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.

To find out more information about this programme, please visit our website at https://coding.cariri4.com/or contact Alicia Williams at 309-8651 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

(EXCERPT OF FULL RELEASE)

(Link to original)

Kickstarting the DIA Youth Innovation Lab in Trinidad and Tobago

 

The Youth Innovation Lab in Trinidad will impact 200 young people in 2021, providing state-of-the-art innovation and
technology training, access to collaboration spaces and more, promoting STEM education and entrepreneurship.

 

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago and Washington, DC June 8, 2021-  The Trust for the Americas, in partnership with the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) and Citi Foundation, hosted a virtual event to announce and promote the new Trinidad & Tobago DIA Lab. With this DIA Lab, The Trust for the Americas implements activities to promote development for the first time in this Caribbean country. Young innovators and disruptive entrepreneurs will create low-cost, high-impact, high-quality innovation solutions that generate affordable access and livelihood opportunities for their communities on a long-term sustainable basis.

The following authorities participated in the virtual event hosted by CARIRI and Citi Trinidad and Tobago (link): The Honorable Minister Foster Cummings - Ministry of Youth Development and National Service, Mrs. Patricia De Leon Henry - National Director, National Social Development Programme, Mr. Renzo Angeles - Vice President and Cash Market Head Trinidad and Tobago in Citi Foundation, Mrs. Danielle Rampersad - Vice President and General Counsel in Citi Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Mitchell De Silva - Trinidad and Tobago Citi Country Officer, Mr. Dwayne Gutzmer - Chief Executive Officer in the Institute of Law & Economics Jamaica, Ms. Shanae Owen Project Officer in the Institute of Law & Economics Jamaica, Ms. Marina Piper - OAS Country Officer, representatives from The Trust for the Americas, CARIRI, Citi Foundation, and The Institute of Law & Economics.

According to the Inter-American Development Bank, approximately one in five youth between the ages of 15 to 24 in the Caribbean are not in school nor part of the workforce. This project will trigger empowerment and innovation among Caribbean youth by giving them digital and entrepreneurial skills, crucial elements for economic growth.

CARIRI’s Human Resource Manager, Ms. Denise Ferguson declared: "Building capacity in Trinidad and Tobago has always been at the forefront of CARIRIs mandate. This new initiative will allow us to expand our scope into an area that allows at-risk youth to become entrepreneurs, ideators, and innovators”.

Mitch De Silva, Trinidad & Tobago Citi Country Officer, followed the incredible virtual tour and presentation and during his speech, declared: “We are proud to be part of the development of strong sustainable communities and Citi Trinidad & Tobago is pleased to be part of Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress global initiative to prepare young people with the career readiness tools and opportunities needed to thrive in today’s economy. We believe this will help them build an entrepreneurial mindset and acquire leadership skills which will ultimately benefit their families, communities and the country.”

In 2016, Citi Foundation and The Trust launched the DIA Urban Labs for Youth Innovation in Jamaica. From 2016 to 2020, over 1,350 youth received training and access to state-of-the-art technology to solve challenges in their communities. In that context, The Institute of Law & Economics shared experiences and lessons learned from the DIA Lab in Jamaica.

Linda Eddleman, CEO of The Trust for the Americas, mentioned that “this is a very important day at The Trust because we are launching the first program in Trinidad and Tobago in our 20-year history. Working with CARIRI and with the support of Citi Foundation and the Organization of American States, we know that this project will help change the lives of many young people, and in turn positively impact their communities. Specifically, we seek to provide young entrepreneurs with state-of-the-art technology training, collaboration spaces, specialized curricula, mentorship, and financial resources for their social and economic ventures.”

Godiva Golding, a former participant of the DIA Urban Lab in Jamaica, shared her success story and talked about how the DIA Lab in Jamaica impacted her life positively and that of his community. Ms. Godiva Golding mentioned: “Just this sort of support that they provided in terms of pitching, the mentorship, the connections
that have been built, have really helped us to move us from a space of simply existing and having an idea to constantly bringing it to reality.”

