The Data for Development Lab (D4D Lab) is a multi-disciplinary ‘Think and Do’ Lab implemented by The Cropper Foundation and TTLAB. The D4D Lab brings together civil society organisations, computer scientists, engineers, citizens and students in addressing the critical sustainability challenges that face Caribbean Small Island States.

The Caribbean does not have a good track-record on data-driven decision making. However, just the curation and production of data is not necessarily enough – the capacity of decision-makers and influencers to effectively utilise data is also critical to understand in the regional context. The D4D Lab is interested in looking at the data equation from both sides: what are the types of data that we need to collect to ensure that the realities of all groups are represented, when we measure development; and how best can this data be represented and used by the decision-makers and influencers around the Region.

Leveraging the opportunities that ever-increased rates of technological advancement accrue to society must also be a key for the Caribbean. With the advent of COVID-19, Caribbean SIDS are rapidly trying to undertake nationwide digitisation of critical services in the face of the ‘new normal.’ Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, smart infrastructure and precision biology are all on the frontiers of this new technological age. The D4D Lab hopes to be a space where conversations can be started about how these approaches can be harnessed to enhance Caribbean sustainability.

By adopting an ecosystem approach, the D4D Lab will bring together civil society organisations, academic institutions, the State, technical agencies, practitioners and citizens to co-create technology and data-driven solutions to priority issues within the Caribbean.

The Data for Development Lab is co-managed by The Cropper Foundation, a non-profit organisation working for Caribbean sustainability and based in Trinidad and Tobago; and TTLAB, an independent body that serves to catalyse young scientists and engineers to leverage leading-edge research for solving local problems using Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and Mathematics. The Lab is also advised by the EquiGov Institute, a leading Caribbean firm working in Data Privacy, Data Governance, Information Access, Transparency and Monitoring and Evaluation.

Current projects

AI for Agriculture

The Project ‘Farming Adaptation & Artificial Intelligence for Resilience (FAAIR)’ uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) models to develop an integrated suite of vegetation indices, deployed using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones) over landscapes and farming systems characteristic of small-island states, while generating critically useful landscape-level data to support increased agroecological resilience to climate change.

Communi-TT Indicator Platform

Communi-TT is a data visualisation platform that aims to localise the SDGs, turning abstract global targets into actionable local goals. Being able to observe the local and global impact of their efforts gives community members ownership and control of development action, stimulating and sustaining a willingness to engage.

This Community Indicator System (CIS) is an online platform that turns this data into accessible, interactive displays for leaders and community members to track issues that matter locally. Informed by community members’ stated priorities, CIS platforms empower communities to collect and use data that connects their well-being to the SDGs.

Townhall

Townhall is a citizen and civil society opinion platform that uses AI models of Natural Language Processing to rapidly collect, analyse and visualise people’s thoughts and feelings about development issues within Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean. In response to traditional approaches of civil society involvement in policy interventions at the State level, that often do not provide sufficient time and scope for deeper engagement with people’s thoughts and feelings on critical topics – Townhall will utilise AI to better represent public opinion to policymakers.

About our Partners

TTLAB was formed to serve several purposes, (a) to solve local industrial problems using leading-edge research and then to implement such solutions, (b) to provide our young scientists and engineers an environment to start or continue research and allow them to publish in their field which is beneficial if they plan to further their studies, and (c) to encourage interdisciplinary research in Computer Science, Electrical Engineering and Mathematics. Fellowships and Travel Grants for TTLAB members are fully funded by the Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Centre (TTNIC).

The EquiGov Institute Ltd is a Social Enterprise firm based in the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. They develop practical solutions and create space for critical thinking, combining values-driven consultancy, training, research and learning across key themes such as Data Privacy, Data Governance, Information Access, Transparency and Monitoring and Evaluation.

The Lab Team

Prof. Patrick Hosein

Senior Associate

Professor Patrick Hosein is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus. A NIHERST Icon in Science and Technology and the 2015 Anthony Sabga Caribbean Laureate for Science and Technology, Professor Hosein is the Founder/Director of TTLAB and the CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Centre. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he obtained five degrees including a PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. He has worked at Bose Corporation, Bell Laboratories, AT&T Laboratories, Ericsson and Huawei. He has published extensively with over 100 refereed journal and conference publications. He holds 40 granted and 42 pending patents in the areas of telecommunications and wireless technologies.

