Balcostics in China: The 12th China-LAC Business Summit

The 12th China-LAC business summit was held in Zhuhai China, from the 1st of November to the 3rd. Balcostics Research was among two Jamaican MSMEs selected by Connect Americas (an IDB branch) to participate in this, the 12th staging.

The conference was held in the Guangzhou province, in the city of Zhuhai – this is where the World’s longest (through the sea) bridge was recently opened. This bridge connects Hong Kong to Main Land China, and is approximately 55 Kilometers long. For context, Mandeville to Kingston is approximately 91 km.

Registration commenced from October 31st, this was followed by the opening ceremony on November 1st, where we met our Minister & Ambassador to China.   

Day 2 begun with matchmaking sessions, which were mostly organized prior via the Summit’s website. MSMEs from LAC were paired with businesses & organizations operating in China to explore possibilities for future trade in services or products.

After matchmaking sessions ended around midday, the exhibition hall was opened to the public.

Our third & final day ended with an official tour of the new ‘China-LAC Economic & Trade Corporation Park’ – we also visited a temple ūüôā   

Overall, this was an eyeopening experience for us in so many ways. We’re truly grateful to Connect Americas’ & the IDB for this opportunity and we planted some seeds that we hope will bear fruit in the future.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Want to learn more about our research services for individuals and companies: Click here

Why we make bad decisions [Video]

decision wrongDan Gilbert presents research and data from his exploration of happiness ‚ÄĒ sharing some surprising tests and experiments that you can also try on yourself. Watch through to the end for a sparkling Q&A with some familiar TED faces.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

More women now die of heart disease than men [Research]

There are approximately 800,000 Jamaican women (20 Р64 years old) currently at risk of heart disease. Women under the age of 65, especially those with a family history of heart disease, should pay close attention to heart disease risk factors.

Heart disease in woman

Surprising, but true: More women now die of heart disease than men, yet cardiovascular research has long focused on men. Pioneering doctor C. Noel Bairey Merz shares what we know and don’t know about women’s heart health ‚ÄĒ including the remarkably different symptoms women present during a heart attack (and why they’re often missed).


Some Risk Factors for heart disease in women:

  1. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease significantly more in women than in men.
  2. Metabolic syndrome ‚ÄĒ a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides ‚ÄĒ has a greater impact on women than on men.
  3. Mental stress and depression affect women’s hearts more than men’s. Depression makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment, so talk to your doctor if you’re having symptoms of depression.
  4. Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than in men.
  5. A lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease, and as a group, women tend to be less active than men.
  6. Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (microvascular disease).
  7. Pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can increase a woman’s long-term risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and increase the risk of development of heart disease in both the mother and in her children.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower decision makers with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

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Your phone company is watching

With the recent trial and conviction of popular dancehall entertainer Vybz Kartel, most Jamaicans were surprised to learn that both network providers (Digicel Jamaica & Lime Jamaica) store records of phone-calls, text messages among other personal information for several years.

According to the Interception of Communication Act, if the police has reasonable grounds that your device has information that can assist them in a criminal investigation, prevent a crime from taking place, or is in the public interest, then a judge can issue a warrant for your phone to be searched and certain information retrieved.

So the question is:

Phone companies across the world

What kind of data is your cell phone company collecting? Malte Spitz wasn‚Äôt too worried when he asked his operator in Germany to share information stored about him. Multiple unanswered requests and a lawsuit later, Spitz received 35,830 lines of code — a detailed, nearly minute-by-minute account of half a year of his life.


At Balcostics our mission is to empower decision makers with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

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Research news across the world via twitter

Twitter news on research







Correlation or Causation: The most common errors made in data analysis

The research field is prone to errors with significant consequences on generalizing results and interpreting statistical relationships.The following are some of the most common:

statistical errors

  1. Assuming you have a representative sample: This error is common especially in large data sets (big data). The results may look convincing, but the sample does not represent a true picture of the target population.
  2. Measurement errors: Assuming the data has been measured correctly.  Often we get more bad data than good data and you need to adjust for this.
  3. Correlation versus Causation  – There is no statistical test to prove/ disprove whether two things are correlated versus whether one is causing the other to occur. Yet many researchers make this common error of assuming causality instead of correlation.
  4. Assuming that the data represents what you think it does: For example, not because a large proportion of prisoners are from high school A, means it’s correct to conclude that high school A is responsible for producing criminals.
  5. Reliance on features that are destined to change. Some numbers are bound to be way off when circumstances change. Daily and weekly fluctuations are easy to notice, but predicting what will happen one year from now is a different story. No matter how well a research explains current and past results, predicting the future based on current information has many limitations.
  6. Not understanding the impact that algorithm (different statistical tests) choice have on final results. Using different types of algorithms — say, random forest instead of logistic regression — may often have a significant impact on final results.

