My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: April 2018

Saturday, April 28, 2018

How to Save the Parrotfish as Jamaicans need alternatives for Sunday Dinner

“There has to be a far more comprehensive approach. We are looking at fish sanctuaries, no-fishing zones, regulation for protecting the large fish, gear regulation, among other things. An outright ban is not the answer as it will create social and economic problems for the most marginalised — fishermen,”

Dr Andre Kong, Director of fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, commenting on the national forum on Parrotfish management

Jamaicans, it may be time to start eating another type of Fish, as a Parrotfish Ban is imminent!!

The national forum on Parrotfish management met on Thursday April 19 2018 in Ocho Rios as reported in the article “National forum to discuss parrotfish issues next week”, published Friday, April 13, 2018, The Jamaica Observer.

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The national forum on Parrotfish management is a collaborative effort by the following NGO (Non Governmental Organizations):

1.      Sandals Resorts International's 'Save the Parrotfish
2.      Save Our Islands' Campaign
3.      The Nature Conservancy through the US Agency for International Development-funded Caribbean Marine Biodiversity Programme and its 'Pass On Parrotfish' Campaign

Participants who attended the event were:

1.      Local stakeholders in the fisheries and marine sector, including fisherfolk from across the island
2.      Researchers
3.      Representatives from environmental groups
4.      Non-governmental organizations
5.      Private and public organizations

Speakers will include:

1.      Dr Dayne Buddo, marine biologist and CEO of the Alligator Head Foundation who has worked extensively on fisheries management and the issue of Parrotfish conservation
2.      Dr Mark Tupper, fisheries specialist who has carried out research on the length at maturity of commercially important Caribbean reef species.
3.      Dalelan Anderson, Manager of the White River Special Fishery Conservation Area and lead researcher on the Parrotfish Research Project

Among the issues to be discussed are:

1.      The harvesting, sale, and consumption of juvenile Parrotfish
2.      The implications these factors have on coral reefs, food security, and sustainable livelihoods

So why are the Parrotfish so important?

Parrotfish and Jamaican Beaches - Parrotfish produce Sand and maintain our tourism sector

Preliminary findings are showing that Jamaican Parrotfish measure smaller in size than the expected mature fish size.

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This suggests that Parrotfish being caught, sold and consumed may be young fish which have not been allowed to mature. The Parrotfish Forum plans to produce a strategy document which is to be prepared and presented to the Government and other stakeholders for action.

The survival of the Parrotfish has implications to the maintenance of the Coral reef, the main barrier to beach erosion, as they as a group of fish produce some 800lb of sand to rebuild beaches as explained in my blog article entitled “How Parrotfish and Sea Urchins ban saves Coral Reef, Beaches and US$3 billion Jamaican Tourism”.

In short if the Parrotfish do not rebound, neither will our Tourism sector!!

SRI's Save the Parrotfish, Save Our Islands campaign

The Parrotfish Research Project is initiative facilitated by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between The University of the West Indies and SRI that aims to gather convincing data to support official calls for the introduction of Parrotfish management systems.

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SRI's Save the Parrotfish, Save Our Islands campaign is driven by similar objectives. It has the Parrotfish Research Project as its centerpiece. The campaign has also seen extensive public education efforts, underpinned by social media activism with the support of the following NGO's and Private Sector Interests:

1.      The Jamaica Observer
2.      The Sandals Foundation
3.      Rainforest Seafoods Limited

Rainforest Seafoods Limited, to their credit, is no longer importing, producing or selling Parrotfish since 2014 as noted in my blog article “How $1.25 million Rainforest Seafoods and UWI AHML FAD's will protect Parrotfish, Coral Reef and Tourism”.

But aside from not selling Parrotfish, how can regular Jamaicans help the Parrotfish to bounce back?

