JAMPRO, MonaGIS and the Interactive Investment Map – Consider.Evaluate.Act

Investing in Jamaica has never been easy. Especially for the Foreign Direct Investor (FDI). Finding the right people, making appointments with Government officials, hotels and accommodations, so many things go into the pepperpot to make it right, yet these elements are almost, always never in one place. Between hurried phone calls, anxious thumbing through of outdated phone books from Jamaica and bleary-eyed searching of Google for information, unless you have someone on the island in the know, investing in Jamaica takes on all the nuances and dangers of a game of Russian Roulette, with investors getting burned if the information is not right.

Question abound…..time is of the essence. A lack of timely, credible and easily available information can mean FDI’s going to other Caribbean islands due to the ease of access to their information. What specialized skills are available on the island? Do we need to carry in our own equipment, or is it on the island? Most importantly, is the investment climate in terms of Government incentives friendly to investment?

Even Local Investors, too, need more than just a phone book and good Government contacts sometimes folks, to get the big picture of our island’s resources. Interactive Investment Map, anyone? It was this premise that drew a crowd invited on Thursday February 3rd 2011 to bear witness to the future when the intrepid trio of Dr. Parris Lyee-Ayee, Managing Director of Mona Geo-Informatics (MGI), Mr. Claude Duncan, Vice President, Investment Promotion and Mr. Mark Thomas, Manager, Corporate Communications, both of JAMPRO, debut the Interactive Investment Map.

Dr. Parris Lyee-Ayee

The launch took place in the crowded Main Conference Room at Jamaica Promotion Corporation (JAMPRO) headquartered on 18 Trafalgar Road, Kingston 10. A many-splendored thing, corporate launches; people stopping by from work to rub shoulders with Corporate business leaders who were lucky to be invited.

Mr. Mark Thomas, Corporate Communications Manager at the Launch of the Interactive Map, summed it up best, quote: “the challenge of the investor it to consider Jamaica, evaluate Jamaica and act on the information they have researched”. This map’s value is instantly recognizable as it relates to selling Jamaica and his words may truly be the slogan resplendent of the Platform being leveraged: Consider. Evaluate. Act.

Some interesting facts to stir in! Since the implementation of the Jamaica Debt Exchange (JDX), Jamaica has seen an increase in Remittances in early 2010 from expatriated Jamaicans, with an increased tendency for the “brain-drain-ees” to be educated young people unable to find work locally.

Agreeably, this is not a strong positive indicator of a rebound in the Economies of foreign lands such as Jamaica where many FDI’s go to seek their fortunes. However, from a purely common-sense point of view, the mere fact that the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) stated that the Telecom Providers actually ramped up an increase in profits in 2009 up by 6.5% year-on-year to US$13.5 billion from 2008 figures should be a strong enough an indicator of a coming boom in FDI investments.

After all, despite their Jamaican -centric advertising, Telecom Provider Digicel, LIME and CLARO are FDI’s! Local investors, too, like surfers waiting for a wave, are beginning to swim out to catch it as it heads back into shore, hoping to ride its good fortune out of the doldrums of the Recession.

The surest sign should of course be the coming of PayLess Shoes Store to Jamaica. Slated to open their stores in February 2011 and start selling their brand of shoes, their coming has an implicit connection to the promotional by maverick Deejay and Entrepreneur Vybz Kartel. The Government of Jamaica, naturally, refuses to acknowledge the uncanny coincidence of his hit song and its promotion of Jamaican taste for the finer things in life.

His hit song, “Clarks”, is as British as you can get, and may be in fact the real reason why PayLess Shoes Store is suddenly interested in Jamaica. Throw in the fact that the United States, our most powerful neighbor, is now hiring significantly more internationals, four hundred thousand (400,000) more than the million (1,000,000) they hired within the US mainland. This is due to better skills training and significantly improved education levels as most of them, such as Netflix, have major plans to expand internationally.

Looking a lot like a Google Map or even the Jamaica Land Agency’s recently launched iMap Platform in 2010, which ironically it very much is, the Mona Geo-Informatics team in partnership with JAMPRO having produced a priceless assemblage of information on one highly informative map that only a FDI could love. Hackers delight to be sure, so hopefully their servers are shielded against attacks.

Attendees at the recent JAMPRO investment map launch event

An Open Source project costing JA$2 million (2,000,000), the map, which had its genesis nearly two (2) year ago in 2009, was a mash-up of MonaGIS Database garnered for their already popular Garmin GPS Navigation Platform and statistical data available mostly from Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). Its value is worth more than being merely another Java Script driven API (Application Interface) powered by Google.

Slow loading times of multiple layers and the dated nature of the graphically presented statistical data notwithstanding, the map showcases the Big Picture of Investing in Jamaica and its availability of resources without losing sight of the small details, pun very much intended. Also, no Jamaica Telephone Directory integration or contact information for the places of interest, a glaring flaw, as the desire to contact is key.

There is not yet any tie-in of video of locations of interest or information from Private Sector related information (good to scope out the competition!). Also, no mention was made at the presentation of any real-time data e.g. vehicle traffic, airport and shipping arrivals and departure.

Assisting the Police to track dangerous criminals now that MRSI (Mandatory Registration of Subscriber Information) is now available is also another potential use of this Interactive Investment Map. Throw in future partnerships with Google Street View for the potential integration of a 3-D layer and MonaGIS and JAMPRO have it made in the shade!

Venture Capital (VC’s) investors, ready to pump millions of US dollars in Dr. Parris Lyee-Ayee and MonaGIS coffers, may even already be knocking at the door, as corporate bigwigs from International Business Machines (IBM) and Triple Play Provider FLOW were spotted at the shindig. Still, the ease of use of Google Map Open source software tools makes its API intuitive. Free to try for the next few months while the Platform is being constantly tweaked, a pay wall will soon be erected to allow the principal investors in this Interactive Investment Map to recoup on investment.

And what a recoup that will be! Licensing the information to the Government of Jamaica as well as the Private Sector companies [cash register sound!], making an easily downloadable app for Apple iPhones, Android smartphones, Blackberrys and Tablets such as the Apple iPad are revenue streams that easily come to mind for the eventually refined finished product.

Especially with the recent news of ten billion (10,000,000) downloaded apps milestone achieved by the “magical” Apple Apps store and the possibility of getting a slice of the US$15 billion apps driven revenue in 2011, according to analyst Gartner!

The link to the Investment Map is http://projects.monagis.com/jampro_test. Take it for a spin! Then if you are an employee of a FDI reading this post, do as is suggested: Consider, Evaluate and Act!

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.