Can you think of any common errors you might want to add? Please share in the comments below

Balcostics Among 12 Finalists for Caribbean & Latin America Investor Pitch Competition

We are happy to announce that Balcostics Limited has been selected as one of 12 finalists in the Caribbean and Latin America Investor pitch competition. Learn more about the other finalists here



Two companies will be selected to attend the WeXchange Conference to complete a second round of pitching. This event is hosted by FOMIN in partnership with Ellas² and NXTPLabs and will be held in Miami in December.

We pray for God’s guidance and do keep us in your prayers as we continue on this quest to change the status quo relating to information & decision making across the Caribbean.

Understanding Dependent & Independent Variables #Animation

In doing research and data¬†analysis, many have struggled with¬†differentiating¬†between¬†the dependent and independent variables when running statistical tests and/or experiments. A clear understanding of these two concepts will play a major role in an individual’s thinking as a researcher/ experimenter.

This animation seeks to address this common challenge of differentiating between the independent & dependent variables in a research.

Are You Satisfied?

What is satisfaction? How do we ask questions about satisfaction? Is there a best approach?

Love customers

Here we present some tips and best practices for asking satisfaction questions in a survey.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

Qualitative & Quantitative Sampling Methods

Research is a systematic approach to collecting, entering and analyzing data. The process of data collection begins with determining which ‘sampling method(s)’ one will use – qualitative or quantitative.

This slideshow provides a practical ‘how-to guide’ in sampling techniques, looking at the qualitative versus the quantitative approaches.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

Working and Enjoying Jamaica: Field Work

Working, researching and enjoying Jamaica – this has been our story in recent weeks. In our most recent exploration, we visited Dunn’s River Falls, completing our work, while basking in the ambiance of Jamaica’s natural environment.

Thanks to the Management and Staff of Dunn’s River for accommodating our Balcostics team.

See highlights from our visit below (click to view as slideshow):

ProjectRita Training Seminar

Project Rita is the code name of our new and exciting project. We will be researching to aid Jamaica’s environmental and cultural resources. We’ve been contracted by one of America’s top 5 environmental charities, but this is as much as we can say. Stay tune to learn more and follow us on this exciting research journey. Researching for a greater cause! See pictures from our training seminar below (Click on photos to view as slideshow):

Top 5 Posts in 2012: Balcostics’ Year in Review

2012 came with its fair share of challenges and triumphs. We take this opportunity to thank everyone for their encouragement and support. See below some stats on our website and what you our viewers found most interesting in 2012.

The following shows the ‘Top Five Posts‘ that got the most views in 2012:

  1. Top 10 Dancehall/Reggae Artistes on Social Media
  2. Winning Schools: Champs stats from 1910 – 2011
  3. Food for Thought: The Research behind eating Jamaican
  4. Exploiting Jamaica’s Hydroelectric Potential
  5. Is there a methodology for collecting Big Data?

Facebook, reddit, twitter & linkedin were among the top referral sources to

how did they find balcosticsVisitors to came from across the world, 122 countries in total. The majority of visitors were from Jamaica, The United States & Canada.

Where balcostics visitors

Yes, there are opportunities in a depreciated Jamaican Dollar!

Public discussion surrounding the depreciating dollar have been one sided, looking only at the negatives associated with the decline. With the exception of Dr. Damian King (Senior Economist, UWI), I’m yet to see a different perspective on the implications.

Dr King views in summary:

Some Jamaicans (companies, individuals etc.) will lose from the depreciation in the dollar, while others will gain. Since both the winners and losers are Jamaicans operating in the economy, the country is not made worse off with a depreciated dollar.

 King went on to give an example, highlighting that Every purchase of foreign exchange is also a sale. Somebody is selling it. So if you have to pay me $150 for a US dollar, what you lose is exactly what I gain. You pay more, I get more. If the cost of haircuts suddenly rise to $1,500 a head, that is terrible for everyone else but it is great for barbers. The whole country is not worse off because barbers are part of the country. The identical thing is true for any other transaction, including US dollars.


