My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: July 2018

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Why TVET for Jamaican High Schools by September 2018 as Skilled Workers demand Rising

“Part of what we will be embarking on come this September is a really robust career training programme in our secondary schools, as a number of our students are still unaware of some of the new areas that they can go into. A lot of them still have misconceptions about the areas that can bring them significant wealth”.

State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Floyd Green speaking about TVET (technical and vocational education and training) in secondary schools

Looks like more Secondary schools, including the more traditional Schools, will be going Technical.

For the Academic Year coming in September 2018, will be adopting TVET (technical and vocational education and training) as reported in the “Education Ministry to Increase Promotion of TVET in Secondary Schools”, published July 19, 2018 By Rochelle Williams, The Jamaica Information Service.

Google Logo

The State Minister, who was delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony for World Youth Skills Day 2018 on Tuesday July 17th 2018 at the Garmex HEART Academy in Kingston. called for a “mindset change” among Jamaicans.

The event featured plenary sessions on careers in the following areas:

1.      Allied health services
2.      Automotive industry
3.      Booth displays in information and communications technology (ICT)
4.      Digital animation
5.      Engineering
6.      Marketing self for future jobs
7.      Social media and cybercrime

Discussions are under way with the following actors to get this latest government initiative on it way:

1.      NPSC (National Parenting Support Commission)
2.      PTA (National Parent-Teacher Association)

This means more of the TVET courses may be coming to a Traditional High School, specifically courses in the following five (5) areas:

1.      Agriculture
2.      Business Education
3.      Home Economics
4.      Industrial Education
5.      Visual Arts

Students with technical and vocational education and training, long seen as slow learners are now been seen as hands-on or Kinesthetic learners whose skills are in high demand. So why is this the case?

TVET and HEART Trust/NTA - Emergent Occupations for Vision 2030

He made these statements against the backdrop of the World Youth Skills Day 2018 held on July 17 at the HEART Trust/NTA’s Garmex Academy in Kingston.

Google Logo

Held under the theme ‘New Skills for Emerging Jobs: Improving the Image of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)’, it hope to encourage young people, aged 15 to 25, to choose the path of acquiring and developing their special skills and make a career out of it, builds their long terms earning potential.

Already the HEART Trust/NTA is focusing on training young people for employment in areas of the economy that are currently experiencing high levels for employment:

1.      BPO (Business process outsourcing)
2.      Tourism and hospitality
3.      Business Logistics
4.      Animation
5.      Construction
6.      Agriculture

Apparently, the Government is set to make a windfall from new and emerging careers in TVET as new career paths are on the horizon for skilled workers as noted in the article “Gov’t Increasing Focus on Skills Training”, published July 18, 2018 By Rochelle Williams, The Jamaica Information Service.

This as there are 21st Century skills and training opportunities in these areas that will be needed to enable Vision 2030 such as:

1.      Hydroponics
2.      Mechatronics
3.      Mobile robotics
4.      3D printing
5.      Mobile application development
6.      Videography
7.      Make-up artistry (for film)
8.      Renewable energy (photovoltaic installation)

The plan is to have the School guidance counselors provide advice to 5th form students and parents on TVET careers. This would include telling about their options for training, which would include the HEART Trust/NTA, as more than 67% of our workforce is untrained and uncertified.

 According to studies conducted by the HEART Trust’s LMRI (Labour Market Research and Intelligence) Department, these areas will result in new and emerging occupational areas such as:

1.      3D Visualisers
2.      Big Data Engineers
3.      Renewable Energy Specialists
4.      Accident Reconstruction Specialists
5.      Robotics Engineers
6.      Mechatronic Engineers
7.      Smart House Infrastructure Designers
8.      Drone Pilots

So why did we not know this before? It all has to do without the perception of skilled workers.

The Perception of Skilled Labour in Jamaica - Increase foreign exchange as well as Nation builders

This is due to the misconception of Technical and Vocational people as being slow learners.

Yet interestingly, they have the greatest potential to earn the most money due to the need for skilled workers internationally, as they are needed for the Jamaican economy to experience growth as noted in the article “We need more skilled workers — BOJ”, published Wednesday, November 29, 2017 by Karena Bennett, The Jamaica Observer.

