Barbados is Preparing for the Future – Coding and Robotics

Some blogs posted to Barbados Underground through the years have highlighted the importance of the private and public sectors working together to ensure we allocate adequate resources to maintain a robust IT infrastructure. It is no secret government websites in Barbados are easy targets from hackers. And in recent weeks a few private companies have been penetrated with ransomware attacks severely compromising delivery of services to the public. Events as described serve to undermine our reputation as a fit and proper environment to live productive lifes.

A solid IT infrastructure is the pillar upon which an effective digital transformation strategy can be launched and administered. We have to prepare and equip our people to expertly navigate the challenges ahead. This is a must if we are to sustain a way of life we have become accustomed and honour the obligation as a responsible society to educate our children to be able to compete in the global market place.

Our future growth relies on competitiveness and innovation, skills and productivity… and these in turn rely on the education of our people.

Julia Gillard

 

A positive from the effect of the pandemic (Covid 19) currently razing global economies is that it serves as an health check to measure the effectiveness of IT systems everywhere. Building and maintaining fit for purpose IT infrastructure is an expensive undertaking. Most of the software and hardware inputs have to be procured from external vendors with local players having no choice to be price takers. Importantly is nurturing the interest and make training available to the HR element. For small island developing states like Barbados it will be important for a larger slice of the national budget to be allocated to modernizing IT infrastructure. The same for the private sector. The competitiveness of Barbados hinges on public and private sector harmonizing strategies to ensure the local environment is conducive to transacting business.

Independents will agree the incumbent government has brought a focus to the area of technology and innovation. Government is the significant player in the local market and must lead to ensure a greater effort to move towards diversifying and growing efficiencies in the economy. We have seen quick wins with the facility to pay and access online important services BUT there is a long way to go.

 

It is encouraging to the blogmaster therefore to witness the effort to reform the education system and to improve the use of technology in an innovative a manner as is practical given our limited resources. There are so many priorities to attend to. Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw speaking in parliament last Tuesday revealed that the government was going ahead in setting up an Education Reform Unit (ERU). The unit is mandated to lead reform to the curriculum to make it relevant for a 21st century mode of operating – fit for purpose. The transformation roadmap includes targeting from early childhood to tertiary level.

Watch the YouTube starting at 2hrs:24mins to view Minister Bradshaw making a request to fund the ERU until March 2020

One of Barbados’ favourite academics residing in the diaspora (and this is important) has been invited to work with the ERU to speed up reforms – Professor Cardinal Warde is a Barbadian professor of Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the best learning institutions in the field of engineering and technology in North America if the reviews are to be believed.

Some of us were excited to participate last weekend in a virtual discussion hosted by the ministry of education on Coding and Robotics in Schools. Professor Warde participated also Jason Stephany, a student of Harrison College who created the Quickorderz app, we have young people doing amazing things on the 2×3 island. See the blog posted last week that featured another HC student Maria Marshall .

Technology affords citizens who want to effectively participate in our democracy to be informed about the issues. Here is the link to the discussion held last weekend.

Discussion hosted by the Ministry of Education

Imagine teaching coding and robotics in our schools.

Something to be excited about as we prepare- some will say a little late to the party- for the future.

We are living in exciting times where opportunities are there for the taking!

B for Blockchain, B for Bitcoin, B for Bubble, B for Bust!

The following New York Times article is of interest given the focus on emerging blockchain and related technology in Barbados – Blogmaster

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Last year around this time, a toy called a cryptokitty sold for $170,000. A real estate agent remade himself as CoinDaddy, producing cryptocurrency-themed music videos. The man behind a company called Ripple became for a moment richer than Mark Zuckerberg. Kids barely out of high school were buying Lamborghinis because of a crypto meme. Experts went on CNBC to say Bitcoin was going to reach $100,000 per coin.

For a few sweet months of 2018, all of Silicon Valley was wrapped up in frenzied easy money and a fantasy of remaking the world order with cryptocurrencies and a related technology called the blockchain. A flood of joy hit the Bay Area. The New York Times ran with the trend in an article with the headline “Everyone Is Getting Hilariously Rich and You’re Not.” It was temporarily true.

