ICT applications aimed at improving the response time of emergency personnel 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, held at the Rex Nettleford Hall on the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies from July 9-13, 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 project, who will be engaging their Digicel Business outfit to develop the ideas presented by the young grade nine students from Seaforth High School in St. Thomas and Porus High School in Manchester.
The teams of techie young entrepreneurs from both schools were forced to share a trophy after impressing expert judges with their E-App (Emergency App) and S1 App (Subject 1) respectively.
The E-App provides a quick, less cumbersome and discrete way for contacting the emergency services, while the S1- App allows students to access curricula 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, project managers of the I am the Change project.
The over 70 students, drawn from the six rural high schools under the Centres of Excellence programme, 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 issues. The applications 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.
“The ideas that were presented could all go to market,” commented chief judge and established entrepreneur, Ian Moore, as he gave final comments congratulating the schools. “That made it even harder to score.”
The other participating schools included 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, which are also participants in the Centres of Excellence programme.
“The students presented applications that were sound and practical along with workable business plans. And, this goes to show the repository of talent in our students which can be honed if we use the right tools and channels,” Ms. Bennett affirmed revealing that the students developed the ideas and prepared the presentations in just two days.
Dr. Renee 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. She pointed out that they had already been operating businesses in six high schools over the past year under the entrepreneurship programme, and this was part of the approach to education being championed by the Centres of Excellence programme.
“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 and drive development,” she affirmed, emphasizing that the intent of the Centres of Excellence programme is to develop a model for replication by the Education Ministry.
Samantha Chantrelle, Executive Director of the Digicel Foundation, which brings a wealth of ICT expertise to the entrepreneurship programme’s new emphasis, concurs that developing students’ ICT and business skills is a matter of priority.
“Our education system can no longer be centred on traditional methods of teaching and learning in this age,” Ms. Chantrelle said. “What we need is a new engine which encourages innovation which our youth and our country will need to survive in the new global environment.”