UNIVERSITIES in Jamaica are innovating robots to clean up Kingston Harbour, facial recognition technology to combat crime, earthquake risk software for hazard prevention, and a legitimate electrical outlet for individuals off the national grid, Social Good Summit 2018 patrons learned last week Monday.
The disclosures — highlights of many unveiled by university leaders and experts — came at the global technology-for-development event convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Office in Jamaica at Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville.
The summit was convened in partnership with NCU, The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, University of Technology Jamaica (UTech), and Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), a recent release from UNDP said.
CMU president, Professor Fritz Pinnock, and the head of the university's new digital innovation centre, Erica Simmons, disclosed that CMU is developing cyber physical systems, also known as robots, to clean up the Kingston Harbour, and is leveraging technology created in Europe to build an oyster farm as a filter mechanism for the same purpose.
A new Facial and Integrated Technology Solution has been developed by NCU students to provide facial recognition of criminals in support of crime and violence prevention and reduction, NCU president, Professor Lincoln Edwards, and NCU Director Dr Michael Harvey outlined.
UWI Mona also informed the summit about their use of biotechnology to propagate seedlings for their mangrove nurseries.
Specifically, UWI principal, Professor Dale Webber reported that UWI is using biotechnology techniques and new techniques in micro fragmentation to get coral reefs to grow five times faster than normal.
Dr David Smith of the UWI's Institute for Sustainable Development disclosed that the university had developed an open-source software in partnership with the University of Illinois to estimate risk of earthquakes.
Professor Stephen Vasciannie, president of UTech, unveiled developments in anti-cancer treatments through a guinea hen weed patent, the upcoming development of a regional engineering and computing institute, and the development of an electricity outlet that can be used by individuals without access to the national grid.
UNDP Resident Representative in Jamaica Bruno Pouezat, who shared that UNDP has placed innovation front and centre in its new strategic plan, said he was “impressed by the dynamism that had been displayed, the volume of innovation, and the relevance of that innovation to Jamaica's development needs”.
According to the release, Pouezat said that UNDP will publish a knowledge product on the state of innovation for the sustainable development goals (SDGs) this year, in collaboration with the four participating universities, and civil society, and government partners. The report will synthesise the presentations of the leaders and expert panels as well as presentations from the National Commission on Science and Technology, Slash Roots Foundation, You Can Do It Foundation, and The Interview JM.
The knowledge product will provide some indication of the innovation output of these universities that can accelerate achievement of the SDGs by 2030, as well as the current regulatory environment and culture for innovation — while suggesting some solutions for advancing the culture of innovation in Jamaica in support of Agenda 2030, the release said.
In the meantime, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, minister of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, who brought remarks, urged Jamaicans to “be crazy, push, take risks with science”.
He said Government had built national innovation systems through the improvement of the policy environment for scientific research and development, and had reactivated its technology investment fund with a $30 million allocation.
The summit's four key focus areas: Health, crime, natural disaster risk, and the blue and green economies — were identified as accelerators for implementation of the sustainable development goals in Jamaica, the release said. The accelerators were included in a Cabinet-approved Roadmap for SDG implementation funded by UNDP.
Held annually during the United Nations General Assembly week, the release said Social Good Summit focuses on how one can unlock technology's potential to make the world a better place.
Globally, the Social Good Summit is produced in partnership with Mashable, United Nations Foundation, 92Y, and UNDP.