Google Logo

To quote the State Minister for Education, Youth and Information, Floyd Green: “We have a bad perception of going into skills. We want to ensure that we are going into our schools with our guidance counsellors to have career training sessions where we say to our young people, these are the new areas. We have to partner with the PTAs to counsel the parents, because often they are the ones that discourage our young people (from pursuing alternative career paths). We have to explain to them that these are areas of growth”.

In fact, most Jamaicans who migrate to the USA seeking work are skilled technical workers as noted in my blog article entitled “How Jamaicans can apply for H-2A and H-2B VISA to work in the US of A”. 

Ditto too persons who migrate to Canada, especially part of Canada, due to the low-level of skilled labour in those areas as noted in my MICO Wars blog article entitled “How Database 876 helps Jamaicans find US$51000 yearly jobs in Saskatchewan, Canada”.

The same can be said for the UK and the Middle East, where skilled workers are needed to help in the building of infrastructure as those economies transition from a Oil Exporting Economy to one based on Tourism, the Service Sector and Renewables as noted in my MICO Wars blog article entitled “How Jamaicans can find work in UK and Dubai”. 

This translates to increase foreign exchange inflows to the island via remittances. More importantly, Jamaica needs skilled workers to help us build our own infrastructure as well, poising the nation for growth.

But for young people to take advantage of these opportunities, they need to be properly trained as pointed out by Managing Director of the HEART Trust/NTA, Janet Dyer, quite: “Today’s World Youth Skills Day is one of the many activities that we are using to ensure that our young people in Jamaica get all the opportunities that are available to get trained, certified and to contribute to the productivity of this nation”.

Google Logo

So not only are skilled workers going to be necessary for Jamaica to achieve growth, but the potential for employment is getting better and better as their field is expanding. Jamaicans needs to move now to have more TVET programs in more Traditional High School as well as strengthen Technical and Vocational Schools and improve the view people have of these skills area.

Kinesthetic skills take time to learn, usually via observation, practice and repetition, but will help the individual to earn for life.

Friday, July 20, 2018

How to connect a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con or Switch Pro Controllers to you PC or Mac

The Nintendo Switch is the fastest selling console in US History as I'd pointed out in my Geezam blog article entitled “How the Nintendo Switch is the hottest Gaming Console in US History”. 

Google Logo
One of the great selling points about the console is its use of regular Bluetooth Technology for its Joy-Cons and Switch Pro Controller. That potentially opens up the possibility of using them on a computer of Apple Mac.

Google Logo

After all, you can connect the Xbox Controller to a PC or Mac as noted in Geezam blog article entitled “How to connect Xbox One controller to any Computer or Laptop”.

So how do you do that, exactly?

Connecting Joy-Con or Switch Pro Controllers - Step by Step

The steps for connecting the Joy-Con or Switch Pro Controllers are as follows:

1.      Turn on Bluetooth on your PC or Mac.
2.      Disconnect the Joy-Con from the Nintendo Switch 
3.      Hold the “sync” button on the Joy-Con, located between the SR and SL buttons, until the LED lights start flashing.
4.      Look for the Joy-Con in your computer’s Bluetooth menu
5.      Select the option to pair it with your device.

If you’re having difficulty, this video may help for the Pro Controller.

And here is an alternate video for the Joy-Con.

The pairing lights on the Joy-Con won’t stop blinking, but you can confirm that the controller is connected. This is done by looking at your computer’s Bluetooth settings.

Google Logo

If you see an error message, move the controller and check for interference from other Bluetooth device trying to connect to your PC. So now that you have them connected, how do you use them?

Nintendo Switch Controllers - x360ce conversion of DirectInput to API XInput helps

First, I'll explain the Switch Pro Controller. The layout for the controller is as shown below:

Google Logo

The Pro Controller connects via the USB-C port on the bottom of the controller, similar to the Xbox controller or the PS$ Controller The sync button for the Pro Controller is located at the top of the controller, directly to the left of the USB-C plug.

It has a more traditional layout and can thus be played with a wider range of games than the Joy-Con Controllers, which are made specifically for the Nintendo Switch. Still, there are some hiccups as the Pro Controllers works well with some games but not with others.

This is because the Pro Controller uses DirectInput instead of the newer API XInput, making it incompatible with many newer games. To get around this problem you'll need to download the freeware program x360ce.

This program translates DirectInput commands for XInput games and was specifically designed for Xbox 360 controllers. So it's a match made in heaven for the Switch Pro Controller.

