Wednesday, June 26, 2013

3 things I learned at a Grenada Developers' Meetup

 I'm in Grenada as part of a project associated with a new Caribbean Digital Media exam. The aim is to expose our students to digital media tools, planning and business skills, so our caribbean digital craftsmen will become more savvy. Being in Grenada I had to take the opportunity to coordinate a developer meetup. Present were +Juan Bailey of The Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN) and 3 developers from Ameltek, +Chad Fraser+Lendon Telesford and Marlon Benjamin.
Juan Bailey (right) was the first to arrive 
I've taken our conversation and broken it down into a few big headings.

Business/Communication Skills Needed for the Developer Community

from left to right, Lendon Telesford and Chad Fraser of Ameltek 
Juan is currently the Information Systems Manager at CKLN and is probably the most experienced of the group. In his job he has been involved with invitations to bid and soliciting expressions of interest for projects that the organization manages. He noted that Grenadian developers were losing opportunities simply because of weaker proposal writing skills. It isn't really about the technical skill-set of the developers or even their writing skills it had more to do with being underexposed to the discipline of proposal writing. I'm hoping that our younger up and coming designers and developers won't have this weakness since we've been careful to include topics such as proposal writing and the creative process in the new Digital Media exam.

Juan of the Caribbean Knowledge Learning Network,  the most experienced of the group, had a lot to share.

Better ways of sharing opportunties

In responding to Lendon, Juan explained that CKLN projects are promoted on the CKLN website and advertised in the local newspapers (not all of the newspapers either). This means that some developers, including Lendon it seems, are not getting wind of these projects.

CKLN intends to develop communities of interest around the Caribbean.If I were to make up a wishlist I'd want to include the following:

  • Web and Application Developers
  • Content Strategy and User Experience
I think it is wiser to combine some of these interests so the communities don't end up being too tiny.

Challenges for Application Developers (GeoLocation, Platforms)

Not all issues are unique to Grenada, smaller islands in the Caribbean don't always have a comprehensive street address system, this presents a challenge for location based applications. Try directing a stranger to the house next to the tamarind tree, now make an app for that!

Chad and his team at Ameltk have developed a platform for rich content delivery that supports content on demand and live streaming. The challenge is that it works best on Android and iOS while Grenada is still largely a Blackberry country. He sees two trends that are likely to change this, the porting of Blackberry messenger (BBM) to Android and iOS, and the growing number of affordable Android phones.

4 more things of Interest 

Here is a braindump of a few more topics that we covered.
Techspo, a technology roadshow which is a spin off of the CTO Roadshow. The Government wanted to brand it as a local event starting in 2011, Chad thinks that it is not accessible to small developers and businesses at a cost of $4000 USD/ $10,000 EC to participate/sponsor the event.

In general there is a perception that Grenada doesn't have enough digital producers instead, Juan summarizes, "we have become content consumers".

Edutech Global Solutions is another initiative from Chad and company. They got some funding and were able to give scholarships to participants in a robotics camp and created games using game factory.
Marlon Benjamin and Lendon Telesford

Lendon mentioned the challenge of finding funding for small developers just out of school.

Final Thoughts

Next time around I'd like to open this up to visual designers as well, I invited a few web and visual designers but it turned out to be bad timing for them.

One thing that really came out of this meetup for me is the need for a resource for grenadian developers.
This resource would provide guidance related to entrepreneurial skills and also disseminate important local information relevant to developers. Costing, proposal writing and project management, would be some of the areas of focus. There are organizations on the ground here in Grenada who may be able to support such an effort (I wouldn't limit it to these organizations), The Grenada Information Technology Association, GITA and the Information Technology Association of Grenada (ITAG) seem to be good candidates.

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