Applications aimed at improving access to emergency services and enhancing learning for high-school students received the winning prize at the recent staging of the Young Entrepreneurs 'I am the Change' Camp.
The boot camp, in its second consecutive year, was held at the Rex Nettleford Hall on the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies, from July 9 to 13. It is a component of the Centres of Excellence Programme managed by the Mutual Building Societies Foundation (MBSF). The MBSF partnered with the Digicel Foundation to implement the entrepreneurship project, and Digicel engaged its business outfit to develop the ideas presented by the winning grade-nine students from Seaforth High School in St Thomas and Porus High School in Manchester.
The teams of young, techie entrepreneurs from both schools tied for first place after impressing expert judges with their E-App (Emergency App) and S1 App (Subject 1 App) ideas, respectively.
The E-App provides a quick, less cumbersome and discrete way for users to contact emergency services, while the S1-App allows students to access syllabi and other educational material easily, while also engaging in interactive games to develop their understanding of the subject area.
"We are in a technology renaissance and today's entrepreneur must have the skill set to manipulate technology in order to solve daily challenges and meet the needs of customers, while, at the same time, improving the business' bottom line," says Kimala Bennett, managing director of The Business Lab, the project's managers.
More than 70 students from the six rural high schools worked in teams guided by teachers and expert mentors to identify specific problems in their schools or community. They then developed applications to solve the problems. These ranged from apps to keep parents informed of school events and projects; apps to reduce glut in the agro market, as well as emergency response and edutainment apps and apps to assist unemployed young Jamaicans to access information about job opportunities.
"The ideas presented could all go to market," commented chief judge and entrepreneur, Ian Moore, in congratulating the schools. "That made it even harder to score."
McGrath High in Linstead, St Catherine; Mile Gully High School in Manchester; Godfrey Stewart High in Westmoreland and Green Pond High School in St James, also paticipated.
"The students presented applications that were sound and practical and workable business plans. This goes to show the repository of talent in our schools, which can be honed if we use the right tools," Bennett said, revealing that the students developed the ideas and prepared the presentations in just two days.
Dr Renée Rattray, programme manager at the MBSF, says the focus on ICT at this year's camp is a logical extension on the knowledge the students have already gained.
"What we are focused on is developing a generation of young people who are fully prepared to lead in this new technology-driven paradigm, and who can apply what they have learned to compete effectively." noted Dr Rattray.
Samantha Chantrelle, executive director of Digicel Foundation, said Jamaica's education system can no longer be centred on the traditional methods of teaching and learning . "What we need is a new engine to encourage innovation with which our youth and our country can survive in the new global environment," she said.
CAPTION: Members of the winning Seaforth High School and Porus High School teams and their mentors accept their award from Kerry-Jo Lyn (centre, in red shirt), programme manager, Digicel Foundation. Seaforth and Porus tied for the Best ICT Application A ward at the recent Young Entrepreneurs 'I am the Change' Camp, held at the University of the West Indies. The Young Entrepreneurs Programme is a part of the Centres of Excellence initiative managed by the Mutual Building Societies Foundation formed by Jamaica National Building Society and The Victoria Mutual Building Society. - Contributed