J’can company receives US$10,000 grant to help advance the metaverse
JAMAICA IS the only Caribbean nation among 10 communities that has been chosen from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to receive a grant from the Metaverse Communities Challenge.
The Challenge was launched by the innovation laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB Lab) and technology giant Meta. The purpose of the challenge is to deepen the understanding of how people explore and build metaverse communities and to contribute to positive social and economic impact for underserved populations throughout LAC countries.
The selected communities applied augmented and virtual reality to develop key issues like health, education, job creation, female entrepreneurship, culture and urban accessibility, among others.
The Jamaican company, Youth Can Do I.T. (YCDI) Limited was selected from 370 proposals submitted by communities in 22 countries across the region.
They will receive a US$10,000 grant to help them progress their metaverse community objectives. They will participate in a series of online training courses on community building, responsible innovation, and virtual and augmented reality. They will take part in customised business coaching in areas where they have opportunities to grow and develop; and will have a one-week residency at Meta's office in São Paulo, Brazil to meet with experts and gain first-hand knowledge and experience on the latest metaverse technologies and applications as well as to showcase their metaverse community.
Lianne McNaughton, founder and managing director of YCDI, stated in an interview with The Gleaner last Friday said that the grant awarded would assist the company in keeping with its objectives for 2023.
The company, which was established in 2016, she said aims to be a pioneering space not only for the metaverse but to become the digital and technological talent pipeline for the Caribbean.
“So, being the only winner from the Caribbean, it is fulfilling our vision in being a leading expert in what it means to have the metaverse [and] create the metaverse communities so that we can be the go-to people to help others explore the space as well,” she said.
According to Cherika Wilson, head of people operations at YCDI, this also meant that there was the opportunity to have an active role in the conceptualisation, creation and ongoing development of how the metaverse will evolve to look like.
“I think a lot of times when you think about really innovative, cutting-edge technology, you don't often see the Caribbean positioned in that space and [with] YCDI being one of the leading voices on this, I think it gives us a real chance to go and showcase what we do here in Jamaica,” she told The Gleaner.
Christopher Derrell, chief technological officer at YCDI, saidthat in order to increase participation, the team seeks to further invest in developing the company's digital space.
With the third edition of its signature event, iamWITy (I am a Woman in Technology), YCDI joined the metaverse in 2022. The event coincided with International Girls in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Day, which is observed on the fourth Thursday in April.
The YCDI teaches young people about technology through programmes that help them develop their skills and realise their potential in order to better prepare them for future employment.
They have achieved youth participation of over 2,500 individuals since being established.
The Metaverse is a combination of virtual and mixed reality worlds accessed through a browser or headset, giving users a fully immersive experience of real-time social interactions not limited to physical distance.
“It's an emerging technology and so [YCDI] in thinking about the implications of that we work with a youth population and so for us, it is also important for us to get their voices in that sort of co-creation process,” Wilson said.
She stated that it was crucial for young people to comprehend how the metaverse can be used as a tool for effective teaching and design, as well as how they can use it to use it to solve problems and make the overall learning process more interactive.
'On another layer, it's also about community. So, thinking about how a virtual community can enhance the physical community and so, again, how do we allow not just young people but also organisations we might partner with along the way ... to both enhance or compliment that physical space,” she added.
The YCDI metaverse can be used on laptops and mobile devices (smartphones) without an oculus headset, but using the headset provides the best experience.
The YCDI's metaverse, McNaughton said, has the “power and potential”, particularly for the use of businesses to show products for sale during virtual events, in addition to having advertisement space and the presentation of marketing videos.
The IDB is the leading source of development finance and know-how for improving lives in Latin America and the Caribbean. The purpose of the IDB Lab is to drive innovation for inclusion in the region, by mobilising financing, knowledge, and connections to test early-stage solutions with the potential to transform the lives of vulnerable populations affected by economic, social, and/or environmental factors.
Since 1993 IDB Lab has approved more than US$2 billion in projects deployed across 26 LAC countries.
The other selected community grantees are:
• Brillante, Guatemala, a speech rehabilitation app that provides teachers and parents assistance via the generation of an augmented reality stimuli solution for children with speech, language, and communication disabilities.
• Buro DAP Fundación, Colombia, that uses the metaverse to create simulators for the design of urban spaces, so they are more sustainable, safer for pedestrians, and address women's security and the needs of people with disabilities.
• Clube da Alice, Brazil, a community of women entrepreneurs that facilitates and encourages female entrepreneurship, allowing members to connect with new clients, access free courses, events, and fairs; CLUMTI AC, Mexico, a community of independent developers, companies and universities working with virtual reality to improve the competitiveness of small and medium enterprises.
• EXPYLAB, Paraguay, supports emerging creators of low-income and vulnerable populations to develop immersive reality projects by offering extended reality trainings that enable these populations to express their realities, narratives, and cultural heritages in the metaverse.
• Gran Chaco Impact NFT, Bolivia, provides a space where collectors join efforts with non-fungible tokens artists and curators to help women artisans tokenise native art pieces as digital art using virtual and augmented reality, NFTs, and blockchain to help preserve and promote native communities.
• Kodea, Chile, provides women entrepreneurs with training in computer science, digital skills mentoring, and support.
• Red de Aprendizaje Inmersivo (Rain), Ecuador, supports the use of immersive technologies to foster learning within educational settings (technological institutes and universities) and promotes the acquisition of XR related skills.
• Socialcrypto.art, Brazil, brings together artists, producers, and creators from the favelas in Rio de Janeiro who wish to digitise and commercialise their art and, thus, contribute to the socio-economic development of the favelas.