And just as the American public had been given every possible blockchain explainer that could be written, the whole thing collapsed. The bubble popped.

Today the price of Bitcoin — $19,783 last December — is $3,810. Litecoin was $366 a coin; it’s now $30. Ethereum was $1,400 in January; today it’s $130.

 

One recent crypto holiday party offered “broken Lambo dreams and an open bar to drown your sorrows in.”

This December closes out cryptocurrency’s most exciting year, ending in a terrible, sober headache of a winter.

Read full New York Times article  – Remember Bitcoin? Some Investors Might Want to Forget

TEN Habitat Launches Coding School

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The blogmaster congratulates BU blogger Peter Lawrence Thompson and Ten Habitat for launching a Coding School in Barbados. From all reports it is the first of its kind in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Well done!

Related links:

You can see information in these two news articles.

Time to Build Barbados Silicon Valley

Four transformational truths are Timing, Innovation, Strategy and CollaborationThe Elements of Transformation Strategy

There is the proven that individuals and businesses who continually adapt to the environment in which they operate will likely succeed. If we try to fit how the local public sector has been managing its business compared to the private sector and the world it gives currency to the use of the word anachronistic. Prime Minister Mia Mottley has been a frequent user of the word of late.

Unfortunately as part of government’s objective to modernize processes in the public sector, hundreds of low level, low skilled workers have been retrenched. Understandably concerned Barbadians have inquired why send home workers from the bottom if the exercise is about cutting cost? We have to protect the most vulnerable and we will be holding the government to its word that BERT has an adequate safety net included.

Honest Barbadians will admit  however if the public service is to operate efficiently in the current environment there must be a job redesign. We have listened to successive governments braying about improving business facilitation. It is not the fault of the workers although the blogmaster will suggest this is where trade unions- the workers representative- have failed in the last 25 years to strategically add value to the process of nation building.

It is an indictment on the leadership of Barbados that in 2018 government departments still record transactions in ledgers- documents still require the ‘lick’ of a stamp. The blogmaster supports the requirement to urgently transform from the analogue to the digital. Leveraging technology to efficiently deliver services is a no-brainer.  What is difficult to understand is how come successive Barbados governments have invested billions in education per capita and lag scores of other countries that have expended less!

During a recent press conference Sir Hiliary and Eudine Barriteau of the University of the West Indies (UWI) highlighted that the regional university was ranked 591 out of the 1,258 in the  Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. Of interest is that both of them touched on the ‘technology and innovation park‘ which is promised to open in Bridgetown in January 2019.

In the link provided we are informed the facility will house classes to support a Bsc. Software Engineering degree programme and also technology start-up bushiness to conduct research and development in conjunction with students at the UWI. She also revealed that talks have started with Gabriel Abed of Bitt Inc about supporting new tech start ups.  Beckles also shared this is being done with the cooperation of Chinese Universities.

In BU’s most recent blog – Senator Rawdon Adams Sobering Intervention in the Debt Restructure Debate  Adams asked what kind of Barbados do we need to build now that we have dismantled what was to deliver on the kind of life we want (words to this effect).
Barrow presided over an agrarian economy, Tom Adams shifted to a mix of agrarian and services and Owen Arthur went the whole hog by switching out to a services economy. Given the suspicion how the world views jurisdictions that provide services for international business companies there is clearly an urgent requirement to incorporate new business lines to diversify and hopefully spur economic growth. Feedback so far is that the RERE programme is only a baby step in the right direction, it has to go a lot further.  Making Bridgetown a smart city is a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) manifesto promise. Ronald Jones had responsibility for Human Development and innovation. What was achieved in this regard is not worth mentioning. Pushing more ‘coding‘ in schools is a national imperative.
Although mentioning China is a hot button word for many- a hegemonist is a hegemonist- a look at how it has been integrating technology to create opportunities for its people is instructive.

 

Well Done Bizzy!

