DiscoverMNI

Not even the eruption of Soufriere Hills Volcano and the departure of more than two-thirds of its population could kill the spirit of Montserrat. This island is making a comeback. Find out how this is happening.

Montserrat is not really open for business if local companies are not online says, entrepreneur

Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.
Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.

BRADES, Montserrat – When the main conduits of information and services are through government websites, it sends the message that we are not really open for business, says entrepreneur and media strategist Nerissa Golden.

Why Local Business Need to Get Online was the topic of Tuesday’s After Work Chat which is part of the ICT Week activities, organized by the National ICT Council and the Ministry of Communication & Works.

Golden asked the audience where online did they search for information before choosing to visit another island, purchase a phone or a pair of shoes. The response was consumer sites such as Trip Advisor, and looking at reviews on a shopping site not related to the primary developer of the product or service.

“You expect the company to tell you that their product is the best,” said an audience member. “I know the tourist board is going to only put positive things about their country and so you would need an independent source to tell you the truth or to share another perspective.”

“Exactly,” agreed Golden. “So when we cannot visit the website of our local supermarket, a lawyer or an accountant what does that say about whether we are serious about doing business in the global marketplace?”

Audience members agree there was a tacit arrangement between business owners that certain prices are the same across the board so many did not see the need to advertise or go online. However, Golden shared that all it would take for that to change is a newcomer in the game who sees a way to connect with customers more consistently and effectively, to push the competition out of the running and leaving them to play catch up and get online.

“You can’t look around you and believe that everything will stay as it is. A supermarket in the North can pull customers from the South with the right marketing strategy and with a regularly updated site which allows someone to place an order for delivery and pay for groceries with their credit card. Sending out an email of your weekly specials may be what you need to build customer loyalty and gain ground in this marketplace.”

The strategist shared several ways companies can get online affordably and also suggested that companies could team up to share the cost of hosting and maintaining a web space. They were also encouraged to keep the sites updated to maintain top rankings in Google searches, utilize social spaces such as Facebook and Instagram depending on their industry.

Golden cautioned business owners from relying solely on social media or free web spaces to promote their businesses as they could lose access to their data since they did not own the website. “It needs to become a budgeted item that you register your domain name and pay for hosting just as you would allocate funds for the rent and other utilities. It is also a long term investment but one that is needed not only for your business but for the island as it raises the volume of what Montserrat is saying globally.”

A business woman shared her concern that although she recognizes the need to be online the costs involved with setting it up and maintaining the space was a challenge.

The Honourable Minister of Communications & Works Paul Lewis who was in attendance requested that the tech savvy attendees begin to offer affordable web services to local companies to help more of them get online.

Golden also suggested that business owners move away from the idea that they must do everything themselves and bring their children who are much more comfortable with the technology into the business. “We have to shift our thinking from being so individualistic and think about the legacy we want to build for our children and their children. With that type of thinking we have to be open to bringing our children in at an early age and sharing the vision with them and getting them involved in building the business. Handling the technology and helping you to get online is one way they can bring immediate value to your business.”

Critical Elements Missing for Montserrat to become an App Development Hub, says Lavabits developer

Dr Samuel Joseph
Dr Samuel Joseph

BRADES, Montserrat – Several critical elements are missing from the equation if Montserrat is to become a mobile application development hub, says Dr. Samuel Joseph of Lavabits.

Dr. Joseph, CEO of Lavabits, a local software development firm was speaking at Monday’s After Work Chat organized by the National ICT Council as part of ICT Week activities.

He noted that the top companies across the globe didn’t exist 10 to 15 years ago and that Montserrat needed to keep pace with the new technologies which have changed how we live and do business. Playing devil’s advocate the developer said Montserrat couldn’t become a mobile app development hub as it was missing the key factors that created Silicon Valley and other software development centers.

“The development hubs at Silicon Valley, Boston and Seattle have this in common. Top universities in close proximity from which the brightest minds have converged and are constantly challenging the status quo. They also have people with a lot of money around them and willing to invest in the process to develop the next Google or Facebook.

“Montserrat would have to import developers and we do not have people who are willing to invest in research. The Government cannot fund it and they also don’t have the ability to pick the right companies to invest in,” explained Joseph.

The developer said another key reason is that Montserratians as in many other Caribbean territories subscribe to a very linear method of thinking. “We reward people who follow the rules. We continue to protect the old industries but they must die for new technologies to take over. Start-up hubs need a liberal environment to flourish. They develop in spaces where strange ideas are allowed to be birthed and then strange solutions are sought. We are not willing to let go of the idea that tourism is the answer although we can see from neighboring countries that they are in financial trouble although they are welcoming millions of tourists every year.”

Joseph noted that Montserrat’s economy was small and without a vibrant private sector, calling it a false economy as it was driven by international donor funding. He added that the OECS Economic Union and the CARICOM Common Market also did not encourage cross-border collaboration and getting products to market would be a challenge because of the various regulations and different central banks which would need to give approval.

