My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: August 2017

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

OUR, NANP 658 area code for Jamaica heralds MVNO Telecoms for Digicel and FLOW

“It will be used once the existing telephone numbers under the 876 area code are exhausted. However, the most immediate change will be the introduction of 10-digit dialling for local telephone calls, come May 31, 2018”.

OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) explains the coming introduction of the new 658 area code and 10 digit dialing!

It official, Jamaicans!! We have a new area code - 658!

The OUR  (Office of Utilities Regulation) announced on Monday, August 28, 2017 in a tweet on their Twitter Page @TheOURja that  ten-digit dialling would soon be mandatory come May 31, 2018 as reported in the article “Jamaica gets additional area code — 658”, published  Monday, August 28, 2017, The Jamaica Observer

So says the tweet on @TheOURja twitter page:

Simply put, by May 31, 2018, we will have 2 area codes and all local calls will require 10 digits to complete the call e.g. 876-555-5555 or 658-777-7777 as the @TheOURja indicates on their Facebook Page:

The OUR had also published their official press release as a *.PDF, which you can also download from their @TheOURja twitter page entitled “Jamaica Gets Another Area Code and will Start Ten-Digit Local Dialling”.

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It really comes down to the increasing need for more numbers as we had begun petitioning NANP (North American Numbering Plan) for an additional area code as I'd explained in my blog article entitled “OUR applies for new Area Code for Jamaica as Mobile competition in Telecoms Catching Fire”. 

Thus there is a need for the additional numbers as explained in the OUR's Press Release, quote: “It became necessary for Jamaica to get an additional Numbering Plan Area (NPA) code, commonly called an area code, as the OUR, which is responsible for Numbering Administration in Jamaica, moves to ensure that there are sufficient numbers available to satisfy growth in demand for these resources over the next 25 years.”

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Naturally, both Telecom Providers are compliant to this coming paradigm even as it opens up Jamaica to competition by the end of 2018 as noted in the article “Digicel, FLOW assure compatibility with new '658' area code”, published Tuesday, August 29, 2017, The Jamaica Observer.

So why is there a need for additional numbers?

OUR and the 658 area code - Coming change heralds coming MVNO Telecom Competition

The Telecommunications Act gives the OUR the power to allocate and assign the usage of telecommunication numbers in Jamaica.  Good to note here that both Telecom Providers are on board with this developement after months of public sensitization of the impending change as explained in “Telecoms Back New Area Code - Jamaica To Implement 10-Digit Dialling Next Year”, published Tuesday August 29, 2017, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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The new 658 area code will not replace the 876 area code but will be included alongside the previous area code that has served us so well. It’s slated to come into effect May 31, 2018 as by then it’s expected that we'd have fully exhausted our pool of numbers as noted in the article “Call 658 ... Jamaica Gets Additional Area Code, 10-Digit Dialling Becomes Mandatory May 2018”, published Monday August 28, 2017, The Jamaica Gleaner.

To quote Director General of the OUR Ansord E Hewitt:  “It will be used once the existing telephone numbers under the 876 area code are exhausted. However, the most immediate change will be the introduction of 10-digit dialling for local telephone calls, come May 31, 2018”

No additional charges are involved and it won't be thrust upon us immediately; a period of permissive dialling after implementation on that date will be allowed.

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If you still dial a 7 digit code, your call will still go through as noted by Ansord E Hewitt: “During this time, lasting at least five months, customers will reach numbers in the current area code by dialling ten digits or, if in error or unknowingly they dial seven digits. If only the seven digit telephone number is dialled, the caller will hear a recording reminding him/her to dial the number using the area code plus the seven-digit number; then the call will be completed to the called number”.

During that time, Jamaicans will have to change their advertising, signage and other printed material to reflect the new dialing paradigm, to quote Ansord E Hewitt: “However, we are encouraging persons, especially businesses and government agencies to start adding the current 876 area code on all their printed materials and signage. We are also encouraging users of alarm services and solutions with automatic diallers, and operators of PBX systems, to contact their respective service providers to ensure that their systems will be compatible with the new numbering and dialling arrangements”.

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Best of all, this sets the stage for other Telecom Provider to enter Jamaica, as we'll now have enough numbers to accommodate up to 2 additional competitors, possibly MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) as noted in my blog article entitled “@TheOURja MVNO Licenses – How Telecom Providers benefit and Why MVNO are a source of Product Innovation”.

So set your calendars for May 31, 2018, as by then announcements of a new Telecom Provider may start permeating the airwaves!!!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Why the Gleaner Bill Johnson Poll indicates Jamaican Dream may be fuelled by Alternative Energy

Have Jamaicans stopped dreaming? Do Jamaican see the Glass as half-empty or half-full?