Save the Parrotfish - Alternative needed for Sunday Dinner

#PassOnParrotfish is a collaborative campaign in which The Nature Conservancy and local partners in the Caribbean as noted in the article “National Parrotfish forum is timely”, published Friday, April 13, 2018, The Jamaica Observer.  

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The aim is to raise awareness about the need to protect Parrotfish across the region. The campaign is part of the Caribbean Marine Biodiversity Programme, a five-year project (2014-2019).

Through an MOU, The Nature Conservancy and SRI have committed to working together to garner support for the implementation of Parrotfish management regulations.

The aim of this program is to:

1.      Reduce threats to biodiversity in priority areas in the Caribbean
2.      Achieve sustained biodiversity conservation
3.      Maintain and restore critical ecosystems
4.      Realize tangible improvements in human and community well-being

The campaign encourages fishers, restaurants and consumers not to catch, sell or eat Parrotfish because of the important role they play in maintaining coral reef health.

This stance taken by environmental groups to ban the harvesting, sale and consumption of Parrotfish is going to affect the lives of fisherfolk who make a living form this Sunday staple. Already NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency) has spoken to fisherfolk about the need for conservation.

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Fighting consumer demand, the real driver behind Parrotfish consumption, is going to be hard to satiate, especially as Fishback is not so popular albeit fish stick and fish nuggets may work with children as explained in my MICO Wars blog article entitled “How Andrew Holness made Rainforest Seafood Fish Back a Sunday Menu Staple”.

Still, the fisher folk do acknowledge that having regulation in place would help the Parrotfish rebuild in numbers and size:

1.      Implementation of fishing sanctuaries
2.      No fishing zones
3.      Regulation on the types of fishing equiptment
4.      Closed season for Parrotfish

Plus the plan to ban fishing Parrotfish is a bit absurd, as you'd have to resort to policing fishermen. Rather the environmental groups are seeking to implement but management systems that would help in protecting the Parrotfish.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How JA$9 Million to NEPA’s Jamaica Air Quality Management Programme is a start towards Air Quality Monitoring

 “It is anticipated that the draft policy framework will be approved by Cabinet as a Green Paper and be opened up for public consultations early this financial year”

Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz commenting on $9 million being given to JAQMP to boost Air Quality Monitoring

Looks like we might soon be breathing a little least figuratively!!!

Plans are now afoot to boost out ability to monitor Jamaica's Air Quality with $9 million being given to JAQMP ( Jamaica Air Quality Management Programme) as reported in the article “Gov't Earmarks $9m To Strengthen National Air Quality Management Programme”, published Tuesday April 24, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.

So says minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz during the opening ceremony for a five-day ambient air quality workshop at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston on Monday April 23, 2018. The ambient air quality workshop aims to deliver a training exercise on the basic concepts of environmental epidemiology.

Training is being provided in the use of the AirQ+ tool developed by the World Health Organization to monitor and assess the impact of air pollution on health. As for the new funds, the bulk of it will go towards:

1.      Expand Jamaica's monitoring
2.      Training officers in Air Quality Management
3.      Improving the procedures, protocols and standards for Air Quality management
4.      Publication of a daily Air Quality Index

It’s good to see that some attention is finally being paid to the increasing problem of air pollution in Jamaica, especially after the Riverton Dump Fire that occurred on Sunday, March 16, 2014 as reported in my blog article entitled “How Car Tyres and Plastics from Riverton City dump can make Diesel and Gasoline”.

Since then, there have been small fires occurring at the Dump. But interestingly, another source of air pollution is yet to be addressed; the noxious fumes released by motor vehicles.

A research paper co-authored by Karti Sandilya of Pure Earth, an anti-pollution non-governmental organization, published in the Lancet medical journal, reported that pollution claimed the lives of nine million people in 2015 as noted in the article “Don't wait until air pollution is too big to fix”, published Monday, October 23, 2017, The Jamaica Observer.