Rishi Maharaj

Senior Associate

Rishi is the holder of a BSc. and MSc. in Government from the University of the West Indies. His MSc Research focused on Curbing Corruption: A comparative examination of anticorruption agencies in Trinidad and Tobago; Hong Kong and Australia.

He is currently the Executive Director of EquiGov Institute a Social Enterprise organisation base in the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, specialising in consultancy, training and research across key areas such as Data Privacy/Protection, Data Governance, Information Access, Transparency and Monitoring & Evaluation.

He was formerly the CEO of Disclosure Today, an award-winning social governance initiative whose mission is to advance transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and promote citizen engagement in public sector decision-making and through the utilization of civic technology.

With over 15 years of experience within both the Public and Civil Society Sector Rishi has considerable knowledge and experience of the workings of government both from an operational and policy aspect as well as a unique insight into the challenges, faced by civil society organisations trying to impact civic change. During the period 2005 to 2012, he was the Senior Officer in charge of the Freedom of Information Unit. He also provided technical advice in the passage and partial proclamation of the Data Protection Act in 2011 and participated in the drafting of model legislation on Freedom of Information and Data Protection through the International Telecommunications Union HIPCAR Project.

Anthony Ramdeen

Coordinator

Keanu Nichols

Junior Associate

Keanu is an undergraduate at the University of the West Indies studying Computer Science (Special). He spent a year at Penn State University but later attended the University of the West Indies. He was selected for an internship for Google Summer of Code to work at a company called CHAOSS (Community Health Analytics Open Source Software) where he worked to implement a SQL Database to store mailing archives and implement Natural Language Processing on the emails. He also participated in the online Data Science competition website Kaggle to create machine learning models to solve different problems, and has worked on problems related to computer vision and sentiment analysis.

Gabriela Sewdhan

Junior Associate

Gabriela Sewdhan is a student at the University of the West Indies (UWI). She possesses a bachelor’s in Psychology and is currently pursuing another bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. She is most passionate about Machine Learning and Robotics and would one day like to own a company specialising in these fields. Gabriela has interned at Persisto Labs where she developed various software modules with a stringent and well-documented Git workflow and worked on deploying these microservices to Amazon Web Services. She gained practical experience in Cloud infrastructure and deployment, React Native app development, as well as created a chatbot using Amazon Lex. In 2017, she worked with a team consisting of Michael Ali and Qarun Bissoondial for the Telios Code Jam and built MET-Oracle, which uses Machine Learning to Improve City Resilience and Awareness to Extreme Weather Conditions Due to Global Warming. She has also worked with the same team to produce PiDronics, an Automated Hydroponics Control System to Increase Effectiveness with Limited Resources and to diagnose plants using Image recognition. Furthermore, body language analysis was experimented on, in a team with Michael Ali during the Hacker Hostel program. Gabriela is planning to pursue a Master’s in Robotics and is very interested in applying Artificial Intelligence to try to fix environmental problems. During her spare time, she loves baking, playing the piano and guitar, and journaling.

Michael Ali

Junior Associate

Nidia Sahjara

Junior Associate

Nidia obtained her BSc Computer Science from the University of Derby (1st Hons) where she started her machine learning research with political science applications. At present, she works as a Back-end Developer while continuing to pursue her NLP (Natural Language Processing) research with the goal of publication. Past experiences include business development in healthtech startups which played a significant role in expanding her mindset. She is due to start her postgraduate studies at Kings College London from the next academic year with a focus on Intelligence in the Faculty of War. On another note, during undergrad her extra-curricular activity of being a sponsored athlete allowed her to achieve the title of National IFBB Body-Fitness champion. In conjunction with her career path, her capacity extends into writing as she is currently a columnist for the Trinidad Guardian.
Programme

Think-Do Labs

Themes

Data for Development, Natural Capital, Civil Society Leadership