Fostering innovation through app development

In recognition of the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) that has been the buzz all week, we look at the apps development in the Caribbean and the upcoming Caribbean Open Data Conference.

The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is one of the largest consumer technology tradeshows in the world, and is frequently used to launch new products and to showcase those that are in the works. With all the attention being on Las Vegas this week, where CES is being held, we, here in the Caribbean, have an opportunity to examine how we might be becoming innovators and not just consumers of tech products and services developed overseas.

In the Caribbean, one of the tech areas in which we have been gaining some proficiency is in mobile applications (apps) development. Initially, apps were being developed in isolation by the odd individual or isolated teams for very specific clientele or purposes. However, over the last two or so years, increasing attention and support is being given to mobile apps development in the region due to, among other things:

  • the wide proliferation of mobile/cellular services and devices in the region
  • the apps market becoming more lucrative – to varying degrees, and
  • the ability of apps to affect the lives of wide sections of the society, as discussed in Where is the Caribbean on the apps bandwagon?

Can you code?

It is interesting to note that the focus on mobile apps development is not limited to the Caribbean. Record numbers of people are learning how to programme. For example, on 4 January, it was widely reported that over 100,000 new users had registered with Codecademy, the computer programming education start-up, in three days (Source: Silicon Alley Insider).

In addition to online leaning resources, across the Caribbean region, there have been a number of initiatives to teach programming and to foster app creation. For example, last month, through the BrightPath Foundation, four-day mobile apps development workshops were held in Antigua & Barbuda and St. Kitts & Nevis for persons between the ages of 12 and 21 years. Although 2012 promises to be chock full of app development activities, one of the largest, but certainly the most ambitious event, will be occurring later this month.

Caribbean Open Data Conference

The Caribbean Open Data Conference is a regional developer conference that is being held on 26 and 27 January in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Although three independent conferences will be held, there will be live streaming at the venues, thus allowing attendees to participate in all of the events. However, more importantly and running concurrently with the full schedule of conference talks and discussions, is a 24-hour Developer Code Sprint. As at publication seven events will be running concurrently.


A “code sprint”, which is also referred to as a “hackathon” or “codeathon”, is usually a competition where, within a fixed amount of time, software developers seek to create working products. The Caribbean Open Data Conference’s Code Sprint aims to highlight how ICTs can be used to facilitate development across all sectors of our economy. Through regional collaboration, the event will focus on finding indigenous solutions for problems in the following thematic areas:

  • agriculture and fisheries
  • trade and economic indicators
  • tourism
  • ICT access
  • national statistics/census.

Impact on the Bottom of the Pyramid

To varying degrees, apps creation that focuses on sector development can benefit persons in the poorest socio-economic group in a society, i.e. at the “Bottom of the Pyramid” (BoP). It is a widely held view that the needs at the BoP hold the greatest potential for innovation. When this potential is coupled with the size of the group – the largest segment of a country’s population, along with their combine purchasing power, there is considerable scope to not only to improve the lives and livelihoods of persons at the BoP, but also that of a country as a whole.


Although the Code Sprint is the highlight of the Caribbean Open Data Conference, and developers are integral to that event, there is need for other expertise and input:

  • designers – to participate in the look and feel of the final products
  • data contributors – to provide data sets and other key inputs into the development process
  • ideas contributors – to share identified needs and to be agents of change.

Should you have any ideas for projects that could be undertaken during the Code sprint along the lines of the above-stated themes, do submit them. All other inputs should be directed to the conference organisers. Registration for the conferences and to participate in the Code Sprint is still open and can also be done via Caribbean Open Data Conference website.

In the coming days leading up to the conference, a number of exciting announcements are promised. So do stay tuned to the conference website and keep track of those developments through Facebook, Twitter or RSS feed.