Prime Minister Mia Mottley revealed yesterday that the government was in discussions with a local charitable trust to implement a program to train the youth of Barbados to write computer code, web design and other technology related programs. She was at the time addressing a standing room only Barbados Chamber of Commerce luncheon. She proposed that the program will be delivered from one of the many abandoned IDC buildings.

In response to the news local businessman Bizzy Williams immediately offered to fit the IDC building selected with photovoltaic panels and donate payments earned from the energy sold to Barbados Light & Power to assist with financing the initiative. The blogmaster is pleased this government is focused on educating and equipping our youth to compete in a world that has been turned on its head by technology. Especially coming a few days after the revelation that the prime minister’s office did not have Internet access up to a few days ago.

Say what you will, Bizzy is always prepared to assist the party in power!

Watch the full address.

 

Notes From a Native Son : Digital Poverty is the Worst form of Poverty in a Technological Age

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

Introduction:
Today, Friday, is the 15th birthday of Google – Happy Birthday. It is hard to imagine that the new technology which drives our lives has only been around since the early 1990s. Almost everything we do, every activity we undertake, is now driven by some form of technology, in a way that was unimaginable all those years ago. It is only when we get in to silly conversations about having learned to type on a typewriter that we realise that not many young people in our offices even know what a typewriter is. When you tell them that, as late as the 1970s, to make an overseas call one had to book the call through the telephone exchange and the operator would call back hours later to put you through to friends and relatives in Barbados, people think you are making it up. Now our lives are dominated by smart phones, which are not just mobile (cell) phones, but are mini computers capable of doing everything that a personal computer can do. Land lines are now the reserve of the massive amounts of data that flow around the globe every second, doubling three years. It is only when you come to a society such as Barbados that you fully realise the hidden dimensions of digital poverty, and what this will mean for the next generation if the government and private enterprise do not make an urgent attempt to drag Barbados kicking and screaming in to the modern age.

Technological Efficiencies:
One of the great disappointments was that as the global and regional banking and economic crises impacted that a radical programme of digitisation did not take place across government. The initial cost may have been prohibitive, but the savings over the next five to ten years would more than have paid for any such spending. New technology would not only make government department with synergies work more efficiently together, but it would have transformed the entirety of government, reducing transaction costs, straight through processing for basic services, and improving the quality of service to the public in ways they have never experienced. I will give only two examples of these synergies and how technology could improve the quality of service: by linking the land registration department with the land tax office, staff and customers would have a service that in many ways would be reduced to seconds, rather than the system we have at present. By allowing staff and customers such facilities as read-only, to make only basic changes such as correct spelling of names and addresses, and with certain managers having appropriate permissions to alter data, would result in a massive improvement. Or, by linking the registry if births, marriages and deaths files with the Archives department (for older certificates) could mean a same day, or even an hourly service, for customers. Why should they have to make a special journey to a department in Black Rock, two miles from the Court buildings, to get hold of a certificate that could be accessed online and printed out within seconds?

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It’s an ICT World: Further Information About Linux …

Linux - open source OS

Linux – open source OS

Submitted by Sid Boyce as a comment to the Barbados Cyber Security: Recommendations from a Bajan Cyber Warrior blog. BU has highlighted the submission because it gives a lucid insight into the world in which we have to compete for the foreseeable future. This is how literacy is defined in the new world in which we live. It is regrettable that the Barbados Growth and Development Strategy document 2013 – 2020 makes failing mention of earthmoving ICT initiatives to help drive economic growth.

If you use a Smart TV, a Dreambox, an Android Phone or tablet, a fridge, own a new car or simply using the entertainment system on a flight they are using Linux. The Raspberry Pi and almost all embedded systems run Linux. The majority of the internet backbone runs on Linux, so it’s not just a niche operating system. It’s also where the highest paying computer jobs are on offer.

One of the real benefits is the educational value. Besides being free as in both freedom and free beer, it’s of benefit to anyone wanting to learn the internals of the system unlike Windows where get only what Microsoft damn well gives you with no say in how it’s put together. Besides the big companies like IBM, HP, Intel, Dell etc. anyone is free to contribute to Linux development by way of enhancements, submitting improvements etc. There are programmers all over the world who are contributing to the operating system core – the Linux kernel – and all the applications that run on it.

