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IFAP presents state of the art study at the Caribbean Open Data Conference

The Caribbean Open Data Conference and Code Sprint is the largest annual technology conference in the sub-region. From 11 to 12 April 2013 this event was organized simultaneously across 7 national sites in Cuba, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Martinique, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The conference brought together participants from Africa, the Caribbean and North America to showcase projects, present policies and exchange best practices.

This year’s theme, “Developing the Caribbean”, focused on the role of Open Data and software in catalyzing regional development and innovation. Mr Eric Nurse, representative of Grenada and IFAP Vice-Chairman for Latin America and the Caribbean traveled to Trinidad and Tobago to share with delegates IFAP’s tangible regional contribution to the conference theme.

Since December 2012, with the financial support of the UNESCO Director-General’s Multi-donor and Emergency Fund, IFAP has been conducting a 17-country study in the Caribbean. This study has been assessing the state of the art around national usage of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), Open Data and Open Source in the region and how to better integrate them into the existing national information strategies, frameworks and development programmes. Regional workshops to validate the study’s finding and to roll-out national policy implementation pilots are expected to begin in July 2013.  According to Mr Nurse, youth and the education system have a key role to play in this process. As he explained, "If we start teaching our secondary students open source and how they can use Open Data, it will go a long way in driving the use of Open Data in the region...".

The Code sprint component of the conference pitted competing teams from across the region to develop software applications using FOSS and Open Data over a 24-hour period to solve practical problems in health, education, census data collection as well as in key areas such as tourism and agriculture that are vital to the regions social and economic progress. The IFAP Vice-Chair shared with other members of the jury the difficult task of selecting the finalists who will participate in the International Code Sprint finals to be held in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation from 30 June to 4 July 4 2013.

Dr Margaret Bernard, Head of the Department for Computing and Information Technology drew attention to nascent Open Data projects that are addressing regional practical development challenges, "In our department, we have a project called AgriNet that aims toward food security”. However she underscored the need for policy frameworks and cooperation pointing to the fact that “there are several information silos that are un-integrated, so we are currently working towards an e-portal to pull data from the various sources."

The event expanded IFAP’s network of regional partners and opened avenues for cooperation with organizations such as Slash Roots, the University of the West Indies (UWI), The Caribbean Open Institute and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001 to provide a platform for international policy discussions and guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge and for the participation of all in the knowledge societies.

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