It would seem half-empty, according to a Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll conducted between June 9 and 11 2017 as reported in the article “Jamaicans Just Trying To Survive – Poll”, published Monday July 24, 2017, The Jamaica Gleaner

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According to the survey:

1.      51% have no Jamaican dream
2.      48% do have an idea what the Jamaican Dream should be

Since I’m trying to be hopeful, I'll focus on those who do have a Jamaican dream, as the stats there are more promising:

1.      12% want a country where there is national/economic development
2.      8% want a crime-free country
3.      6% want financial security and stable employment

Pollster Bill Johnson claims that this poll indicates that the majority of Jamaicans are focused on day-to-day survival. Many may not think that Jamaica can be better as the social and economic problems facing people discourages them from thinking big. Clearly, Jamaicans see the glass as being half-empty

The Gleaner Bill Johnson Poll - The Glass Half Empty is full of Alternative Energy Jamaican Dreams

Still, I hope these 1500 people who were are a part of the Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll are not a reflection of the younger generation of entrepreneurs.

They offer me hope as they see the glass as being half-full and continue to dream big with an aim not to end up working in Call Centers but to create their own wealth. This I’d pointed out in my blog article entitled “How 9-y-o and Millennials in Jamaica are becoming CEO Entrepreneurs to avoid the Cubicle Rat Race”. 

It is true that employment prospects for High school and college graduates are grim. This reality is forcing many to look abroad for employment and higher education opportunities as the Private and Public Sectors cannot absorb all of them as concluded in my blog article entitled “UOPD UWI Graduate Trace Study reveals Bad choices, Entrepreneurship and brain-drain in 2016”. 

Still, I like to see the glass as being neither half empty of half-full, but potentially waiting to add more ingredients to make the right drink.

Vision 2030 is Jamaica outlook for that year that will see major shifts in our use of fossil fuels to biodiesel by the PCJ as noted in my blog article entitled “PCJ, UTECH develop Castor Oil-based Biodiesel to reduce Oil imports by 97,000 barrels”.

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We’re also making the shift towards  electricity from solar and wind resources thanks to WRB Enterprises builds 20 MW Solar Farm as I’d pointed out in my Geezam blog article entitled “WRB Enterprises builds 20 MW Solar Farm in Content District, Clarendon”.

Hopefully, cheaper fuel sources means lower cost for manufacturing sector which will translate to lower cost of production, increased output and lower cost of living. Couple with an entrepreneurial drive in Jamaicans, a Jamaican dream where there is national/economic development fueled by this 48% is slowly beginning to form in the distant future, powered by Alternative energy.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

How to find work in Jamaica at Call Centers - IBEX new location by Sept 25 2017 needs 600 more Agents

“IBEX has made a strong commitment to Jamaica. In fact, we committed 5,000 jobs in Jamaica to Prime Minister Holness and, as a result, are offering this unique, near-shore opportunity for growth with our US-based clients”

Chief Strategic Accounts and Marketing Officer Julie Casteel, on their push for 600 more Call Center Agents

Folks, looks like September 2017 is the month for IBEX to reach their goal of 1200 Call Center Agents. So for you workers in Advantage Call Center, Xerox Jamaica, Startek and yes IBEX, I’ve got news more interesting than what Lisa Hanna's NOT Wearing!!!

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IBEX Global (Jamaica), located in Portmore Pines Plaza office, is expanding once more.

This time they're taking on an additional 600 people, including agent and management-level positions as reported in the article “600 new jobs coming as IBEX expands Portmore operations”, published Wednesday, August 23, 2017 by Karena Bennett, The Jamaica Observer

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The company currently occupies 10,000 square feet of space across three floors in Portmore Pines Plaza. They're now taken over the Empire Supermarket space, adding an additional 30,000 square feet to their floor space to the tune of $1.5 million. This was made possible thanks to a lease agreement with Real Properties Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of PROVEN Investments Limited.

IBEX's new location, slated to be opened September 25 2017, will have:

1.      Agent production rooms
2.      Additional training and conference rooms
3.      Common areas for employees

With the new positions, IBEX will bring their employee count up to 1,200, bringing them closer to fulfilling their promise of 5,000 jobs to Jamaica as noted in my blog article entitled “How to find work in Jamaica at Call Centers - IBEX Global paying 400 Call Center Agents JA$400 per hour”.

