Customers queue outside of a business place in Kingston.
Photo: Michael Sloley

With restrictions on public gatherings in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) more persons are shying away from joining queues to conduct business.

One group of young innovators, who call themselves ‘The Outliers’ have designed a solution to this issue, which they pitched at the ‘Hack-Celerate’ Caribbean hackathon held in May, through partnership between National Commercial Bank (NCB) and Innovate 10X.

The technology will allow individuals to virtually join a line before leaving home in order to reduce physical crowding at business places.

“Our team has always sought to capitalise on opportunities like these that help us to solve issues and create value for society,” Tuwanie Morgan of ‘The Outliers’ told JIS News.

“It was important that we enter the competition at this time because innovation is needed for the way forward as we begin living in this new normal,” she added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical gatherings significantly increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. Many businesses, in a bid to contain the risk of transmission, have put measures in place to prevent crowding at their offices, including increasing their online presence.

Ms. Morgan explains that the proposed platform encourages physical distancing by enabling users to search for the entity they wish to conduct a service with, view the existing queue and wait time and through the use of geolocation, suggest the closest branch where they can virtually join a line to be served.

This will minimise wait time for in-person transactions, thereby reducing the number of individuals waiting in an establishment to be served.

For the innovation, The Outliers team, which also includes Carlton Gordon, Shaniel Salmon and Tia Gay O’Gilvie, copped the top prize of $500,000, along with an opportunity to develop a prototype with the support of the competition sponsors, which includes the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology.

Portfolio Minister, Hon. Fayal Williams, who delivered the sponsors’ address during the launch of the competition, said that science and technology is crucial to the fight against COVID-19 and addressing the attendant social issues.

“I am passionate about our youth leveraging the power of science to develop solutions that guarantee a better quality of life for all citizens,” she said.

Minister Williams noted that work being done to develop healthcare and business solutions by young innovators “is truly heartening” as the Government continues to combat COVID-19.

Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at NCB, Nadeen Matthews Blair, noted that technology and innovation are “integral to everything we do as the nation looks for ways to live, work and do business safely during these challenging times”.

“It’s not just about achieving greater efficiencies in business anymore [but] it’s also about preserving lives, protecting our people and finding ways to adapt to the new normal that we’re living in,” she added.

The Hack-Celerate Caribbean-wide digital hackathon was deigned to identify and develop solutions that can have a positive impact and ease the COVID-related burdens for businesses and individuals. It was focused on solutions in education, manufacturing, financial services, and security.

Held over three days, from May 28 to 30, the event had more than 400 applicants, including 18 local teams.

The event was hosted in collaboration with Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Pharmacy Association of Jamaica, and Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).

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