Four years ago, a group called Piedata came together with CANTO, a trade association of Caribbean telecommunications service providers, to hold a hackathon. The goal was simple: shine a light on some big issues facing the region, and get some bright minds to come together to tackle those problems.
"For three years, we had the competition and we had really good products coming out of it," said Ayodele Pompey, Chief Innovation and Product Officer of Piedata, the organisation that runs the annual regional code sprint.
The event now brings together some of the best developers from around the region to build software solutions that are responsive to real-life problems facing Caribbean islands, he said.
"One of our winners last year was called Sonar, an emergency response tool built by a young Belizean development team called LXJ Code. So we thought to ourselves, every year we are bringing the best developers together. They are coming up with really smart, innovative solutions. But after the competition, what comes next?" Pompey said.
As it turned out, the answer was not technical but relational.
"We decided to spend more time developing the solutions, connecting the developers with potential investors, clients and partners to see how far we can take these products, so that ultimately, they can actually solve and address the problems that they were intended to," Pompey said.
When the Piedata tea is not solving the problems of the Caribbean region, one line of code at a time, Piedata stays in the business of accelerating innovation by engaging Caribbean talent to create value.
"We think that the Caribbean has talent, and we want to discover that talent and put it to good use.
Shamir Saddler, CTO at Piedata, is the owner of SmartTerm, a software-based solution geared to strengthen the education system by putting school management and learning management at the fingertips of all stakeholders involved in education, including governments, administrators, teachers, students and parents.
"Piedata is all about unlocking the potential of our youth and making them well rounded and globally competitive. Smart Term is geared to increase efficiency in schools, saving cost, saving on time and improving processes. To bring it all home, we use data analytics to enable data-driven decision-making about the education infrastructure and processes."
The product is currently in use in Jamaica, and Saddler said there are plans for an expanded rollout in other countries.
"We're welcoming any pilots or anyone who is interested in using the product for September 2018."
Piedata was one of several organisations on the exhibition floor of CANTO's annual telecommunications trade show, which took place in Panama City from July 22 to 26. The four-day event attracted a wide range of stakeholders from across the region’s Internet and telecommunications industry, including regulators, government ministers, Internet organisations, network operators, suppliers and vendors.