Their clients seem to like Jamaica, hence their expansion of their English based accounts run by Jamaicans who are very hard-working in a country of unemployed graduates with such a slow Call center expansion, to quote Chief Strategic Accounts and Marketing Officer Julie Casteel: “Our clients are very interested in expanding their English as a First Language locations, and Jamaica provides what they are looking for. The highly trained workforce, appreciation for job opportunities and lack of BPO expansion all make Jamaica a very attractive market for our clients”.

IBEX needs 600 Call Center Agents and support staff - Expansion even as Jamaicans seek opportunities abroad

Washington, DC based IBEX Global had started in Portmore last October 2016 with two principal accounts:

1.      Amazon
2.      AT&T

IBEX provides:

1.      Inbound technical support
2.      Inbound customer care
3.      Inbound sales
4.      Inbound customer retention
5.      Outbound customer acquisition

They deliver onshore, near-shore and offshore solutions in five countries across 18 call centres in 11 languages with a forecasted growth potential of US$10 million for its first year ending July 2017,  US$20 million annually afterwards. They are expanding beyond Portmore and may soon set up shop in New Kingston as Chief Strategic Accounts and Marketing Officer Julie Casteel points out, quote: “We are not just going to expand in the current location. We are actively pursuing additional space in other areas of Kingston and look forward to further growth in the area”.

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Expect that to be a uphill climb for IBEX, as many Jamaicans are seeking entrepreneurship as a way out as noted in my blog article entitled “How 9-y-o and Millennials in Jamaica are becoming CEO Entrepreneurs to avoid the Cubicle Rat Race”.

It took IBEX a whole year to get 400 agents since September 2016! So opportunities abound!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Why Trade Winds Citrus Limited is having a Citrus Fruits Shortage in Jamaica in 2017

It has now come to this; we're experiencing a shortage in Citrus fruits such as oranges, Ortanique, grapefruit, lime.

So much so that if you are a farmer of any of these produce, your prices should be trending upwards as declared in the article “Shortage Creates Price Surge For Fresh Citrus”, published Friday August 18, 2017 by Avia Collinder, The Jamaica Gleaner

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Not only have prices tripled of the past 5 years, but there is now an influx of imported citrus products. This means that domestic citrus producers are actually competing with imports as wholesalers and retailers take advantage of cheaper imports.

So what is causing the shortage in citrus fruits in Jamaica?

Citrus Fruit Shortage in Jamaica - Disease impact as Higglers are at the Farmers’ gate

For one citrus tristeza virus and greening diseases. These diseases have cut national production by 50% since the year 2000.

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According to Technical Director of the JCGA (Jamaica Citrus Growers Association) Dr Percy Miller, in 2000 Jamaica produced:

1.      4.7 million boxes of citrus
2.      2 million of that number were Valencia sweet oranges
3.      500,000 of that number were Grapefruit
4.      2.2 million of that number were limes, ortanbiques and other varieties

This shortage has created a spike in prices that is benefitting farmers but hurting the Citrus Industry as a whole. Higglers and fresh fruit resellers outcompete the Fruit Juice Processors such as Jamaica Beverages Limited and TWCL (Trade Winds Citrus Limited) as they can pay higher prices at the farmgate.

This translates to prices as high as JA$2,000 to JA$3,000 per box at the end of crop in June 2017. Five year ago, prices were at JA$810 to JA$1,000 per box.

Dr Percy Miller confirms as much, as farmers are literally taking the Fruit Juice Processors to the bank, quote: “Most of the fruit is going into fresh fruit sales. Higglers come to the farm gate and pay top price. Now that production has fallen to the extent it has, no way farmers will overlook the top dollar of the fresh fruit market and send to the factory”.

Farmers benefit from Higher Prices - Higglers outbidding manufacturers at the Farmgate

Let's do the math, shall we?

When the fruit is sold at the factory, farmers get JA$110 per pound. This translates to JA$500 and JA$700 per box at the factory gate, dependent on juice quality.

Higglers on the other hand are willing to pays as much as JA$2,000 to JA$3,000 a box, which on average contains 15 dozen oranges. They then resell at JA$200 per dozen, which works out to be JA$3000, a profit of JA$1000 if the farmer had settled at the lower price.

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This leaves very little citrus fruits such as oranges for Jamaica Beverages Limited and TWCL to process into fruit juices as pointed out by Dr Percy Miller: “At under two million boxes, there is not enough processing fruit available to keep two factories going. So there is only one factory which processes the fresh fruit now and its Trade Winds, which has a captive supply”.

But rather than complain, the 2 main citrus fruits processors, Jamaica Beverages Limited and TWCL, have decided to innovate.