This translates to one in every six deaths that year, with the following grisly stats:

1.      92% of the deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries
2.      India and China accounted for more than 50% of those deaths
3.      6.5 million people died in those countries

Already there is evidence of plastic particulates in Bottled Water, making it potentially hazardous to our health as noted in my blog article entitled “University of East Anglia's School of Chemistry discovers microplastic in Bottled Water”.

Air pollution from Buses and motor vehicles is on the rise as well. This has been pointed out by Seventh Day Adventists as noted in my blog article entitled “Adventists want Ban on Vehicle Pollution as Smoking Ban looms on Monday July 15th 2013”. 

So what will this increased funding to the JAQMP change?

JAQMP and Air Quality Monitoring - Mainly Particulates being Monitored

For the most past, $9 million being given to JAQMP is a mere drop in the bucket, as Jamaica's deteriorating Air Quality is a long ignored issue. So it's good to take at look at their overall plans.
Expand Jamaica's monitoring would means expanding monitoring outside of the following areas:

1.      Kingston Metropolitan Area
2.      Montego Bay
3.      May Pen
4.      Spanish Town
5.      Mandeville

It would also means expanding the number of pollutants being monitored to include gaseous substances as currently only particulate matter is monitored along with a few gases, namely:

1.      Total Suspended Particulates (TSP)
2.      PM10 (Particulate Matter)
3.      Lead
4.      Sulphur Dioxide Photochemical Oxidants (ozone)
5.      Carbon Monoxide
6.      Nitrogen Dioxide

Interestingly, there are also plans to develope and conduct elemental speciation, which is the examination of the distribution of defined chemical species of an element in a system.

Element in the Periodic Table can exist in different oxidation states, compounds or Isotopes and each form is regarded as a species. This is similar to the way different forms of the same plant or animals are seen as different from each other.

This affects their level of bioactivity and toxicity and monitoring them is becoming important, being as many of them can persist in the environment for long periods of time. Jamaica has developed ambient air quality standards for criteria air pollutants since 1996 with some 62 Air quality monitoring sites.
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The Air Quality Monitoring Network is not government owned and the Air Quality monitoring is done by a mix of Private and Public Sector Entities as shown below.

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The Methods for sampling and testing were adopted from the list of USEPA and are as follows:

1.      Particulates - Monitors are filter based and concentration determined by gravimetric analysis or beta-attenuation.
2.      Gases - Analyzers determine concentration utilizing either fluorescence, chemiluminescence, ultraviolet photometry methods etc.

Below are shown examples of Air quality monitoring sites that monitor Particulates.
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And these are examples of Air quality monitoring sites that monitor Gases.

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So what is being done about the current levels of particulates in the air?

JAAQS and Jamaicans - Current Legal framework needs more punitive fines

The data obtain from monitoring network is validated and averaged yearly for comparison with the JAAQS (Jamaica Ambient Air Quality Standards). Annual reports on Jamaica’s ambient air quality published on NEPA’s website. Despite this, the current Legal framework excludes mobile sources and minor sources.

Put simply, there are no environmental standards for the regulation of the following:

1.      Motor Vehicle emissions
2.      Water Quality
3.      Licensing of Waste Disposal areas

So says former JET (Jamaica Environmental Trust) president Diana McCaulay in the article “Editors' Forum - JET Fears For Jamaica's Water And Air Quality” published Friday October 6, 2017 by Erica Virtue, The Jamaica Gleaner.

It may even be a case that the Government of Jamaica has been ignoring business and operations that continuously pollute the air simply due to political reasons as suggested in the article “Jamaica Choking - JET Calls For Action On Air Pollution”, published Tuesday February 7, 2017 by Ryon Jones, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Even with the limited data that's available, it's not being broken down in a form that the regular person can understand as pointed out by Diana McCaulay, quote: “Except for particulates, NEPA does not have the equipment to do independent testing for the criteria pollutants (for which there are air quality standards), let alone the 78 priority pollutants (for which there are guideline levels) identified in the air-quality regulations. NEPA does not proactively release information on air quality in a form that is understandable by a layperson so it is not easy for a citizen to find out what he or she is breathing”.