At the end of the event, Rodrigo Iriani, Senior Program Manager, DIA, and CARIRI’s Senior Business Development Officer, Laura Da’Breau, made the official launch of the Youth Innovation Lab. Rodrigo Iriani concluded: "DIA is about empowering citizens for social change through collective intelligence. I encourage all of you today to participate: public officials, youth, academic institutions, international agencies; a multi-stakeholder approach is key for success. This is about building an ecosystem to achieve transformation."

The Trinidad & Tobago DIA Lab will improve the lives of Trinidadian youth, allowing them to learn highly-demanded technological skills and develop disruptive solutions that would benefit their communities. During the event, the audience visited the Lab facilities through a virtual tour that highlighted the benefits technology provides to empower young people. More information about the lab will be posted on our website and social media platforms of @trust4americas

 

PRESS RELEASE

 


On Friday 19th February 2021, the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) hosted the Grand Reveal and Prize Giving Cereomy for its AR/VR Challenge.


The winner was revealed as Roam Reality which was developed by Arielle Du Quesnay, Zwede Hewitt and Mahmoud Mattan. Roam Reality is a game created to mirror the popular Pokemon Go in a local context. RoamTT, the foundation brand for Roam Reality, has carved a space in the adventure hunt realm. The core brand has also developed a fanbase & market of outdoor enthusiasts in T&T and is well known amongst visiting tourists.


Speaking at the event, Senator the Honorable Hassel Bacchus, Minister in the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation said that he was quite pleased with the work that he has seen CARIRI do and has challenged the Institute to continue to carve out a niche for itself in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) space. The Minister went on to state that ‘this new world of AR and VR will definitely become a part of the way we interact with various systems and programmes as they have so many applications. Apart from the games, leisure and entertainment sectors, AR and VR have now become a staple of many other sectors including e-commerce and retail, as you would have seen during the course of the pandemic – the whole online shopping experience is being re-thought both locally and internationally to create a more interactive experience for the user.’


CARIRI’s Chairman, Mr Hayden Ferreira echoed the Minister’s call and stated that ‘when COVID-19 happened, CARIRI had to rethink its strategy for idea generation and came up with new programmes to continue encouraging persons to submit their ideas to the project. It is because of restrictions in movement imposed due to COVID-19, the team predicted that the demand for Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) solutions is likely to increase therefore this Challenge was devised in order to generate interest in this technology locally and we were not disappointed. The range of submissions from every field was impressive and we were pleasantly surprised by the level of interest that we received’.


CARIRI launched the AR/VR Challenge in November 2020 and the quality of the applications was impressive. Judges chose ten teams to move forward and they did a 5 minute ‘elevator pitch’ via Zoom. Following this, five finalists were chosen and they were given one month to develop a business proposal to tell the judges how they planned to commercialise their solution. In January 2021, again, the participants had to make a presentaiton to the judging committee via Zoom and from there the winner was chosen.


Two of the judges on the panel were directly sourced from AMCHAM Trinidad and their Digital Transformation Committee. Mr Kiran Deosingh of Ramps Logistics and Mr Jimmy Berkeley of AVASANT, both took up the challenge to be a part of the panel.


The first prize for the CARIRI AR/VR Challenge is $40,000.00 worth of services to push the winning solution through to commercialization. However, due to the level of development and the commitment of the other four teams, CARIRI has decided to work with all the finalists to get their solutions to market.


The other AR/VR solutions are: Carnival Universe created by Candice Lela and Rollywood; Konnect the Kids developed by Dane Ackbarali, Sheldon Singh and Cindy Ramsook; Planet Runner created by Derek Haqq and Jean Paul Haqq and Explore Tobago – Underwater by Irwin Williams and Ikechi Griffith.

 

Senator the Honorable Hassel Bacchus, Minister in the Ministry of Public Administration and Digital Transformation

 

The Judging Committee (l-r): Mr Kiran Deosingh, Mr Miguel Andrews, Mr Che Achoy, Mr Jimmy Berkeley and Mr Hayden Charles

 

 

The finalists of CARIRI's AR/VR Challenge