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Cyber Threats: What you Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Submitted by Caribbean Cyber Security Center

caribbean_cyber_Security_CentreWashington D.C/Bridgetown Barbados, March 23, 2013: The penetration of internet access in the Caribbean region has undoubtedly paved the way for greater access to the information super highway and the benefits of competing on the global stage.  However, with this access comes great responsibility and risk and we will soon learn that ignorance is no excuse and what we don’t know can hurt us.

Pretending that the Caribbean is immune from the impact of cyber threats and cyber crime should be quickly eroded from our minds when we see recently that banks in the region are reissuing credit cards because of a data breach.    For the six months spanning the last quarter of 2012 and first quarter of 2013 we have seen rapid growth in the reported attacks in the Caribbean and its beginning to get a little closer to our pockets.  The internet is like the wild-west, any and every type of company is being hacked these days and regional businesses will not be spared.

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FLOW Swallows Karib Cable Immediately AFTER Barbados General Election

Rhea Yaw Ching's, Corporate Vice President - Sales and Marketing at Columbus Communications Inc

Rhea Yaw Ching’s, Corporate Vice President

The following is an extract from Pat Hoyos’ column which appears in today’s Sunday Sun. BU cannot find a link online but a scan of the article titled Karib goes with the Flow does the trick. And why do we find it interesting you ask? Hoyos appears to be a little protective in his writing. Come on Pat Hoyos, tell us what is really stuck in your craw like the proverbial chicken bone!

AT THE TIME OF COLUMBUS’ LAUNCH in Barbados were negotiations already under way with Karib Kable? My silly, inquiring mind wanted to know. Not for any particular reason. I just like to think about such things rather than find myself playing stupid games on Facebook with “friends” I have never met. From the time it officially announced its arrival in Barbados last year through the purchase of TeleBarbados, it seemed like a whole lot of nothing was happening on the street level as far as Columbus was concerned.

Meanwhile, almost everywhere you turned along certain highways and byways, you were in danger of bumping into a Karib Kable van parked under an electricity pole, its linesmen busily “building out its network”. But then, when you stopped at its sales kiosks and asked a question, you were told that the service would only be available in certain parts of the island. So TeleBarbados’ existing set-up remained more or less untouched (it seemed) by its new owners, while Karib Kable was busy as beavers.

Caribbean Cyber Security Centre Launched In Barbados

caribbean_cyber_Security_CentreWashington D.C/Bridgetown Barbados, March 2013:


Time is Up!! The opportunity Caribbean nations have had to get their cyber security houses in order, in both the public and private sectors is quickly coming to an ended.   In recent weeks we have seen a spike in Cyber-attacks against both Caribbean private and public information infrastructures and websites.    To assist Caribbean nations in this critical need we have assembled a team of Caribbean and U.S cyber security consultants under a new organization called the Caribbean Cyber Security Center.

The protection of Caribbean Public and Private Information and Communication Infrastructures is one of the most serious economic and security challenges facing our region.  Our ability as nations to effectively ensure the Confidentiality, Availability and Integrity (CIA) of critical information infrastructures and ICT technology assets and information has significant economic and security implications for all of us. Key Caribbean Cyber Security Causes for Concern today are:

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Barbados: Untapped ICT Potential Calls For Bi-Partisan ‘BARBADOS COMMISSION ON ICT DEVELOPMENT’

Submitted by James Bynoe, VP Brownstone Consulting Firm

Will the Minister of Finance empower this emerging sector in the budget to be delivered later this month?

Barbados has had the potential to be the Caribbean’s recognized leader in a range of emerging ICT areas, unfortunately until Government takes decisive action to create the business atmosphere for effective ICT growth and expansion “nothing will happen”.

In the internet age … each day that Barbados delays creating the legislative and regulatory atmosphere for ICT business growth and expansion is a day we give to regional competitors like Jamaica, T&T and Grenada to take our rightful ICT place in the region, it’s that simply … and they will if we do nothing.

