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Taxicab Commission Sees Potential for Harmony Between Ride-Hailing Apps and Taxi Operators in USVI



Close-up on an African American couple using the GPS on a cell phone while driving a car – lifestyle concept

With the introduction of a new ride-sharing service in the territory, concerns have been raised regarding its ability to coexist with established taxi operators. Despite these concerns, the Taxicab Commission has expressed optimism that a robust regulatory framework can ensure both services operate harmoniously.

During a recent online presentation, Digicab was officially introduced by its founder, Patrick Farrell. Farrell acknowledged the potential for “a fallout between Digicab and many taxi drivers.” However, he also pointed out that local taxi drivers have admitted their inability to fully meet the local transportation demand.

In the days following the introduction, stakeholders from the territory’s taxi industry gathered before the Committee on Government Operations, Veterans Affairs, and Consumer Protection to discuss relevant issues. Senator Javan James raised the first query about the potential coexistence of the two entities after learning about Digicab’s plans from the Consortium.

Elizabeth Hansen-Watley, vice chair of the Taxi Cab Commission’s board, initially hesitated to respond, stating she needed more details about Digicab’s operations. Drawing from mainland practices, she eventually acknowledged, “I do believe ride-sharing is possible.” For a successful integration, Hansen-Watley suggested the territory should emulate the mainland’s approach, where “everybody’s lane is quite clear on who operates what and where the regulation lies.”

Hansen-Watley implied that this clarity is currently lacking in the USVI. She emphasized the necessity for legislative action, suggesting amendments and new laws to clearly define regulations before moving forward.

Currently, operators like Digicab fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, rather than the Taxicab Commission.

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Liberty VI Expands Investment in Territory, Launches Digital Literacy Program for Girls



The Liberty Foundation, in collaboration with Y-Teens VI and the Society of Women Coders, is bringing the NextGen Tech Scholars Program to the U.S. Virgin Islands. This initiative aims to enhance digital literacy among female students, providing them with essential technology skills.

Y-Teens VI, a St. Thomas-based organization dedicated to the empowerment of girls and young women, has recruited students for this program. “Y-Teens VI is excited to partner with Liberty Foundation and Society of Women Coders in this worthwhile initiative,” said Donnalie Edwards-Cabey, the organization’s president and executive director. “It highlights one of our core programming areas: exposing girls and young women to technology skills, computer science, and engineering as viable career pathways in this digital age.”

The program is a 20-week online afterschool residency focused on coding and programming for female public middle and high school students aged 13 to 17. Participants will attend workshops covering task automation, data analysis, data visualization, digital literacy, website creation, and programming in Python, a language widely used in software development.

In addition to technical skills, the program includes mentoring sessions and provides access to an online community of coders. Classes will be held every Thursday, with mentoring sessions on Saturdays.

“This edition is very significant for us because this is the first time we are offering the NextGen program in the USVI,” stated Kavya Krishna, director and CEO of Society of Women Coders. “The girls taking this program are learning about digital literacy and the basics of coding, both important for developing skills like critical thinking and problem-solving. It will also be a door-opening opportunity for them to follow a career in STEM and even a first step on their education paths, like getting university scholarships.”

Liberty Foundation has committed to supporting Y-Teens VI and other nonprofit organizations in the USVI throughout 2024.

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Carrion Proposes Digital Overhaul of Government Services with New Legislation



Senator Samuel Carrion has introduced a new bill aimed at accelerating the digitization of government services, with the goal of making them more accessible and responsive to citizens’ needs.

Presented on Monday to the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Veterans Affairs, and Consumer Protection, Bill 35-026 proposes amendments to Title 3 of the Virgin Islands Code, adding Chapter 33A to establish the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA). Senator Carrion criticized the current practice of government agencies individually contracting for website design at significant expense. He noted that these websites are often disconnected and incompatible, which hampers business efficiency.

Carrion emphasized the drawbacks of relying on outside contractors, who have sometimes withheld government websites due to disputes. He advocated for uniform platforms and unfettered access across all government agencies. He suggested leveraging existing government IT personnel for these services and providing them with additional training to effectively implement IDEA. Carrion described the bill as a crucial step towards modernizing government processes.