With fewer green spaces, there is a need for more trees and rooftop gardens to be planted in Kingston and elsewhere to help keep the air clean and act as windbreak as noted in my blog article entitled “Jamaican Drought, Trees and Air Quality - Why Jamaican Apartment dwellers are developing Respiratory Ailments”. 

So not only is there a lack of standards and regulation but the public is blissfully unaware what is considered bad air and what they can do about it. Hopefully, this measly sum of JA$9 million may be the start of Jamaica awakening to the slowly rising monster of Air Pollution in Jamaica.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

UWI Dr Louis-Ray Harris PEAKS nanosatellite needs CARICOM funding and NASA or SpaceX

“We believe that the development of a regional space industry will benefit the region in many respects. In addition, such a thrust is expected to yield an increased interest in science by students at all levels, particularly in areas related to space and satellite technology”

University of the West Indies, Mona, lecturer Dr Louis-Ray Harris during UWI, Mona Research Day event on Thursday February 8, 2018

Jamaica we have liftoff of the PEAKS (Programme for the Enhancement and Application of our Knowledge of Space). Soon we'll have our own satellite to send back weather maps and live updates of weather patterns of the Caribbean.

At least that is the vision of University of the West Indies, Mona, lecturer Dr Louis-Ray Harris who is developing Jamaica's first Nanosatellite as explained in the article “UWI Lecturer Working On Ja's First Operational Satellite”, published Friday February 9, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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He made this declaration during UWI, Mona Research Day event, which ended Thursday February 8, 2018. He leads a team working on a satellite that they are hoping to launch into space. The team, which comprises of Jevaughn Dixon and Brandon Campbell, are also students at the University of the West Indies.

If successfully, Jamaica will become one of several Third world countries, including India, that have successfully placed a satellite in orbit.

But what exactly is the PEAKS nanosatellite?

Dr. Harris PEAKS Nanosatellite- Make this a Caribbean project and the mission is a go

The term 'nanosatellite', or 'nanosat', is applied to an artificial satellite with a wet mass between 1kg and 10kg (2.2lb and 22lb).  Approximately 1,000 nanosatellites are said to have been launched since 2014, mainly by small universities hitching a ride aboard a NASA or private sector owned launch vehicles such as Space X, owned by Elon Musk.

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PEAK is powered using both a solar as well as on-board batteries. Its solar panels can also be remotely controlled from a ground station that it communicate with via a Ku-Band communication link. The earth-based mission control is really a remote server with the appropriate interface and control software to read telemetry data from the satellite and to issue commands to stay in orbit and keep it on mission.

That mission of course is to:

1.      Create weather maps of the Caribbean
2.      Produce Live updates of weather patterns of the Caribbean

It may also be used to do imaging work for Jamaica, which would be great for urban planning, as hinted by Dr Louis-Ray Harris, quote: “When launched, the satellite will be used as a tool to engage students for several programmes. It could be used to send back weather maps and live updates of weather patterns of the Caribbean, using its high-resolution cameras and other on-board instruments”.

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Hopefully, if he's able to secure the necessary funding, Jamaican can get their nanosatellite into the hands of NASA or SpaceX. I said “Nanosaltellites” as the cost to launch several instead of just one is significantly less, given the nature of the payload.

Also, one satellite might not do, a constellation of them may be needed to do the work that Dr. Harris has in mind.

Most likely, this may become a Caribbean wide effort powered by CARICOM (Caribbean Common Community) as hinted by Dr. Harris, quote:  “It is the first in a series aimed at putting Caribbean technology into space and to generate interest in the application of science and technology”.