Can we follow the Chinese? China has come under pressure from the United States (US), for supposedly manipulating their currency to gain unfair trade advantages – it is widely agreed that the Chinese dollar (Yuan) is undervalued. The argument is that the Chinese keep their dollar undervalued so their goods and services will remain ‘cheap’ and competitive in foreign markets. An undervalued currency also allows for lower cost labour which has resulted in some major US companies moving their manufacturing to factories in China (e.g. Apple & Nike) – outsourcing.

This Chinese example, presents a model for Jamaica. We need to increase production of goods and services and use the depreciated dollar as our competitive advantage. We’re unlikely to compete with China’s manufacturing prowess but services (BPO, Tourism, etc.) could provide superfluous returns.

Outsourcing to Jamaica: As I write, Sutherland International (a US base outsourcing company) is looking to launch its operations on the UWI Mona campus. This venture is expected to see over 13,000 students and other professionals being employed full-time and part-time. A depreciated Jamaican dollar is as much a ‘problem’ as it is an ‘opportunity‘. It is an opportunity for us to embrace a more modern approach in participating in the global world and improving our competitiveness.

Some Opportunities:

  1. A cheaper Jamaican dollar will attract more investors who are looking to take advantage of Jamaica’s educated, yet highly unemployed labor force.
  2. Increase tourist visitors – It will be cheaper for tourists to visit Jamaica and as such more will come (The Land of Usain Bolt & Bob Marley)
  3. We will import less (due to a depreciated dollar) and hopefully increase local production
  4. Local goods & services will become more competitive in foreign markets Рlocally produced goods/ services will become cheaper.
Tourism Jamaica

Jamaica’s tourism industry (one of our main foreign exchange earners) could also benefit significantly from a depreciated dollar, especially with the expected tax hike for US consumers – what has been termed the¬†Fiscal Cliff. Tax increase will reduce disposable income of US¬†consumers and¬†since tourism is classified as a luxury it will likely be first on consumers ‘cut-back-list’. A depreciated dollar could help Jamaica offset any repercussions to the industry in the event that the US Fiscal Cliff is realized.

Looking at Solutions:

We need to embrace the opportunities associated with a depreciating dollar and look to increase production, exports and services offered globally.

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

SMEs & Market Research

Many Jamaican entrepreneurs (or entrepreneurs to be) ¬†have asked/ or is still asking themselves’ the above question – is market research needed for my new idea?

We’ve found some external insights on the topic, which we hope will provide additional clarity.


Galleon (9)

Question as answered by Amy Shropshire on Quora:

Most of the mistakes I’ve seen businesses of any size make have been due to the¬†thinking¬†they know the market place rather than taking the time to actually find out.

For the past 15 years, I’ve been advising clients in the nonprofit and start up world. What I love about them is their eagerness to get going, get their product or service into the hands of their market, and see their dreams come true. The challenge comes when I ask them questions about their market and they can’t answer them. They know all about them, and nothing about their consumers. They expect to put their product out there, do “marketing,” and make millions.

I eventually created a workshop called “No One Cares About You.” where I explained that deep down, consumers don’t really care about you. They care about how you’re going to solve their problem/need/want/desire/etc. And that’s what market research tells you how to do.

I disagree with what Shashank PS says about a completely new product being unlikely benefited from market research. This is where research will benefit you the most – Who exactly is your market? Does the market even want your product/service? Does it fill a need they have? If they don’t know they need it, how can you convince them they do? What channels do they like to be reached on. How much would they be willing to pay? The questions are endless.

I find that most people want to find a way to skip the market research part because its seen as boring. They want to jump right into the fun stuff! But let me finish by saying that the better you know every facet of your market, the more they will want to know you. =)

Question as answered by Matt Bertuzzi on Quora:

There are compelling arguments here for both sides. I have 2 quick thoughts:

1) Market research can hugely beneficial – not unlike learning about the structure of the face and effects of physics. Market interactions are like getting punched in the mouth 1st hand. Imho, you learn more from the 1st and know more from the 2nd.

2) I had no idea I wanted 1k songs in my pocket until I heard Steve Jobs tell me I could have it. Similarly, I might have scoffed at the idea/concept of Twitter in a conference room. But after week 1 using it, I was hooked.

Just my $.02.

See more interesting answers to this question here

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

The Five Hottest Occupations in Jamaica

Where are you mostly likely to be employed in Jamaica? Which occupations do employers seek most? The following infographics highlight the five hottest occupations in Jamaica, based on demand (advertisement in the Jamaica Observer & Gleaner) from employers:

Five Hottest Occupations in Jamaica

At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here


How University Students Use Technology in the Learning Process

How has university students used technology to assist/ aid their study? This infographics shed some light on this phenomenon. Review and share your experience with us.