The proposed legislation assigns the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) the responsibility for setting standards to guide the digital consolidation of government agencies and directing agency heads on website compatibility. BIT Director Rupert Ross highlighted the need for adequate resources to support the bill’s implementation, including modernization efforts, recruitment, training, and support services. He also called for a governance mechanism to ensure smooth implementation, warning that without these measures, challenges are likely to arise.

Initially, the bill set a timeframe of 180 days to one year for BIT to implement IDEA. However, Senator Carrion has pledged to adjust this deadline based on the project’s complexity and scope. BIT has requested more time for comprehensive assessments and stakeholder engagement to facilitate a seamless transition.

Stephan Adams, CEO of the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network (viNGN), testified in favor of the bill, addressing funding concerns by pointing to the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) Program, which provides $27 million in federal funds managed by the Office of Management and Budget. Adams suggested that these funds could support the bill’s requirements under the umbrella of workforce development.

Adams also recommended amending the bill to enable the government to operate a centralized portal for all agencies. He argued that a unified GVI website would allow residents to navigate between agencies more easily and reduce the need for each agency to recode their websites.

The bill also mandates that all government websites be ADA-compliant, ensuring accessibility for persons with disabilities. GVI’s ADA Coordinator Julien Henley reminded lawmakers that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires local governments to provide equal access to programs, services, and activities, along with effective communication comparable to those without disabilities.

Although the bill did not come to a vote during Monday’s committee meeting, it received strong support from lawmakers. Senator Milton Potter called the bill “forward thinking,” while Committee Chair Senator Carla Joseph endorsed it, citing the transformative potential of technology to enhance government efficiency and productivity.

Bill 35-0236 is expected to reduce costs by improving efficiency and creating a more uniform digital presence for government services, as envisioned by Senator Carrion.

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First Tech Beach Retreat in USVI to Ignite Technological Advancements



The U.S. Virgin Islands is on the brink of a technological revolution with the upcoming Tech Beach Retreat (TBR USVI), slated for June 19-21 at the beautifully refurbished Frenchman’s Reef on St. Thomas.

This significant event marks a collaborative effort between the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park (RTPark) and the renowned Tech Beach Retreat. Their goal is to establish the USVI as a pivotal hub for global technological innovation.

Through this alliance, RTPark, a leader in tech-driven economic growth, and Tech Beach, a key player in Caribbean technology and innovation, plan to enhance the local tech ecosystem and draw international businesses to the area.

Enhancing USVI’s Tech Landscape

Peter H. Chapman, CEO of RTPark, is optimistic about the benefits of this partnership. “This collaboration allows us to engage with global tech leaders and position the Virgin Islands as the prime locale for tech companies looking to expand,” he stated.

Edward Thomas, chairman of the RTPark Board of Directors, also emphasized the significance of the event. “Hosting TBR USVI presents a fantastic opportunity to bolster our technology-driven economic goals while highlighting our exceptional tourism offerings,” he said.

A Summit of Opportunities

The three-day TBR USVI event will offer a wealth of activities aimed at stimulating innovation and fostering collaboration. Over 200 distinguished participants, including entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate leaders, are expected to attend. The program features keynotes, fireside chats, and panel discussions with industry leaders.

Noteworthy tech personalities, such as Jeff Pulver, co-founder of Vonage; Zahir Dossa, co-founder of Function of Beauty; and representatives from leading firms like LinkedIn, Google, Nvidia, TikTok, and OpenAI, will be present.

The Importance of Local Engagement

Sydney Paul, RTPark’s associate director of marketing and communications, expressed excitement about the summit’s potential impact. “After experiencing Tech Beach’s successful events in other locations, we are thrilled to bring that same dynamic here to the USVI and integrate our local community into the expanding regional tech landscape,” he noted.

Event Details and Registration

Spaces for the Tech Beach Retreat USVI are filling up quickly. A special discounted rate is available for USVI entrepreneurs using the code “RTParkFounder.” Those interested are urged to register promptly through the Tech Beach Retreat USVI’s official website. There are also numerous sponsorship opportunities for organizations wanting to deeply connect with this landmark event.

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