Once it becomes CARICOM, the vision will be shared...and the funding will become available.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dr Noel Brown from UTECH predicts Robots, AI replacing Jamaican Workers by 2020

“We've embarked on a digital agenda, where we are looking at providing a more digital experience for our customers. So within that context, [some] roles will become redundant, and new roles are being created at the same time. There is a demand for programmers, data specialists, programme managers in implementing our agile programme, and we have a need for agile coaches, scrum masters, data interface designers.”

CEO, NCB Financial Group, Dennis Cohen, on NCB laying off 200 workers

Get ready for the rise of machines in the Jamaican workforce. Welcome to the new world of work in Jamaica and around the world, which will soon see more robots and AI (Artificial Intelligence) systems in use

At least this is the opinion of Head, School of Engineering and associate professor at the University of Technology, Dr Noel Brown, as laid out in the article “By 2019, 20% of jobs in Jamaica may be done by artificial intelligence”, published Friday, February 16, 2018 , by Dennise Williams, The Jamaica Gleaner.

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He made his opinions known in a presentation at the JSE (Jamaica Stock Exchange) Regional Conference at the Pegasus Hotel in early February 2018. He asserted that jobs in certain sectors that were repetitive and laborious may be ripe for the application of robotics as Jamaicans may not want to work in these sectors due to the low wages associated with such labour.

He then made the bold declaration that by 2019 robotics and artificial intelligence will impact the following sectors:

1.      Agriculture
2.      Finance
3.      Contact Centers

So what exactly are these bold predictions he is making?

Jamaica, Robotics and AI - Customer Service and Agricultural Jobs in Danger

Dr Brown predicts up to 20% of Customer Service jobs (read "Call Centers and Face-to-face Customer Care") will be done by AI systems.

This is actually already happening as Digicel's Customer Care already uses Wysdom AI to handle to handle Social Media and Instant Messenger queries as noted in my blog article entitled “How Digicel and Wysdom AI will handle BackOffice as AI prepare to take over 24-7 Customer Care”. 

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In the agriculture sector, he predicts robotics, coupled with AI, may be used to do the following repetitive and labour-intensive tasks:

1.      Taking Soil Samples
2.      Measuring moisture levels
3.      Measure weed and insect infestations by using cameras

Collecting these data metrics would result in a more precisely controlled farm and improve agricultural output, as it give you the ability to make minute changes that can improve crop yield, to quote Dr Brown: “We can see where the infusion of robotics in agriculture will lead to increased productivity, improved crop yield, pest control, reduction in costs, and reduction in spoilage.”

This is already actually happening, with drones being used by Agrocaelum and Hi-Pro to determine these same metrics as reported in my blog article entitled “Why Agrocaelum and Hi-Pro herald the JCAA allowing Drone Racing in Jamaica”. 

That info does indeed help with the usage of fertilizer or chemicals, based on the infrared signature of crops. This helps the farmer can save money on chemicals, minimizing the waste of chemicals on crops.....and yes, may herald the coming of Drone racing.

But it is his predictions about the banking sector that may have many College Students worried.

Banking Sector and Robotics - Workers being replaced by Machines and IT Specialists required

Some of those 20% of Customer Service jobs (read “Call Centers”) will be done by AI systems may not only just be in call centers, but also in regular face-to-face customer care interactions, such as in Banks and the Fast Food industry.

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Already, robotics may be slowly taking over the fast Food industry in the US of A as predicted in my blog article entitled “Fast Food Robot taking over by 2017 - How Drones like Amazon and PrimeAir and not Humanoid Robots will be the first Robots by 2015”. 

The same may be happening in the Banking Sector as well. ATMs have long been replacing human tellers in providing 24/7 access to funds, with many banks shutting down.  First Global Bank recently invested in technology to allow for virtual tellers at its Liguanea branch.

Redundancies at the bank does necessarily mean that robotic systems such as ATM and AI are replacing them, as specialized skills will be needed to build and maintain these systems as deputy CEO, NCB Financial Group, Dennis Cohen, quote: “The fact is that it is always happening because we are constantly making changes, and there may be a number today but a bit of a trickle tomorrow.”