Best Approach To Online Research

True or False? The majority of us will start the research process online – searching for relevant literature relating to the specific research problem we are looking to solve. The following infographic highlight different resources and best approach in doing online research. We believe you will find it helpful

Research is Not Data Gathering!

Here we seek to highlight answers to the following questions:

  1. What is research?
  2. What is the research process?
  3. Why we do research?
  4. Why do a literature review?

Planning your research: The simple yet effective whiteboard

Before embarking on a new research project, the following are considered extremely important to the successful execution of same:


Planning should begin with the brainstorming phase, where the problems/ questions that need answering is verbally aired, reviewed and discussed. A white board is an excellent tool that can be used to capture the information and foster the discussion surrounding the problem. Generally most of your research questions come from these brainstorming sessions.

In my experience with Balcostics and helping people with their analysis, I’ve come across many persons who went and collect data that was not relevant in answering/ solving the problem they commissioned the research to solve.¬†Dwayne Spradlin highlighted in his Havard business review article “Are you solving the right problems?”, the importance of asking the right questions and¬†thoroughly¬†defining the problem.


Organization is key! Most successful researchers have good project management skills, whether they were formally trained or not. Tasks listings, resource allocation, budget and timelines are necessary evils in the planning process.

Research is a methodology, Not percentages!

Research is a systematic way of collecting, analyzing and presenting data. The methodology used in the design, collection and analysis of the data is imperative. The methodology should be given high priority, to ensure the sample is representative and margin of errors are adequate.

Please comment and share your opinion on any of the simple points presented.

Visionary Entrepreneur

About the author:

Luwayne Thomas Bsc., Msc.

Co-founder & COO @balcostics

Follow on twitter: @LuwayneThomas


Conducting Online Surveys: Pros & Cons

With the explosion of internet usage globally, it was inevitable that surveys would eventually utilize the online medium to capture required data. The advent of Facebook and Twitter, has further resulted in a paradigm shift – it is now easier to find people on Facebook/ twitter than at a park (base on our informal observations). With smartphones as well, people now have access to all their social media and email messages instantly. It is because of this, why many researchers have opted for the online route to garner and sometimes cajole responses from online users. In the process of collecting data online however, one should be aware of the following:

Some Advantages of online surveys:

1. You can do it yourself! Yes you can! It is really really simple.

2. It cost significantly less – doesn’t require large sums to execute your data collection and entry

3. Diverse distribution channels – survey can be accessed via email, facebook, twitter and on a website. You are allowed to question the people you wouldn’t meet in the park!

4. Convenience –¬†respondents¬†(people completing the questionnaires) have autonomy over time and place where they choose to answer survey questions.

Some Dis-advantages of online surveys:

1. Low response rate – people have friends to talk to, pictures to see, who has time to answer questions?

Possible Solution: People respond to incentives, so ensure as an order of priority that there is a ‚Äėgood enough carrot to entice the rabbit‚Äô. There needs to be an opportunity to win something special e.g Iphone or a gift certificate

2. Sample not representative – this is especially true when you’re distributing a survey on facebook/ twitter. You have no control over who is answering. You might want only Jamaicans, or persons within a specified age group who are Jamaicans! The fact remains that people outside your specified demography can and will answer your survey – especially when there is a good prize to be won.

Possible Solution: only distribute general surveys on Facebook/ Twitter, where the demographics of the sample is of little significance.

3. Missed deadlines – since people have complete autonomy as to when and where to answer your survey, the responses might be slow in coming, which might delay your entire project.

Possible Solution: In the case where you have an email listing – follow up emails and possibly phone calls would be appropriate to remind persons to complete survey.
In the case of twitter/ facebook – it would boil down to an incentive issue again! Where early respondents would be better place to win, or something special (similar to ladies free before 12pm).

Please leave a suggestion/comment, we do appreciate it.


At Balcostics our mission is to empower leaders with the required data and information to make better decisions. Learn more about our full list of research outsourcing services for individuals and companies: Click here

Conducting your own survey? Here is a quick guide

What is a survey?

It is  the systematic/structured gathering of information from a sample/ proportion of individuals for the main purpose of making conclusions/predictions about a larger population/group.

Prior to starting a survey, one should…

  • Define a clear purpose for the survey
  • Create research objectives/research questions you intend to answer
  • Decide on a methodology to collect the data required

 Popular ways of administering a survey:

  1. Online via a website
  2. Online via email campaign
  3. Face-to-face interviews
  4. Interviews via telephone

In general, the method you choose to administer your survey questionnaire will be dependent on the following: