Within the past 2 decades, we’ve seen an unprecedented growth in technological advances. Startups are beginning to make our lives more connected and more efficient than ever. These advances would not be possible if it wasn’t for the open access to data that we have today.
Alphabet’s, Google has become a household name and a verb that is synonymous for looking up a piece of information. Taking stock of all the popular unicorns today, they all utilize data. The data used is either gathered on their platform or through external APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). Uber utilizes GPS data to accurately find close rides and efficiently route them to nearby riders. Facebook utilizes user data to help companies effectively target different demographics for marketing purposes. Google utilizes your search terms to not only help you find what you are looking for quickly but it also uses them to help companies accurately target potential customers.
The open use of data helps developers build powerful applications very quickly. The digital revolution that we have grown accustomed to over the years is because of the vast amount of data, that can be manipulated to gain different insights. As a result of the large amounts of data available, the term Big Data was coined to describe this phenomenon.
Why is this important for the Caribbean?
The Caribbean islands have seen slow technological growth over the years and the lack of open data available via APIs is a large contributing factor. There are companies in my island of Grenada for example that are making strides in bringing exciting new technology into the market, however it is my belief that until there is a unified data source or data lake, entrepreneurs and innovators within the region will be at a huge disadvantage.
The development ecosystem within a small country must be nurtured with more than startup competitions. The ecosystem should also embrace other small neighboring countries, with a strength in members mindset. This is the path to true growth and innovation within a region. This is also the only true profitable means of sustaining such innovation.
One key problem with building and scaling a profitable technology venture within the Caribbean region is the small market size of the individual islands. Not only is the market small, there are also a subset of individuals on each island who are not tech savvy or who don’t believe in using technology for everyday tasks and challenges. This can hinder growth and may discourage an ambitious entrepreneur from tackling a certain problem. Looking at the region in a holistic manner will help make the numbers look more favorable.
According to Worldometers, the Caribbean population is approximately 44 million people. If we assume that 40% of the population are not going to be early adopters, our market size comes to approximately 30.8 million people. For safety, let us also assume that 30% of the remaining population will be unwilling to pay for a technological solution to something they currently do manually. Our new total is approximately 21.6 million people. Using this as a benchmark for optimal success, if an entrepreneur within the region is able to get 21.6 million people to pay him $1 per month, then that entrepreneur will gross a total of $21,600,000 monthly and $259,200,000 yearly in gross revenue.
Now these numbers are all hypothetical, but it shows how an open and shared data source available for entrepreneurs and innovators throughout the region will make the development of region wide solutions profitable enough to incentivize that individual but also put the region in a position for its own digital revolution. Today to innovate across islands, one must travel to each island to gather the requisite information required to make their idea work on that island. What if there was a platform that shared all the open data of a country? Open registered land data can promote new innovations in the real estate industry. Open APIs to government services, may help reduce wait times in government offices. Open APIs for statistical data can help build applications and can also be used in education for student research. Open portals to view corporate and intellectual property, has a myriad of different uses.
These are just some use cases, but there are dozens of other use cases, where a platform like this is applicable. Building upon these initial concepts can begin to bring the Caribbean region more into the data driven digital age.
What are your thoughts on open data sharing in the Caribbean region? Do you have a business which could benefit from such an initiative? Comment and let me know.