Caribbean mobile e...

Caribbean mobile entrepreneurs get ready for their closeup

Kingston, June 11 -  In front of a packed house at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters, young mobile entrepreneurs, potential investors and wellwishers shared experience and insight into the tech startup process. They gathered for the launch of the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Program (CMIP), the umbrella initiative from infoDev, a global entrepreneurship program in the World Bank Group, that seeks to build and nurture an ecosystem in the Caribbean that supports growth entrepreneurs through training, mentoring and access to finance.

Under the theme, ‘Growing Mobile Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean’, the event showcased the worldwide premiere of the documentary series, ‘startupland’ and a panel discussion led by the film’s director Justin Gutwein and featuring Jamaican-born investor David Mullings, mobile entrepreneur Madonna Corrian and UWI professor Hopeton Dunn. Also on show at a special mobile tech fair were eight apps presented to the large crowd by their development teams.

Based on their showing at the fair, three teams, two representing Jamaica and one from Trinidad & Tobago, have been selected to present their apps at this year’s International Startup Festival scheduled for July 9-12 in Montreal, Canada. AgroCentral, Jamaica's first digital agricultural clearing house, won first prize and an all expense-paid trip to the festival. M.A.D.E., the app designed to provide critical information during disasters and CrimeBot, a crime incident-mapping app, were adjudged equal runners-up and will have partial expenses paid to Montreal.

The Jamaican government, which has partnered with infoDev in a series of training, mentoring, competition and business-readiness events over the past two years, recognized the significance of the rise of the apps displayed at the launch. “Mobile-based innovations are quickly emerging as the new frontier in transforming governments, health, education and many other sectors”, said Minister of State for Technology Julian Robinson, “and we believe that a collaborative approach of stakeholders can maximize the benefits of mobile industry growth in the region, including substantial economic and social development, helping to lift populations out of poverty and to expand social and digital inclusion.”

ABOVE: The AgroCentral app development team of Jermaine Henry and Janice McLeod are flanked by InfoDev Program Manager Valerie D’Costa (left) and British High Commissioner to Jamaica Robert Ready, who presented the duo with the top tech fair prize at the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Program (CMIP) launch in Kingston, Jamaica on June 10. McLeod will hope to attract investors to back her produce clearing-house innovation at the International Startup Festival from July 9-12 in Montreal.CMIP is a regional initiative managed by the UWI Consortium as part of infoDev’s Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), with funding from the Government of Canada.

Making the keynote address, infoDev Program Manager Valerie D’Costa noted that the potential markets for Caribbean innovators can be anywhere and called on regional governments to “encourage entrepreneurship at the heart of their economic agenda.” Events such as the World Bank-supported Digital Jams and StartUp Jamaica, she said, “are going to be market makers and trailblazers, putting a critical spotlight on the needs of the entrepreneurs and innovators that we are celebrating here today.”

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