Things to consider - Bluetooth issues and Older Games play well

Oh..One more thing.

If you connect the controller wirelessly, remember this; that you can’t charge the Pro Controller while it’s paired via Bluetooth. The Pro Controller has exceptional battery life, roughly 40-plus hours on a full charge. So charging it for about 5- 12 hours before play is not a bad idea!

Google Logo

The Bluetooth connection can connect and disconnect and is easily interrupted by interfering devices, especially when playing with the Joy-Con Controllers. If you’ve had connectivity issues with your left Joy-Con on Switch, you may run into similar problems on other devices.

Make sure there are no physical obstructions between you holding the Joy-Con and the PC...even if your little sister climbs into your lap. Finally, aside from Steam games, the Joy-Cons and Pro Controller support older DirectInput API.

Google Logo

Albeit it won't allow you to play newer games, at least you can enjoy the nostalgia of emulated games a lot better as noted in my MICO Wars blog article entitled “How to use OpenEmu to Play Retro Games with USB Game Controllers on your Apple Mac”.
Sharing is caring so share this with your friends and children who have rediscovered how awesome Nintendo is and why they are No. 1.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

How Sagicor Bank's SWYPE challenges QUISK, GK MPay for Mobile Money Dominance

“Sagicor Bank is committed to always finding new and innovative ways to improve our clients' lives and with the launch of SWYPE, not only are we having a direct impact on the growth and development of the SME sector, we are also helping to build the economy”

Sagicor Bank CEO Chorvelle Johnson commenting on the launch of the SWYPE

Jamaica will not be the same again as Mobile money now has a more pragmatic competitor.

I’m of course referring to the launch of SWYPE on Monday June 18th 2018 by Sagicor Bank as reported in the article “Sagicor Bank Launches Mobile Point-Of-Sale Machine, SWYPE”, Published Monday June 18, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

The SWYPE is Sagicor Bank's MPOS (mobile point-of-sale machine) as described in their handy SWYPE User Guide located on their dedicated SYWPE Webpage.

Google Logo

More importantly, it’s a compact portable card reader that works with Android phones and tablets, allowing the merchant to accept debit and credit card payments.

Here is a nice video that explains it benefits nicely.

This is very similar to the Square point-of-sale machine I'd described back in my blog article entitled “VISA and Jack Dorsey's Square - Leena's TechCrunch of SME's Mad Money

So how does this empower Mobile Money in Jamaica?

Sagicor Banks' SWYPE - How to do Debit and Credit Card Transactions

Jamaica is in need of Electronic Cashless Payment options.

Cashless trade is on the increase, according to stats from the BOJ (Bank of Jamaica) as noted in the article “Sagicor Bank Launches SWYPE For Mobile Payments”, Published Sunday July 15, 2018 by Avia Collinder, The Jamaica Gleaner

Google Logo
The BOJ reported in their 2017 annual report that:

1.      14 million was the volume of POS (point of sales) transactions processed on POS terminals.
2.      JA$78.6 billion was the value of these transactions

This as not only are Electronic and Cashless Transactions more secure, but they can help to fight corruption and make the collection taxes more efficient as argued in my blog article entitled “How Electronic Transactions in Jamaica can eliminate Hidden Economy via Universal Consumption Taxation”. 

The machine accepts MasterCard, Visa and Multilink cards. It connects via Bluetooth with any Android smartphone or tablet and transactions are handle via the free mcsPAY App available for download in the Google Play Store.

Then you just follow the instructions as laid out in in their handy SWYPE User Guide located on their dedicated SYWPE Webpage. It you prefer, you can watch the video below and learn more.

Clearly this will initially accept Sagicor Bank Debit and Credit Cards, but hopefully, they’ll expand that to any Debit or Credit Card on the Multi-Link system. This is definitely going to be a hit with both customers and business owners as they're benefit from the ease and convenience of completing a sales transaction without cash.

So who exactly will benefit from Sagicor Bank's MPOS?

Sagicor Banks' SWYPE Benefits - MSME's convenience for Customers

Taxi men and Bus conductors might resort to using this device, especially if they have to plan large excursions such as School trips to historical sites as explained in my MICO Wars blog article entitled “Our Story Tours – Jamaican Historical Tours for Schools and Tourist Groups”. 

