Jamaican Youth Show How Technology and Media Can Help Achieve the Global Goals

Sep 28, 2015

Computer Science Student Oswald Smith has the full attention of the audience at Jamaica's Social Good Summit as he demonstrates the Google Transit App for Jamaica. Photo Credit: UNDP Jamaica

A diverse group of young Jamaicans shared their vision for 2030 and how they see their work in technology and media contributing towards the country’s achievement of the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), at Jamaica’s first Social Good Summit organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and held on Monday, 28 September 2015, at the University of the West Indies, Kingston.

In welcoming participants to Jamaica’s first Social Good Summit, UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Bruno Pouezat said the event had been organized by UNDP to highlight the world’s and Jamaica’s transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the SDGs, as well as to highlight how media and technology are advancing development work or ‘social good’ across the globe. He hailed the youth panellists for sharing how they see their work supporting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in practical terms.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Hon. Arnaldo Brown, said the SDGs require high standards and efforts to effectively implement them. He congratulated UNDP on its ongoing work to support Jamaica’s development and also highlighted the role of technology in achieving the SDGs. A presentation on Jamaica and the SDGs was made by the Mrs. Toni Shae Freckleton of the Planning Institute of Jamaica, who highlighted the similarities between Jamaica’s Vision 2030 National Development Plan and the 17 SDGs.

The six young people demonstrated how their work is tackling some of Jamaica’s toughest problems and some of the issues targeted by the 17 SDGs – safety, peace and justice, innovation and infrastructure, good jobs and economic growth, climate change, food security, education and gender equality.

Oswald Smith, a Computer Science student at the University of the West Indies, described how his challenges with the public transportation system in Kingston led him to approach the publicly-owned bus company and to voluntarily implement Google Transit, which allows commuters to access the company’s schedule, fare, route and stop information from the Google Maps smartphone or tablet app. Jamaica is the first country in the Caribbean to have implemented Google Transit.

Ricardo Gowdie shared how his own experiences with his mother, who lives in rural Jamaica and sells produce in a Kingston market, led him and his teammates to develop an app which combines weather, market and field data and provides farmers with weather forecasts, agronomic tips and climate smart farming practices in the face of climate change. He noted that while many older farmers may not be tech-savvy, a number of young persons are taking up agriculture as a career.

‘ I think this can help change the way we see a farmer, not as a man in a straw hat with a machete but also someone with a tablet in his hand,’ Gowdie explained.

Animation focusing on education, building self-esteem and reducing gender based violence was featured, as three young women from the Professional Development Training Institute Girls Town spoke of their experiences in participating in a course in animation training.

‘My goal is to use animation for education….You can use animation to teach about a lot things like puberty or about child care. People always said to me ‘You watch too much cartoons’ but cartoons have taught me a lot,’ said Xania Richards.

Dave Oakley presented information about the award winning mobile crime alert app that allows citizens to pass on information about suspicious activity anonymously. He said the app had the potential to improve public safety in a culture that often views reporting of criminal activity in a negative light.

Stakeholders attending the event lauded the forum and said it was both encouraging and inspiring to see how young Jamaicans were working towards the realization of the country’s development goals. They recommended the organization of more frequent summits of this sort to allow sharing, partnerships, and networking.

In closing, Dr. Elsie Laurence-Chounoune, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, noted the efforts made by the panellists to link their work with the specific SDGs. While recognizing the strides made by the country in efforts achieve the MDGs, she said much remains to be done for the attainment of the SDGs. She recommended that Government strengthen its youth engagement as the country seeks to implement the SDGs, and reiterated UNDP’s commitment to work alongside the Government and the people of Jamaica to support this endeavour.

The Social Good Summit in Jamaica was part of more than 100 Social Good Summits organized around the world to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals in September. Adopted by all 193 UN Member States, the Sustainable Development Goals are 17 ambitious goals to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change for everyone by 2030.

UNDP Jamaica is working to help make the new Goals known at the national level, which is the first important step in achieving this new and ambitious development agenda.

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