BELIZE CITY—Forty-five Belizean youth from various parts of the country launched their mobile app innovations at the Ramada Hotel in Belize City on Friday afternoon, August 22, after a week of training under the 2014 Young Innovators Program, organized and funded by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
The youth, divided into 8 teams, presented their new apps, which are available for free on Google Play. During Friday’s app launch, the teams were rated by their peers, and the most popular apps among the workshop participants walked away with Toshiba two-in-one laptops (which can also function as tablets) and free Internet for a year from the provider of their choice.
There was a two-way tie for both first and second place, so the prizes went to the two first place teams which created Discover Belize, which features interesting sites from each of the six districts, and BEL Lingo, which features audio translation for various languages found in Belize.
At the ceremony, BrightPath Foundation announced that each team will receive free web hosting for the next 5 years and free domains to host their websites for the next 10 years.
“The ideas are here. The technical capacity to build them definitely exists and now what we need to do is to provide them with an appropriate enabling environment, an environment that looks at the policy around the price of smartphones, an environment that looks at the issue of broadband access, across the country, not just in the major population centers, and of course the issue of bank finance support that allows them to establish businesses around the ideas that they have. That’s the challenge that we face here now,” said Bevil Wooding, Executive Director of BrightPath and lead facilitator for the mobile app workshop.
Wooding said that they’ve held similar training across the Caribbean for a total of 500 participants to date and he described the Belize training as “the most impactful.” He said that the Belizean youth have “a chance to change the world,” since mobile apps can be marketed to buyers across the world, and the business prospects are promising.
“It’s a multi-billion-dollar market now and one of the fastest growing sectors in the telecommunications field. The beauty of the apps is that apps can come from anywhere. The core of what makes a great app is a great idea and that’s what we got this week and that’s what I believe is what these kids can generate on demand,” Wooding explained.
Buddy Magaña, a student of Caye Caulker Ocean Academy who participated in the workshop, told our newspaper that they put in long hours to create Landbook Belize, which was created to help people search for properties in each district. His team SearchTech, which included members from San Pedro Columbia, Orange Walk, Benque and Barranco, who all had no prior knowledge of creating apps, spent three days working to create the app, sometimes working until the early morning hours.
Derek Crawford, an IT professional, who was among the mentors, said that it was a real challenge at first, but that the participants brilliantly pulled it off in a short space of time. Crawford said that the team could work towards improving their app, especially with more technical assistance to make it more economically viable.
The creators of Find it Belize and Discover Belize have said that they would like to partner with the Belize Tourism Board, since their apps are intended to provide an information service to tourists.
The creators of Discover Belize have also said that they would also like to partner with the team that created the Vindixi app, which features information on reputable taxi services with a call feature inside the app. The team said that it created the app for Jasmine Lowe, who was last seen getting into a taxi before she was found murdered in June 2012.
PUC chairman John Avery, who announced the winners and presented the prizes, said that from here on, the Commission will make the Young Innovators Program an annual event.