Google Logo

With the security and convenience of cashless becoming a global trend, Sagicor Bank had to be a part of the action as Sagicor Bank CEO Chorvelle Johnson points out, quote: “As we become even more modernised and technological advancements improve, Sagicor Bank remains on top of its game with respect to providing products and services of the highest quality for our clients”.

It'll be of greatest benefit to MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) as they can now handle Credit and Debit Card Transactions instead of just Cash transactions as pointed out by Chorvelle Johnson, quote: “For example, a large distribution company with sales agents or a food stall operator could use this device to increase their earning potential by accepting card payments. Individuals can also apply for Sagicor Bank’s SWYPE; however, specific terms and conditions apply”.

Merchants subscribing to use the device will pay a fee per transaction, as well as a monthly rental fee, which is automatically deducted from the merchant's account at the beginning of every month.

Vendors toting SWYPE may not be happening anytime soon, as its still way easier to use QUISK or GK MPay as noted in my Geezam blog article entitled “Quisk heralds e-commerce Micro-Transactions for Jamaican Entrepreneurs”.

So what are the advantages of SWYPE over Mobile Money?

The advantage of SWYPE – Established Credit and Debit Card usage in Jamaica

SWYPE does have a leg up on QUISK or GK MPay; the customer merely has to use their Credit or Debit Card.

Credit and Debit Card usage, albeit small, is already well established in the banking world and among their many customers who use this convenient form of cash. It also a lot easier to meet the customer half-way, being as it is less cumbersome and potentially more affordable and easier to set up than a QUISK or GK MPay account.

Google Logo

It however, lacks the security of blockchain, as your Debit and Credit Card can still be stolen, one they have the tech to intercept Bluetooth Transmissions and thereby capture your Debit or Credit Card.

Still, this is mutually beneficial to MSME such as Taximen and potentially Vendors, why may decide the learning curve is worth the risk in order to increase their sales.

Here's the link for more info on Sagicor Bank's SWYPE:

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

BSJ's NCRA Standardized packaging of Flour and Rice heralds more packaged products

“A good package should provide a barrier against dirt and other contaminants, thus keeping the product clean. It should protect food against physical and chemical damage, for example, the harmful effects of air, light, insects, and rodents, and it should help the customers to identify the food, instruct them how to use it correctly as well as inform them when it was manufactured and when it expires,”

Director of the Standards Division at the BSJ Mrs. Julia Bonner on packaging standards for rice and flour

So you though only sugar was getting a makeover. The BSJ (Bureau of Standards Jamaica) isn't done yet as they seek to standardize packaging for many common Jamaican staples.

Now they're after rice and flour as pointed out in the article “BSJ Reviewing Packaging Standards For Flour And Rice”, published Monday June 18, 2018, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Google Logo

But first, a look at the packaging of sugar, which is much improved and which I must say is quite welcome. So how did the packaging of sugar get standardized? Will it be the same for rice, flour and cornmeal?

Jamaican Retail of Sugar - Standardized packaging enforced by the BSJ's NCRA

The Jamaican Government had introduced new packaging standards for granulated and brown sugar in July 2017. Since July 1, 2017, all sugar sold to the public has to be:

1.      Packaged
2.      Sealed
3.      Labelled

This prevents retailers from distributing sugar in unlabelled polythene bags, a tradition that many shopkeepers started and larger retailers and supermarkets followed.

Google Logo

Now, the sugar must be bagged at approved plants and conform to labeling standards. The new rules require that packagers be registered with the National Compliance and Regulatory Authority, a unit of Bureau of Standards Jamaica.

So far only six (6) companies have been approved so far to package sugar bound for the retail market:

1.      Caribbean Depot for Jamaica Gold, Golden Grove, and Eve brands on behalf of their respective owners
2.      Cost Club Limited for MegaMart
3.      DK Processors Jamaica Limited for the Diamond Krystal and Paradise brands
4.      Hi-Lo Food Stores for the Hi-Lo brand of brown sugar
5.      Lloyds Manufacturing Company Limited for the May's, Grace and Secrets brands
6.      Palm Rose Limited for Royal Rose

This new packaging is the result of previous work by the BSJ in getting sugar producers to comply with their new guidelines set back in July 2017 as reported in the article “Pre-Packaged Sugar must be Appropriately Labelled”, published June 23, 2017 By Alecia Smith, The Jamaica Information Service.

