SlashRoots: apps that help people – from Jamaica to Eastern Europe

slash roots jamaica mobile for development

Call centre jobs, climate change, murders and tiefing – are among Jamaica’s most pressing existential questions, jokes David Soutar of SlashRoots, the Kingston-based social impact organisation that uses technology to tackle some of those issues here and abroad.

Starting out as a still-online Caribbean developers’ community in 2010, SlashRoots’ vision is realised through what most people have in their hands: a mobile phone; and in the other hand, or not as the case may be; decent access to government services. The intersection between governance and tech is where SlashRoots has built a reputation with clients from multi-laterals like the World Bank and to design agencies like Reboot in NYC.

For when you see goats riding on the backseat

The question for every project they choose is simple: is this going to benefit the everyday citizen? My favorite is their app for the Ministry of Agriculture to help prevent predial larceny (agricultural theft). Finally, ready to be launched and available for police to use in the field, the app allows officers to verify the validity of produce and animal purchases against the Ministry’s database. Continue reading


#Freedom2Learn: Silverstone Solutions X Nelson Mandela

One million smartphones donated to learners on the African continent. That’s the goal of the #Freedom2Learn campaign by Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom Library Project and AG Mobile – powered by a mobile platform built by South Africa’s Silverstone Solutions, who I consult for here in Jamaica.

The AG Mobile ‘Freedom’ smart devices are manufactured in South Africa and are pre-loaded with educational resources and exclusive Mandela content and imagery. But how does the campaign work? Continue reading


Moving multi-million-dollar motors: behind Jamaica’s most cost-effective mobile campaign

mercedes benz jamaica silverstar motors mobile

Sloane Jackson (centre) and colleagues at Silverstar Motors celebrate a sales milestone. Photo: Silverstar Motors

Last year, drivers in Kingston would have seen a Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 parked by an intersection with an oversized hashtag on its side. They might not have thought much at first but then they would have seen another, then another; each deliberately parked where slow-moving rush hour traffic could get a good view. Some people even stopped to ask questions.

Local Benz dealer Silverstar Motors would park the vehicles as early as 4:30am in the morning, each Friday for four weeks. Then they moved each vehicle throughout the day and other high traffic locations in order to maintain the surprise. All in an attempt to gain familiarity for a model not yet introduced to the Jamaican motoring public.

“Typical Mercedes-Benz customers who may have bought three or four Benzes in their lifetime were not entirely happy about the concept as you would expect, but the majority including owners and those who’ve never owned a Benz liked it because it was deliberately different, created attention and drew a response – it was the single most successful thing we did last year,” explained Silverstar General Manager Sloane Jackson. Continue reading


#MobileRocks: ‘Mobile Micro Moments’ means macro opportunity

Mobile Rocks Silverstone Solutions

A Caribbean customer pulls out their phone, searches for a product/service and clicks on the result [CALL]. [RING] you or your colleague picks up the phone on the other end. Calls like this from mobile search will reach 73 billion per year in 2018, up from 30 billion in 2013, says Google which recently released research into these and other so-called ‘Mobile Micro Moments’.

Read my post here via #MobileRocks on @Medium.


Ganjagram: The App That Gets You High & Legal

ganjagram varun bakerPhotographer Varun Baker also happens to be a mobile app developer. And Varun smokes a little weed. Formerly of /slashroots his current project Ganjagram aims to one day connect buyers with growers of Jamaica’s highest grades.

Of all the apps to make, why this?
For most people there’s a grey area around Ganja and the Law in Jamaica right now. I did this because I spotted the opportunity and thought we need this. I think many people in Jamaica are getting caught up in all the things the government is not doing for Ganja in terms of communicating information. I see it as an opportunity to do it myself and the result was this app on Ganja and the Law in Jamaica by Ganjagram. It’s just like a free handy guide you can fit in your pocket.

What’s the most common confusion with the law?
Probably just “What’s legal now?” I remember a story right after the amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act (2015) was made, a man carrying almost 100 pounds of ganja drove straight into a police station to ask for directions thinking, “Hey, it’s legal now.”

Be honest, were you high today?
DWL. No, when I ran into you today I had just come from getting some exercise.

And at any time making this app?
Haha. Ya, for sure. This is actually a really fun project. Imagine, my user research takes me to places like Orange Hill to reason with farmers and find out why people call it the source of the best ganja. Continue reading