“The government would need to give money and forget about it but as they are run in five-year cycles, they would want to see success by the next election. There needs to be the political will for Montserrat to have a chance in this sector. Our education system also needs to be changed, mentors with experience would need to be available to guide the entrepreneurs through each phase,” the developer told the gathering.

However, Joseph believes there is still opportunity for Montserrat and other Caribbean islands to play a part in the software development sector.

“No major technology has come out of the Caribbean which means it is still there to be done. We have to decide we want to make money and not just enough for ourselves but to invest in others. Google, Facebook, Snap Chat and the other tech giants were funded by other technology entrepreneurs who understood the system and were willing to support the next big thing.

“What is needed he said is an institution to gather like-minded and brilliant developers within the same space to collaborate. They would need access to professors, lawyers, marketers, accountants, and funders. Nine out of ten of the ventures will not make it so a different funding system is needed. Banks won’t fund start-ups. You need venture capitalists who will take a share in the company. All you need is one company to succeed which will make up for the nine which fail,” Joseph declared.

He said developers need to look at the problems which need to be solved within the government and private sector. Find a solution and then package it for marketing across the region and globally.

This is the first year that the National ICT Council in partnership with the Ministry of Communications & Works is hosting ICT Week. Activities continue until Friday, November 14.

Proper Foot care is essential for Diabetic Patients says Podiatrist Angela Davis

BRADES, Montserrat  – The critical importance of proper foot care for everyone and especially for people suffering with diabetes was highlighted during the past week as Podiatrist Angela Davis visited Montserrat.

Davis’s visit was organized by Caribscan as part of the Pink Ribbon Charity Week.

The UK-trained podiatrist now based in Jamaica, held consultations with patients for six days at the Davy Hill Medical Centre. Speaking on ZJB Radio Montserrat last Wednesday, Davis said as our feet are connected to everything and carries all of our body weight it is very important that they be cared for to allow them to work effectively.

“Apart from the heart our feet are one of the hardest working parts of our body. Often people who have problems with bunions or callouses will just hide them away in shoes because they are embarrassed but that won’t solve the problem,” she said. “People often try to treat the problems themselves but it is best to allow a professional to look at them regularly.”

During Thursday evening’s information evening, the podiatrist told the more than 80 people gathered at the Cultural Centre that for diabetics the importance of foot care is even more critical. A side effect of high sugar levels and poor circulation is that the peripheral nerves at the tips of the toes become numb and this loss of feeling is quite dangerous, as the individual loses the ability to feel hot or cold or injuries which may be caused by sharp objects or hitting the foot.

Podiatrist Angela Davis, General Surgeon Dr Braimah Kassim, President of the Montserrat Diabetes Association Valerie Davis-Lynch, Sonagrapher and host of Feet For Life Sonia Charles, and local General Practitioner Hon. Dr Ingrid Buffonge at the Podiatry Evening held on Thursday, October 9, 2014 at the Montserrat Cultural Centre. (Goldenmedia Photo)
Podiatrist Angela Davis, General Surgeon Dr Braimah Kassim, President of the Montserrat Diabetes Association Valerie Davis-Lynch, Sonagrapher and host of Feet For Life Sonia Charles, and local General Practitioner Hon. Dr Ingrid Buffonge at the Podiatry Evening held on Thursday, October 9, 2014 at the Montserrat Cultural Centre. (Goldenmedia Photo)

During the evening, Davis along with local General Surgeon Dr Braimah Kassim showed images and gave advice on how to protect the feet of a diabetic.
“Your toes should be able to move freely in the shoe,” explained Davis. Wearing shoes with good souls and proper back support was admonished, along with regular moisturizing as it is very important to hydrate the skin.

Feet4Life-PosterDr Kassim that with the assistance of the Rotary Club of Montserrat, of the clinics on island now had nurses who were trained in proper foot care. He encouraged residents suffering with diabetes who would like to have their feet assessed should visit their nearest clinic for assistance.

60 Women to get Free Mammograms after annual Pink Ribbon Charity Week

BRADES, Montserrat  – Sixty more women on Montserrat will now be able to receive free mammograms following another successful fundraising campaign organized by Caribscan and the Pink Ribbon Charity.

The fifth annual Pink Ribbon Walk ended on Saturday evening after more than 190 men, women and children took the almost one-hour trek from Lookout Community Centre to The Lyme in Brades, where another 100 people were waiting. During a short closing ceremony, organizer Sonia Charles of Caribscan said this had been quite an emotional week as she was touched by the tremendous support that she’d received at each event created to bring awareness to breast health and to raise money for the Pink Ribbon Charity.