Not only must all packagers be registered with the NCRA, but as of the revised mandatory standards for brown cane sugar, gazetted on December 30, 2016, which outlined the requirements for labelling, packaging and safety of sugar, possible fines and prison terms are possible.

The Standards Act provides for a fine of $3 million and 12 months in prison for non-compliance with the labelling and packaging standards for sugar sold in the retail market.

The new packaging, which is more secure than just weighing and placing the sugar into plastic bags, also give information on the product as follows:

1.      Product name
2.      Brand name
3.      Net content
4.      Name and address of manufacturers
5.      Name and address of distributors
6.      Name and address of importers
7.      Name and address of vendors
8.      Storage conditions
9.      Country of origin
10.  Lot identification
11.  Date markings
12.  Instructions for use

This information has greatly improved the traceability of the product. So how has this affected the sugar producers? And when will these changes begin to affect rice, flour and cornmeal? And are other products commonly eaten by Jamaicans soon to have their packaging standardized?

BSJ and Standardized packaging – Jamaicans love Packaged sugar

This has, at least in my eyes, made sugar more attractive and safer, as I'd pointed out in my blog article entitled “Why Ministry of Agriculture and BSJ Branded Sugar Packaging and Labelling protects the Jamaican Consumer

Google Logo

There were some teething pains, mainly to do with producing the packaging, which was expensive, while ensuring that the price of the product remained competitive as noted in the article “Stand Firm On Sugar Packaging And Labelling – Pandohie”, published Monday September 25, 2017 by Mark Titus, The Jamaica Gleaner

The public agrees, as they just couldn't get enough of it as was evidence by the shortage of packaged sugar in August 2017 as noted in the article “Demand For Packaged Sugar Takes Marketers By Surprise - Three Weeks Needed To Cover Shortfall”, published Wednesday August 23, 2017 by Avia Collinder, The Jamaica Gleaner

The distributors of bulk sugar experience a 60% increase in demand for the packaged 0.5 kg of sugar in the new packaging. These main distributors of bulk sugar were as follows:

1.      JCPS
2.      Seprod's Golden Grove Limited
3.      Pan Caribbean Sugar Company Limited

JCPS and Seprod are also suppliers of their own branded retail sugar, with JCPS's retail sugar being packaged by Caribbean Depot Limited. JCPS represents the following sugar factories

1.      Monymusk
2.      Appleton
3.      Worthy Park

JCPS accounts for 55% of the Sugar cane crop and as such get 55% of the market for local sales. At this point a diagram is in order to tie all this info together.

Google Logo

So will it be the same for rice, flour and cornmeal? What other products will possibly have to be properly packaged and labled?

BSJ is Standardizing product packaging - Flour, Rice, Cornmeal and other product on their Radar

A similar relationship between Manufacturers of Rice, Flour and Cornmeal, Packaging companies and Brands would have to be developed to make the process go smoothly.

Of course, consumers will have to be encouraged to buy the packaged products instead of those doled out in polythene plastic bags as emphasized by Director of the Standards Division at the BSJ Mrs. Julia Bonner, quote: “Once the BSJ develops the new standard requirements for these items, it will become mandated through the operations of the National Compliance & Regulatory Authority ()”.

The BSJ and the NCRA are deliberating on the technical standards that need to be implemented to make Rice, Flour and Cornmeal packaged just as safely and traceably as sugar. Consumers will be encouraged to only purchase properly packaged and labled products.

Google Logo

So look out for not only Rice, Flour and Cornmeal to get packaging on part with sugar but also the following products:

1.      Bulla Cakes
2.      Red Herring
3.      Bag Juice
4.      Salt Mackerel
5.      Red Herring
6.      Breadfruit
7.      Cooked Food
8.      Fruits and Vegetable sold by vendors

Hopefully this will involve packaging that is not plastic. Ironically the use of plastic need to be banned from packaging, being as it is creating a serious problem for Jamaica as I’d pointed out in my blog article entitled “How a Ban on Styrofoam, Plastics needs Recycling Initiative to save the Jamaican Environment”.

Google Logo

These are just a few and the last bit with the vendors would require them to form a manufacturing cooperative in order to brand and produce their own packaging. But based on the popularity of packaged sugar, I suspect that Jamaican adoption won't be much of a problem.