Trade Winds Citrus Limited and the Citrus Industry - The Citrus Industry requires innovation

TWCL (Trade Winds Citrus Limited) operates its own orchards in St Catherine and is the largest citrus producer in Jamaica with:

1.      4 Farms
2.      2,700 acres of citrus groves
3.      350 boxes per acre yield from mature groves averages

Good to note here a Box consists of 15 dozen fruit which can be:

1.      Valencia and Parson Brown oranges
2.      Pineapples
3.      Ortaniques
4.      Limes
TWCL is a manufacturing power house as well and they have the following facilities:

1.      Fresh fruit packing house
2.      Concentrate plant
3.      Puree plant
4.      Juice blending
5.      Bottling plant
6.      Refrigerated distribution system

The fresh fruit packing house prepares fresh citrus for the local and export markets, which they've begun selling domestically and on the international. To this end, they've begun replanting almost 2000 acres of their orchards, to quote Managing Director of TWCL, Peter McConnell: “We have started replanting citrus for the first time in six years by putting in a 15-acre block of irrigated citrus this year. Once we have seen these trees start to produce - in the next three years - and we are satisfied with the productivity, we will embark on a massive planting programme to replant more than 2,000 acres”.

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TWCL has invested heavily in increasing the output of their orchards as pointed out by Peter McConnell, quote: “Crisis creates opportunity. The Citrus Industry is in crisis. Supplies are low but prices are high, so there is opportunity. TWCL is investing in sustaining our existing groves and planting new ones”.

TWCL has been seeing a 50% decline in the supply of fresh fruit for juice processing over the last four (4) years.

TWCL is also tapping into vegetable juice markets to be sold under their Tru-Juice and Wakefield as noted in my blog article entitled “Why Wisynco Group and Trade Winds Citrus to increase Sales and Launch new Products”.  

As for Jamaica Beverages Limited, there is a rather depressing and cautionary tale of what can happen when the Citrus Industry has problems supplying Fruit for processing into Juice. Jamaica Beverages Limited is restructuring under bankruptcy protection as noted in the article “Jamaica Beverages Trustee To Propose Rehab Plan”, published Wednesday August 9, 2017 by Avia Collinder, The Jamaica Gleaner.

They had ceased processing local fruit in 2016 as they only able to get a fraction of the citrus fruits needed to satisfy their needs. They have also been affected by the theft of some JA$36 million worth of fruit concentrate as noted in the article “$36M Factory Heist - Juice On The Run As Huge Quantities Of Fruit Concentrate ‘Walk’ Out Of A Company’s Warehouse”, published Sunday September 11, 2016, by Ryon Jones, The Jamaica Gleaner.  

Importation and the Citrus Industry - Edged Sword for Local Fruit Juice Processors

Importation is now creating competition, as the lower cost for imported processed citrus juice and dried concentrate means their competitors can process fruit juice for resale. Other distributors, including wholesalers and retailers can opt to just sell pre-packaged juices in Jamaica.

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The high prices on the international markets also benefit the large local Fruit Juice processors, as they can now make money from the export of their fruit juice while supplying the local market.

Their only problem is securing supplies for the manufacture of their own fruit juice brands, as is the case with Tru-Juice and Wakefield as pointed out by Peter McConnell, quote: “We are still able to supply the local fresh fruit market without a problem, but the amount needed for our juices - we don't have enough - so we are using a blend of our oranges and imported concentrate. We are exporting fresh fruit to the Caribbean because the prices are very good; but any of the more competitive markets, we are not bothering with that. We are concentrating on the markets where we get the best returns”.

Some world trade data from the United Nations stats reveal the problem more clearly:

1.      US$1.8 million in imported citrus in 2016 for Jamaica
2.      US$1.40 per pound for FCOJ (Frozen concentrated Orange Juice) futures on the international market.

So importation to supply juice manufacturing demand is expensive for all manufactures even as it presents an opportunity for them to trade on this very same market, to quote Peter McConnell: “We are dependent on imports from Belize to supplement shortfall in local production. Based on the high cost of FCOJ on the world market, our margins are negatively affected, but all juice manufacturers are in the same situation. Seven years ago, we had excess and were seeking market for our concentrate. Now it's completely reversed”.

Still, it also creates an opportunity for Agricultural scientists to develope techniques to make citrus fruits that have a shorter growing cycle and can be grown in a greenhouse. Other fruit juice markets aside citrus fruits also lie waiting to be exploited.