Sonia Charles, owner of Caribscan, the main sponsor of the Pink Ribbon Charity gives Dr Eumel Samuel of Belmont Clinic Antigua a cheque of EC$9,000 which will allow 60 women from Montserrat to get free mammograms on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at The Lyme in Brades. (Goldenmedia Photo)
Sonia Charles, owner of Caribscan, the main sponsor of the Pink Ribbon Charity gives Dr Ronnie Samuel of Belmont Clinic Antigua a cheque of EC$9,000 which will allow 60 women from Montserrat to get free mammograms on Saturday, October 11, 2014 at The Lyme in Brades. (Goldenmedia Photo)

The Pink Ribbon Charity Barbecue on Wednesday kicked off the activities with 62 people enjoying a tasty meal at Olveston House. The charity had initially planned for 45 people but as the demand grew they were able to sell more tickets, the proceeds of which go to the fund. The Breakfast & Cake Sale on Saturday morning was also well supported by the community.

To date more than 120 women have benefited from the fund and over the next few weeks, 60 more women will be able to travel to Antigua to have the mammograms conducted at the Belmont Clinic. Charles expressed thanks to Dr Eumel Samuel and his team from the clinic who have given the charity a 50% reduction in fees to allow the women of Montserrat to get the tests which could save lives.

The Ministry of Communications & Works was also commended for its generous offer of a $100 roundtrip ferry fare for women holding vouchers to take get the screening in Antigua.

Honourable Minister of Health Delmaude Ryan told the gathering as there is “still no clear cause for breast cancer, the answer to its control lies in our hands. Literally. Early detection, through self-examination, clinical screening, and mammography screening have proven positive results.”

Minister Ryan also said the “Government and people of Montserrat are very grateful for the partnership of Caribscan and the Belmont Clinic, in providing opportunities for women on Montserrat to have mammogram tests through this initiative. The Government of Montserrat, through the Ministry of Health pledges its continued commitment to any initiative that promotes breast cancer awareness and control. We will continue to strengthen our public health systems to increase programmes that contribute to total healthcare to include breast cancer awareness in Montserrat.”

Sonia Charles commended the board of the Pink Ribbon Charity and all of the companies and individuals who donated their time and resources to making the week a success. This included John and Yvette Ryan of The Lyme who has been an annual supporter of the walk and fundraising BINGO, Fly Montserrat, the Ministry of Health, Education & Social Services, the Ministry of Communications and Works, The Montserrat Reporter, MNI Alive, ZJB Radio Montserrat, and Goldenmedia.

Women are encouraged to call 496-6248 if they already possess vouchers or wish to register to receive one in order to get their mammograms done.

Find photos from the Pink Ribbon Week on www.facebook.com/discovermni.

School Art Exhibition and Film Festival to highlight the importance of Mental Health

Art FestivalBRADES, Montserrat – Living with Schizophrenia is the theme for this year’s activities organized by the Mental Health Unit in the Ministry of Health and Social Services for the Government of Montserrat.

According to Clinical Psychologist Dr. Nicole Edgecombe a series of events to bring awareness to the importance of every resident caring for their own mental health have been scheduled to run from October 10 until early November.

The Oscar nominated film A Beautiful Mind will be first in a series of films to be shown across the island as part of the Mental Health Film Festival. The film will air Friday, October 10 at 6pm at the Lookout School Auditorium.

Dr. Edgecombe said each film focuses on Living with Schizophrenia. “Often schizophrenia begins to show signs in people during their teen to young adult years and we feel it is important that everyone understands how necessary it is to take care of their own mental well-being.” The second feature film will be The Soloist scheduled for Saturday October 18 at 6pm at the National Trust in Salem.

Mrs Sujue Davis, wife of His Excellency the Governor Adrian Davis, will host a screening of a short documentary also on schizophrenia during her weekly Coffee Morning on Tuesday, October 14 from 10am. The 20-minute documentary titled “Living with Schizophrenia” shows interviews with patients living with schizophrenia, and mental health professionals who treat them.

“As is our intention for this year’s World Mental Health Day activities we hope to emphasize that people diagnosed with schizophrenia can live normal lives with appropriate treatment and support,” the clinical psychologist noted.

FILM FESTIVALStudents at the local primary, secondary school and the community college have already begun to work on murals which will be on display during the School Art Exhibition from October 31 to November 6 at the Montserrat National Museum in Little Bay. The opening ceremony on October 31 will be from 4:30pm to 6:30pm. The exhibition will then spend a week at the Montserrat National Trust from November 7 to the 13th. Showings are each day during regular operating hours from 8am to 4pm.

Presently nurses from the mental health unit are visiting each school to discuss mental illness and the ways in which Mental Health is Montserrat’s Wealth which is the focus of the art pieces that are to be created.

More information on Living with Schizophrenia will be given during Talking Health on October 15th from 3:05pm on ZJB Radio Montserrat.