Jamaica 'Friends 2020'

Jamaica 'Friends 2020'

The Digital Life

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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THOSE of us who grew up watching the television series Friends should look at what happened in Jamaica in the weeks leading up to the recent general election. Here's the screenplay as written by Jordan Liu, whose day job is working in a software development company.

“In the past month, a group of friends — Carlton Banks, Agyei Masters, Nicholas Kee, Marlon James, Horace Grant, Rojah Lewis, and Jordan Liu — who met in the Facebook Developer Circles, created a website www. jamaicadecides.com which captured results, converted them into visuals, and allowed for interaction in real time,” he explained.

It turned out that the friends created something which amazed even them.

“The development of the website took around two evenings. Nearing election we were anticipating low traffic; however, on election day we blew up. We had over 90,000 users who visited the website in a matter of hours,” said Liu.

“We had 100 per cent uptime with tens of thousands [of] concurrent users. By the end of election night we were all over social media. We were all astounded but extremely proud of what we had created. We solved an issue with a simple, modern approach.”

The friends also rescued the Ministry of Health and Wellness's (MOHW) Twitter feed when they realised that the updates were not appearing as quickly as expected. It was an instance of artificial intelligence (AI) gathering all references to COVID-19 from the MOHW and converting those to Twitter feeds.

“We realised social media integration is an essential [part] of how we receive the latest news and updates in our lives. The team created @CovidJamBot — a Twitter bot that tweets daily-scraped data from MOHW's website. The bot runs continually, checking for posts, and when it detects a new post from the MOHW's website, it scrapes the information and generates the data in a user-friendly image,” said Liu.

Passionate about creating open, accessible, and reliable technologies for the Caribbean and the rest of the world, Liu is the community co-lead for Facebook Developer Circles, Kingston.

“After the initial success of [our website] Jamaica Decides we decided to form an official team, called codewhare, where we create impactful but straightforward software products every month,” said Liu.

With the mantra “Create. Build. Inspire” codewhare benefits from the friends' varied technical backgrounds in software engineering, UI/UX, security, DevOps (development and operations), data science & AI/ML. “We want to create solutions for issues that we all face daily — providing value to the transformation of Jamaica to a digital society,” added Liu.

Reaction to the work of this young group of friends has been highly positive. Significant inquiries are reaching them about ways in which they can use their talent and skills in transforming businesses and, in particular, stepping up Jamaica's strides in becoming a digital society.

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