Friday, August 18, 2017

How MSTEM's Solar for USF Community Access Points can Recycle Jamaican Plastic and Styrofoam

“We made a decision that… all sites must have, as a critical component, solar solutions. This is important in order to remove that burden… of the high cost of (electricity) from the communities,”

Science, Energy and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley commenting on the CAP (Community Access Points)

The Government of Jamaica is moving to make CAP (Community Access Points) literally be self-powered. This as they've thrown Solar Power into the mix.

Science, Energy and Technology Minister Dr Andrew Wheatley has decided to go solar for some 250 CAPS as reported in the article  “Solar Systems for Community Access Points”, published April 19, 2017 by Alecia Smith, The Jamaica Information Service

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This latest bit of news on the USF (Universal Service Fund) pet project popped out on Thursday August 10th, 2017 during the official opening of the $3.5-million Annotto Bay computer resource centre in St Mary. It was also the launch of the 256th CAP facility in Annotto Bay, the seventh overall in St Mary.

It seems that 70 of the 250 were operating inefficiently according to their 2016 audit of the CAPs as noted in “Community access points to be powered by solar energy”, published Friday, August 11, 2017, The Jamaica Observer.

No surprise to me; Wi-Fi does use a LOT of power.

While the Government is at it, they might want to consider making the CAP's in collection points for Plastic Bottles and Styrofoam for recycling.

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This can be done in exchange for longer time on the internet as a means of Paying Jamaicans to recycle as explained in my blog article entitled “How JA$100 for recycling 500ml Plastic bottles and Styrofoam Ban will save Jamaica's Environment”.

So in one fell swoop, 2 problems can be solved; inefficient CAP and recycling Plastic Bottles and Styrofoam!!!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

How ATLAS Scientists use CERN LHC to make Photons collide from Lead Nuclei

“This is a very basic process. It’s never been observed before, and here it is finally emerging from the data”

Theoretical physicist John Ellis of King’s College London commenting on the discovery by CERN

Looks like it the month for massless particles to interact. This time the latest discover comes to us thanks to CERN, host of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider).

Researchers with the ATLAS experiment at the LHC reported that photons do bump into each other as reported in the article “Normally aloof particles of light seen ricocheting off each other”, published August 14 2017 by Emily Conover, Science News.

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ATLAS Researchers published their results in August 14th 2017 in Nature Physics. The discovery is a huge achievement for the ATLAS Scientists, as it proves that light does collide with itself at high -energies to quote  of the ATLAS Physics Coordinator and Physicist from the University of Sheffield, Dr. Dan Tovey: “This is a milestone result: the first direct evidence of light interacting with itself at high energy. This phenomenon is impossible in classical theories of electromagnetism; hence this result provides a sensitive test of our understanding of QED, the quantum theory of electromagnetism”

 Photon scattering is extremely rare and difficult to spot. However, Photons with more energy interact more often, providing additional chances to spot scattering. Enter the LHC.

ATLAS Scientists make Photons collide - How Heavy Lead reveals Light Collisions

A quick primer on the quantum mechanics of photons.

This process is called pair-production and is the result of ultra-peripheral collisions in the otherwise empty space of the LHC as pointed out in “ATLAS observes direct evidence of light-by-light scattering”, published August 15, 2017 by Katarina Anthony, Physorg.

According to quantum mechanics, photons can briefly transform into transient pairs of electrically charged particles and antiparticles.  This is extremely important in high energy physics, as the result is an electron and a positron, as predicted by the Feynman diagram shown below.

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This stage lasts for an extremely short space of time before reverting back to photons. it is this transition that has been of great interest for years to heavy-ion and high-energy physics communities as pointed out by ATLAS Heavy Ion Physics Group Convener of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, Peter Steinberg, quote: “This measurement has been of great interest to the heavy-ion and high-energy physics communities for several years, as calculations from several groups showed that we might achieve a significant signal by studying lead-ion collisions in Run 2”.

Photons have no electric charge, they shouldn’t notice one another’s presence. As they are massless, however, they would require a high amount of energy to make them interact and ricochet away from one another. The ATLAS scientists used CERN's LHC to accelerate Lead (Pb) nuclei and smash them together.

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The strong electromagnetic fields created by the massive nuclei would trap any photons produced and beam scattering could be observed. This took a lot of data gathering, as the scientists were looking for only two (2) photons that collided and scattered away. This means spotting only two photons  in their enormous, highly sensitive particle detector, and accounting for every possible particle produced during the collision.

Using a process of elimination and calculating probable paths, the researchers found 13 such events over 19 days of data collection.  The predictions agree with the standard model, physicists’ theory of particle physics, but more research is needed, as potentially, this soup of Pb nuclei fragments could hint at the existence of new, undiscovered particles.