Fixing Castries’ traffic problem, but what about Kingston!?

Castries, St Lucia

I’m writing this in-between flights on the way back from St Lucia where we just held our first open data meet-up, part of a six-month process to support the local IT community in building digital products to serve their citizens.

This work goes back to an open data bootcamp we held on the island in May in collaboration with the World Bank and Code for Africa to commemorate the launch of the Government’s Open Data Portal. At that meetup we shared examples of how open data was being used to help people in other parts of the world and got them to start thinking about problems and products they could create for St Lucians.

Meet-up events to help St Lucians, Jamaicans build products from open data

Our new goal is to start fast-tracking those products from concepts into hands of every day citizens. SlashRoots’ role was to host the event and together with the mentors, like Dr. Lyndell St. James and the other members of the St Lucia ICT Association, to kickstart the process.

At this stage in a project, there can be 101 considerations, but chief of all has to be identifying the problem. Oftentimes in life we have these big problems but what about solving a piece of the problem without taking on the whole world all at once? It could be a seemingly small part of the larger problem that really bugs people and so solving that you can make a lot of people’s lives a little bit easier.

So, for example, one group at the meet-up wanted to fix traffic, which is a problem in Castries just as it in Kingston! And in fact, they have a major problem that we don’t have, which is that when cruise ships dock gridlock worsens!

Practical solutions to real problems facing Caribbean societies

The suggestion that came was to create something like Waze, the community-based traffic and navigation app, which of course is a huge task and something that already exists. So what about if instead we looked for that easier win?

So from that big idea, meet-up attendees are now investigating how best to simply send a notification to local persons that the ship is docking. Drivers can then either avoid the harbour front, or if they are a taxi driver head down there looking for business.

It’s always a great experience for us to be collaborating with peers from other Caribbean islands. While the IT community in St Lucia is still growing there are definitely people interested in building digital solutions. They come from both the public and private sector and range from novices to professionals — and that really is no different to Jamaica.

We want to build a community from the meet-ups

That’s why events like this are needed to galvanise the local community as a first step in building things that can have a larger, positive impact on our Caribbean societies.

And that’s why we’ll be having our first meet-up in Kingston, next Thursday 6pm at Hub Coworking on Lady Musgrave Road! An invite has already gone out to attendees who attended the previous bootcamp and registration is on a first come basis.

The meet-ups will help attendees produce work — whether an app or data visualisations over the next six months. Mentors will be on hand to guide you and your fellow collaborators — whether you be a civil servant, NGO worker, journalist, developer or just someone with a keen interest in solving problems that affect their community. Join us!

You can register here.

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