The international ICT industry operates on new world order rules which embraces ICT “INNOVATION, IDEAS, AND PERFORMANCE”…   Barbados has to learn to embrace this new way of thinking regarding ICT objectives and opportunities, and put to bed our old school colonial mindset.

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A Way To Lower Barbados GOV ICT Management And Support Cost

Submitted by James Bynoe –  BCF Cyber Security/ICT Executive

Basic Cloud Architecture

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a new ICT approach to delivering computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet). Cloud computing provides computation, software applications, data access, data management and storage resources without requiring cloud users to know the location and other details of the computing infrastructure.

“Cloud computing has the potential to significantly lower Barbados government enterprise ICT cost while improving overall ICT operations and support services.”

Barbados government cloud computing end users would be able to access cloud based applications through a web browser or a light weight desktop or mobile app while the business software and data are stored on servers at a remote location. At the foundation of cloud computing is the broader concept of infrastructure convergence and ICT managed services.

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LIME’s Broadband A Tough Squeeze – Are LIME And Digicel Blocking the IMEIs Of Stolen Mobile Phones?

Posted as a comment to BU blog – Clarity Needed In Broadband Speed Sold By LIME In Barbados

LIME’s biggest problem is that they simply do not have the bandwidth available to share among it’s current subscriber base. When they first introduced ADSL their customers actually got what they were paying for. Now, the network is so congested that everyone has to fight for a piece, and this problem is especially bad in heavily populated areas where one or two fibre links have to serve a single exchange from which thousands of phone lines are served.

To their defense however, they have been constantly upgrading and installing mini exchanges all over the island to circumvent this problem, but it’s not enough. And what’s more is that they’ve increased contention ratio which only compounds the problem. I’m speaking subject to correction here but the last I heard is that it’s set at 50:1, which means that if you’re paying for 8Mb/s, then you have to share that between 8Mb/s of bandwidth with 49 other users… I don’t know about you, but that’s unacceptable considering the rates  that they’re charging when we see what they’re offering in other islands like Grenada. If they charge the same rates here that do in Grenada, then an 8Mb/s connection would be $120.66 BDS Incl VAT! A 2Mb/s connection would be $59.90 BDS incl VAT!

Haven’t you ever noticed that the internet is slower during the day (business hours) than it is at night? I can’t wait for Digicel to start offering their WiMax service for residential use…

Nuff said!

The Utilities Raping Barbadian Consumers

First it was water, followed by electricity, based on recent reports Barbadians will suffer another increase in the telephone rate of $1.77 per pricing plan, whatever that means. The biggest of all ironies is the recognition that the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) is owned by government and not regulated by the Fair Training Commission (FTC). Cable & Wireless aka LIME and the Barbados Light & Power fall under the oversight of the FTC. In both cases the PEOPLE lose.

BU can join the esoteric debate by the academics and analysts to argue the merits of hiking utility rates at the hike of a recession. We have always been more comfortable using arguments rooted in commonsense.

Barbadians have had to pay by decree up 60% increase in the water rate. Most Barbadians given the value of water to maintaining our existence would have been persuaded to suffer the increase,  balanced by the argument the BWA was insolvent and in dire need of a overhaul. Prime Minister David Thompson told Barbadians in June 2009 that the increase in the water rate was necessary to ensure the BWA meets its mandate to deliver a quality water management infrastructure to Barbadians. Approaching one year the customer and other support services at the BWA remain abdominal. Minister Denis Lowe who is responsible for the BWA has been silent regarding progress in restructuring at that state body. Last week Barbadians were treated to the news that a consultant contracted by government will recommend the discontinuation of sucks/ pit toilets. Additionally current water zones may have to change.

Is this another case of the chickens coming home to ruse? It wasn’t too long ago when politicians Don Blackman and Trevor Prescod were defending the rights of squatters in the Belle. Other politicians have been known to put politics above the health of the nation by ignoring the growing problem of squatting in water zones.  A lack of leadership in our water management perhaps?

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