The Business Year

Parris Lyew-Ayee

JAMAICA - Telecoms & IT

From Data to Knowledge

Director, Mona Geoinformatics Institute (MGI)


Parris Lyew-Ayee is the Director of the Mona Geoinformatics Institute and Senior Lecturer at the University of the West Indies’ Mona campus, specializing in highly advanced geospatial analyses and applications across numerous disciplines. He also serves on numerous private- and public-sector boards, including as Chairman of the Water Resources Authority and the National Works Agency. He also sits on the parent board of foods and financial conglomerate, GraceKennedy Ltd, as well as several of its subsidiary companies. Lyew-Ayee is a graduate of the University of Oxford and is also a US Eisenhower Fellow.

MGI is collaborating with public- and private-sector entities and using the power of data to help solve issues related to social justice, crime, and most importantly, environment.

What have been the main highlights in 2018?

Our main highlights were the forging of new partnerships and the development of new key products. We are focusing on several main areas, including software development, and as we are a geospatial company, we do a great deal of work in environmental sciences, software development, and human and social sciences. We are focused on issues such as social justice, crime, violence, and health. This results in analyzing the correlation on the issues approached. Furthermore, we organize certain security activities in specific areas for determined lengths of time, as well as human behavior and human activities.

Which initiatives captained by MGI are you particularly proud of?

I am particularly proud of the staff we have developed. We have seen the development of a cadre of young Jamaican geoscientists who are able to see the world differently. At MGI, the staff is able to see the world not just as maps, as would traditional cartographers, but where maps are a tool, similar to a technological application. We want maps to be as important as words in the public space. In terms of tangible products, we are pleased about the JAMNAV product that we developed. It was originally built on the Garmin platform, a worldwide leader in personal navigation devices. We own the data and every single road and point of interest, allowing us to build an independent, private database that is accessible to outside stakeholders. This allows us to manipulate, model, project, remove or add, and cluster anything on demand. By controlling the database, we are not dependent on any third party permissions.

Can you tell us more about MGI’s expansion strategies?

We have already expanded into several different Caribbean territories in two main areas. One is the environment, especially on issues such as climate change. So far, we have done work in more than six territories, and that figure is growing. Also, we have been working with governments and multilateral partners on developing tools to assess their own products and determine the viability of a particular project. Since a small island can be affected by climate change, we have to look at the impact on roads and better design them based on what to expect. Another element is crime, and we have been working with the Belize police on this issue. This will likely expand into road safety, mapping crime incidents, and other elements. We have the ability to translate a system into data-poor environments, harvestable data, and standardized and non-standardized data. We want to make a plan without ignoring the facts in front of us: mindset is exportable to any data-poor country or non-standardized system in the world.

Who are your main partners to reach these expansion goals?

We recently signed an MoU with a large global engineering firm out of the Netherlands. It wants to enter the Caribbean and has partnered with us, mostly related to climate change, focusing on, but not restricted to, the coastal zone. It brings the experience as well as capacity and reputation. We have also partnered with a major Canadian firm that is also doing work in the Caribbean as well as a British firm, IMC Worldwide. Furthermore, we have had excellent multilateral and bilateral relationships with the World Bank, IDRC, and IDB. There have also been more projects on traditional, academic-type work associated with Oxford University, my alma mater, as well as with Tulane University in Louisiana and the Eisenhower Fellowships Network, a global leadership program. All these partnerships and collaborations give us a global reach in terms of best practices and networking.

What is next for MIG?

We will grow the regional contributions of this organization in 2019. At present, we are focusing on the environmental sphere, looking at threats such as hurricanes and droughts. Other than that, our flagship local project for 2019 is about solid waste. It is an ambitious project aimed at cleaning up Kingston Harbor to help the mangroves and ecosystem. In short, 2019 is about the environment.



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