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Guyanese software programmers in Caribbean race for the best problem-solving apps

codesprint
Several participants of the Guyana-leg of Code Sprint 2013

University of Guyana (UG) software programmers are part of a Caribbean-wide race to make open-source programmes to solve social problems in a range of sectors.

More than one dozen programmers are participating in the Open Data Code Sprint, which is a part of the Caribbean Open Data Conference and Code Sprint.

Computer Science Lecturer, Lenandlar Singh told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com) that data sets for education, census data, fisheries, agriculture, tourism and journalism are being provided by governments to competitors across the Caribbean.

“Essentially what the teams will have to do is look at the data that’s coming and then think about social problems that we can help solve using the data,” he said.

Participating countries are Cuba, Guyana, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The Code Sprint began 11 AM Thursday and is scheduled to end midday Friday.

While there would be no proprietary rights for the open source apps, he hoped that the best ones developed during the Code Sprint could possibly become marketable. “There is going to be a session a month after the event to take those prototypes- the good ones- and bring them into potential businesses,” added Singh. Mentors would assist in developing business models.

UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Jacob Opadeyi announced that he was talking with the Guyana government to use Open Source software to give ready access to land registry documents like transports as is being done in Jamaica.

Highlighting that the world has been shifting towards data, knowledge and infrastructure across geographical boundaries, he pointed to the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada where residents now pay US$10 to access land transports Online rather than wait in long queues. Opadeyi noted that the biggest clients are commercial banks, credit unions and building society. “All of that was written in an Open Source software,” he said

He urged the local programmers to join a lobby for Guyana to implement its Access to Information Act to allow Guyanese to access government data. “I want this group to be one of the lobbying groups to ask the country to have a Freedom of Information Act,” he said at the opening of the Guyana segment of the Code Sprint.

Opadeyi further suggested that software programming should be introduced in secondary schools. “We need to improve the critical thinking capacity of our young kids,” he said.

The Professor advocated widespread free Internet access to reduce time and money while pushing social and economic growth.

Project Manager of the E-Government Project Unit, Alexei Ramotar said the project would allow multiple accesses and increase Internet capacity through government’s fibre optic cable that has been run from neighbouring Brazil. While the cable would be run from Parika to Moleson Creek while on the Essequibo Coast connectivity would be by microwave. “The idea is to allow in all major towns, all major populated areas in the country to have fibre-access and microwave back-up and this will allow- we’re hoping- to spur private sector development,” said Ramotar, a son of President Donald Ramotar.

He disputed claims that Open Data access would see authors and content creators losing income because the majority of scientific research is paid for by governments. “Open Source is where we as a nation have to go. We cannot afford to be paying huge license fees,” he said.

Chief Executive Officer of Brain Street Technologies, Lance Hinds hailed Open Source for the processing of data and improving on available technologies. He urged participants to move beyond Code Sprint 2013. “This is the first Code Sprint in Guyana. It must not be the last. My one challenge to you today is that this event mustn’t stand by itself.

It must be part of an overall effort to build our sector. After this, we must collaborate, discuss, seek to improve and effectively harness our talents,” said Hinds.

The Guyana-leg of Code Sprint is being supported by the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T), Global Technology,  Brain Street, Courts (Guyana), CCS (Guyana) Limited and Banks DIH Limited.