A mobile app that could save your life in a hurricane
November 7, 2013
- Trinidad and Tobago duo win $10 000 in funding and mentoring for app to help relief efforts following natural disasters.
- VentureOut Challenge aims to promote international technical collaboration and innovation.
- The Caribbean has the potential to build on such talent to become an international ICT hub.
"When my family home in Diego Martin was damaged by flash flooding, we realized how unprepared we were for this kind of emergency. Rescue efforts took a long to arrive, while emergency communications were slow and deficient."
And with this Ade Innis-King, from Trinidad and Tobago, explains what led him to team up with Elisia Madonna Corrian to create M.A.D.E.: My App for Disasters and Emergencies. This pilot mobile app provides location-specific and actionable information about natural disasters that could make a significant difference in emergency situations.
On the one hand, M.A.D.E. enables users to receive updates about potentially extreme weather events and then act in advance. More importantly though it then puts those in need in contact with emergency coordinators and rescuers. Thanks to its social media platform, users can crowd-source localized information about the emergency, which is continuously monitored and transferred to national response authorities.
The Caribbean is full of creative and talented people. We may not have the same resources as richer countries, but we can make a difference.
A competition for IT-savvy youths
M.A.D.E. was selected as the winner for the Caribbean in the VentureOut Challenge on Nov. 1, 2013. Launched by the World Bank's infoDev and CRDF Global, an international organization which promotes international technical collaboration, the competition sought to support mobile app entrepreneurs to expand internationally. The Challenge is directed at young start-ups from relatively small domestic markets, for whom expanding globally is particularly crucial.
Ade and Elisia Madonna will receive US$10,000 in prizes and mentorship to strengthen their business strategiy. Two other projects from Croatia and Senegal also won VentureOut awards.
The next step, Ade explains, is to expand the project throughout the region.. And also to grant access to its platform to users outside the English-speaking Caribbean: for instance, to diaspora members seeking updated information about their relatives and hometowns when a disaster strikes.
But Trinidad and Tobago wasn’t alone in demonstrating the growing creative talent of the Caribbean. Two projects from Jamaica were also selected as challenge finalists:
- Grik.ly, an app that allows users to share contact details, match names and faces and record when and where they met in a type of modern-day business card;
- Sweetsoa, a mobile application which helps companies to customize low cost mobile solutions.
The Caribbean: a hub for innovation
“The Caribbean is full of creative and talented people. We may not have the same resources as richer countries, but we can make a difference,” explains Ade to emphasize the region’s great potential for mobile-based entrepreneurship, and particularly among its youth.
Youth employment is one of the region’s key challenges. On average, it is higher than the national rates; in Jamaica, for instance, youth unemployment is almost three times the national average. What’s more, many young people leave school without graduating or gain skills that are of little use in the job market. Yet the potential for countries like Jamaica or Trinidad remains high.
With this in mind, several recent initiatives have sought to tap on the region’s potential as the next ICT innovation hub. In June 2012, for instance, Jamaica hosted Digital Jam 2.0, a collaborative event for young Jamaicans interested in ICT and which brought together young virtual job seekers with opportunities in the real world. Similarly KingstOOn Festival (June 2013) sought to act as catalyst for Jamaica’s animation industry and position the country as the next global animation hub.
“We applied all our creativity and passion to make this work,” Ade explains “We managed to identify a real, tangible problem, pulled the necessary resources and created solutions.”
But he had one final piece of advice for other young start-ups: “Keep trying, even if the odds seem against you, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone”.
If you believe the map, 4,200 miles separate Trinidad and Tobago from Silicon Valley. But listening to people like Ade, you could believe that one day they might be much closer.