CARIRI and RBL both understand that coding is a vital skill to have especially as we move rapidly into a global community that has embraced the 4th Industrial Revolution. One of the key benefits of learning coding is that it gives students both the tools and the idea that there are many ways to solve a problem, whilst at the same time sparking curiosity, encouraging teamwork and enabling communication. Coding also requires students to think outside of the box, thereby honing their creative skills. Solving difficult problems require creative solutions, a highly sought-after skill which is often difficult to teach in more traditional classroom subjects.
Registration will begin on 15th June 2021 and the programme will commence on 26th July 2021. The programme will engage students at two different levels: Level 1 - Basic and Intermediate and Level 2 - Advanced.
The programme will be executed online via CARIRI's FIT (Future of Innovative Training) portal where the participants will be granted credentials to the course so they can choose to log in at their convenience to access and complete the material within a specific time period. CARIRI will host a live session after each level to ensure that participants fully understand the concepts. This will be supplemented by a support period of two days which will follow to respond to students' queries and provide any other assistance. Thereafter, participants will have an evaluation and upon success will be awarded a Certificate of Achievement.
Since 2018, CARIRI has been successfully executing ICT educational programmes and have trained approximately 2,000 students thus far, both in-person and virtually. As we engage with the new normal, CARIRI is committed to finding innovative ways to provide support and training for our nation's youth.