More than 60 young people from Dominica launched software applications delivering local content for government services, community news and agriculture alerts, as part of a historic Mobile App Development workshop in the island's capital city, Roseau.
The Dominica National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) sponsored the one-week event, which closed on August 24. It was facilitated by the international non-profit organization BrightPath Foundation, and hosted by the Dominica State College.
Local organizer for the weeklong event and Executive Director of the NTRC, Craig Nesty, said the workshop exceed his expectations.
"This was a truly inspirational and rewarding experience for everyone. The resounding success of this initiative presents a world of opportunities for youth in Dominica and, I believe, throughout the Caribbean."
The NTRC, which is responsible for the regulation and development of the telecommunications market in Dominica, views the development of local applications for local mobile users as vital to the development of the local telecommunications sector.
“The expert presenters from BrightPath Foundation and the team at the Dominica State College had laid a solid platform for us to build on. We are already in talks with both organizations to continue this program and to extend its reach,” Nesty said.
Workshop participants interacted with industry practitioners and real-world innovators. The BrightPath approach deemphasized the technical aspects of mobile app creation and instead blended technical learning with a heavy emphasis on life skills and essential values of social responsibility.
One attendee, Hallie Bruney, a student at the State College, described the experience as life changing.
“I never really saw myself as a software developer. But now I know that I definitely contributed to creating local content and building the local mobile ecosystem,” adding with a grin, “I only just learned those terms, but I understand what they mean to me!”
BrightPath uses the appeal of mobile apps to draw out participants' talent and creativity. Participants, most of whom had little or no development experience, formed mock companies, pitched their app ideas, and then broke into small groups comprised of content teams, developers and designers to develop their apps.
Veronne Nicholas, a lecturer at the Dominica State College, was appointed CEO of one of the mock companies, DTrips. Nicholas’ team pitched a mobile app that would capture news and events from around the island.
“I was very impressed with the emphasis that was placed on the value of local content, and the importance of teamwork to create solutions with local and global appeal. The enthusiasm and engagement of the participants was sustained from start to finish. We definitely need more programs like this in Dominica,” she said.
Bevil Wooding, founder and Executive Director of BrightPath Foundation, was responsible for the program design. His organization has run similar programs across the Caribbean but he described the Dominica workshop as "particularly special".
“I was very impressed with the high levels of collaboration on display throughout this event. In particular, I was pleased to see the determination and perseverance of the young men and women to complete the challenge to produce local apps in such a short timeframe,” he said.
Participants developed three mobile apps from initial concept to software coding and launch. The mobile apps, Crop Circles, Ask Me and DTrips, were designed to address specific local needs. The apps were launched at the end of the workshop and will be made freely available on Android devices via the Google Play store.
The Dominica NTRC has committed to following up on the success of the BrightPath Mobile App Development Workshop by providing support for the participants to continue building their app ideas.