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UWI ready to help Guyana combat piracy

Senior Lecturer at UWI’s Department of Engineering, Kim Mallalieu

The University of the West Indies (UWI- Trinidad campus) is willing to help Guyana combat piracy by using low-cost mobile smart-phone tracking technology that can link up fisherfolk with Guyanese police and defence force, according to a senior official.

Senior Lecturer at UWI’s Department of Engineering, Kim Mallalieu is in Kigali, Rwanda where her department made a presentation on how Trinidad and Tobago fisherfolk are using the mFisheries application suite on their mobile phones to seek emergency response and also acquire specific advice on how to deal with technical glitches such as engine failure while at sea.

Mallalieu said the technology could be provided to Guyana free of cost to help fisherfolk summon the Coast Guard to precise areas where they may have been attacked. “Absolutely! We would do that immediately,” she told Demerara Waves Online News in an interview at the Kigali Serena Hotel-venue for the ICT For Agriculture-the digital springboard for inclusive agriculture being held from November 4 to 8, 2013.

Mallalieu is also Principal Investigator of the Trinidad-based Caribbean ICT Research Programme also located at www.cirp.org.tt

She said if Guyanese authorities were to agree, the mFisheries Mobile App would be customized for Guyana and the Guyanese Atlantic Coast and inland marine areas vulnerable to piracy would be “geo-fenced.” Mallalieu said training of the GDF Coast Guard and other response agencies would be provided on how to monitor the tracks of the web applications. She said all Guyanese authorities would have to do is cover flight, accommodation and ground transportation costs if personnel have to travel there to conduct training. “There is no professional cost, there is no cost for the application. It’s Open Source,” she said.

Asked how the application caters for users with limited literacy skills, the UWI Lecturer assured that making an SOS call “is trivial.” “There is no literacy at all required because there is an SOS button which is not textual. It is the standard SOS signal that is recognized all over the world and there is a confirm button so there is simply a two-step process,” she said.

The UWI Department of Engineering has already adapted the Mfisheries application to work in the Cook Islands in the Pacific, Trinidad, and Tobago.

She explained that the tracking application is triggered when a user with the phone, turned on, crosses the coastal boundary and then sends information-packets to the server periodically to the web server.  The packets contain unique phone and SIM card identifiers that log the time, date and GPS location of the vessels. When the user goes out of cellular coverage the tracking information is stored locally on the phone and then uploaded when he returns to an area of cell coverage.

Mallalieu said all registered Mfisheries users are required to formally agree to authorize the Coast Guard to access their GPS coordinates.  When an SOS text message is sent, automatically phone calls, SMS and email are sent to the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. Fisherfolk can also add other persons they would like to receive SOS alerts.

The Mfisheries App suite also aids fisherfolk in locating fishing grounds, record the types of available fish, communicate with potential buyers and know the available prices.

Guyanese fishermen are attacked several times each year mainly off the Essequibo and Berbice coasts and in the waters off neighbouring Suriname.