Some of these specialized skills can be used to launch entrepreneurial ventures such as the case with Blue Dot Data Intelligence as described in my blog article entitled “How Blue Dot Media CEBS Platform uses IoT to deliver 15 second Audio Ads in NCB ATM” .

He said this in the context of the layoff of some 200 this is real and happening.

Combined with the IoT (Internet of Things) via Tablets, smartphones, microphones, speakers and cameras, they can measure the heartbeat and track eye patterns of customers who enter NCB ATM's to determine their true reaction to advertisement for goods and services.

This removes the need for bulky paper surveys, making the information as it relates to the likes and dislikes of customer on hearing a particular add more easily accessible. The result is that they can more easily target certain NCB ATM with certain Ads as they know what customer using certain ATMs' prefer.

 So with a more IT (Information Technology) coming to these career fields, does it now mean that University students wanting to go into these field should reconsider?

Jamaican Student and Career paths - Upgrade IT Skills and consider Virtual Work from Home

In a short answer, yes!

This has long been the case, though, as may University students often choose career paths that and not strongly established or have a demand for their skills as pointed out in my blog article entitled “UOPD UWI Graduate Trace Study reveals Bad choices, Entrepreneurship and brain-drain in 2016”. 

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According to the UOPD UWI Graduate Trace Study 2015, the career fields that are seeing a steady demand for graduate are:

1.      Education
2.      Medicine
3.      Engineering

Career strategist and UWI researcher Dr Carolyn Hayle says technology is coming to every field. So if you not up to the game, you may have to reconsider entering that field. As such, she has been advising student to consider the technology variant of these traditional career fields such as:

1.      Financial technology
2.      Real estate software management
3.      Virtual health 

There is indeed a push towards more Virtual Workers, requiring many Jamaican to start considering setting up a Home office as explained in my MICO Wars blog article entitled

These jobs while offering more personal flexibility, are not steady earners and require you to be very self-motivated, to quote Dr Hayle: “More jobs are going online, so people can now work remotely as independent contractors. This may require that you acquire some new skills: self-assessment, self-motivation, reliability, and self-discipline. Working remotely has at least two downsides: 1) the unpredictability of income, and (2) no job benefits. However, this gap provides an opportunity to those offering health insurance coverage to independent contractors. The skills you need to become a successful independent worker can be acquired or improved upon at minimal cost. You can practise these every day.”

So what can Jamaicans do to prepare, aside from changing our careers!?

Jamaicans and Empathy - Robotics and AI may usher in UBI for being Jamaican

Still, us human do have an advantage; empathy.

Those of us who are skilled at emotional intelligence will still find work in these career field threatened by Robotics and AI in the coming AI revolution in Jamaica to quote Dr Hayle: “One of the complaints about artificial intelligence is that it lacks empathy. It is unlikely that it will ever replace humans in areas that are underpinned by empathy, such as the healthcare sector. So right away this is an area in which we can begin to improve our skills”.

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Training Jamaicans to develop our own AI systems is also going to be necessary, as more home-grown programming and network talent will be needed, seeing as AI may herald Call Center extinction by 2021 as predicted in my blog article entitled “Jamaica Computer Society and Ministry of S.E.T. fears AI will eliminate Call Center Jobs in 2021”.

Also innovation in the banking sector may see more use of Mobile money and cryptocurrencies as Jamaicans avoid going to the bank altogether as predicted in my Geezam blog article entitled “How Western Union and GraceKennedy may use Ripple in GK MPay App”.

And there is a plus side to AI, as it may push the Government of Jamaica to introduce UBI (Universal Basic Income), effectively paying Jamaicans simply to be humans and Jamaican as predicted in my blog article entitled “How UWI Lecturer's Fourth Industrial Revolution AI doom will usher in UBI for Jamaica”.

We have ample time to prepare for the Robotics and AI revolution, as 2020 is just 2 years away.