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UWI willing to help Guyana combat piracy

Senior-Lecturer1Georgetown: The University of the West Indies (UWI-Trinidad Campus) has indicated its willingness to assist in Guyana’s drive to combat piracy. And to initiate such intentions, the UWI will be using low-cost mobile smart-phone tracking technology that can link up ‘fisherfolk’ with the Guyana Police and Defence Forces.

Senior Lecturer Kim Mallalieu of the UWI Department of Engineering, who is also Principal Investigator of the Trinidad-based Caribbean ICT Research Programme, also located at www.cirp.org.tt, noted in a statement that her department recently made a presentation detailing the method used by Trinidad and Tobago’s ‘fisherfolk’, which entails the use of mFisheries application suite on their mobile phones to seek emergency responses and also acquire specific advice on how to deal with technical glitches, such as engine failure and other related issues while at sea.

Mallalieu, who is currently in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, said the technology could be provided to Guyana free of cost to help in summoning the Coast Guard to precise areas where there may have been attacks by pirates.

If Guyanese authorities were to agree with the UWI intentions, the mFisheries mobile app. would be customized for Guyana and the Guyanese Atlantic Coast, and inland marine areas vulnerable to piracy would be “geo-fenced.”

Mallalieu said training of the GDF Coast Guard and other response agencies would be provided to acquaint such bodies with the techniques to monitor the tracks of the Web application. In that case, all the local authorities would have to do is sponsor or cover flight, accommodation and ground transportation costs for personnel who would travel to Guyana to conduct the necessary training.

Answering questions as to how the application caters for users with limited literacy skills, Mallalieu responded that making an SOS call “is trivial”. She emphasized that literacy is not required, because there is an SOS button which is not textual. She said it is the standard SOS signal which is recognized all over the world, and there is a confirm button, thus making ready a simple two-step process.

The UWI Department of Engineering has already adapted the Mfisheries application to work in the Cook Islands in the Pacific, in Trinidad, and in Tobago. The tracking application is triggered when a user with the phone turned on crosses the coastal boundary and then sends information-packets to periodically to the Web server. The packets contain unique phone and SIM card identifiers that log the time, date and GPS location of the vessels. When the user goes out of cellular coverage, the tracking information is stored locally on the phone and then uploaded when he returns to an area of cell coverage.

Mallalieu said all registered Mfisheries users are required to formally agree to authorize the Coast Guard to access their GPS coordinates. When an SOS text message is sent, automatically phone calls, SMS and email are sent to the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard. Fisherfolk can also add other persons they would like to receive SOS alerts.

The Mfisheries app suite also aids fisherfolk in locating fishing grounds, records the types of available fish, communicates with potential buyers and knows the available prices.