The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member states are taking steps to fully embrace the digital economy and has formed a special ICT Strategy Group to consider the region’s options for using technology more effectively to facilitate its integration agenda. The group is chaired by the OECS director general, Dr Didacus Jules.
The OECS ICT Strategy Group has been established to ensure that the region is positioned to take full advantage of the digital revolution by removing obstacles and creating new digital opportunities for people and businesses. The group is comprised of government ministers, telecom regulators, ICT experts and senior policy makers and builds on work already underway in the Eastern Caribbean to address some of the barriers to greater adoption of technology-based services.
“The future prosperity of our region is hinged to how well we leverage information and communications technology to enable the seamless movement of people, goods and capital in the sub-region. The OECS has already made significant strides in this regard. However, there is still more to be done. We must now take steps to ensure our institutions and industries adapt, and that our citizens are able to make full use of the potential of digital services and goods.
“The group has been tasked to accelerate the region’s move to a single market by systematically reducing regulatory obstacles and predatory market practices. The group will also help ensure that the OECS is aligned with the recently announced Caribbean Single ICT Space,” Jules said.
The strategies being developed by the group include a set of targeted actions to be delivered within the next twelve months. It is built on three pillars: affordable access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across the OECS; a level playing field for digital networks and technology-enabled services to flourish; enabling strategies for catalysing growth of the digital economy.
Speaking at the forum, OECS Commissioner, Ambassador Patrick Antoine said, "A digitally enabled, fully functional OECS Economic Union will contribute significantly to the region’s economy and create a host of new jobs and opportunities.
Our strategy is an ambitious and necessary programme of initiatives that target areas where we believe technology, generally, and Internet connectivity, specifically, can make a significant difference,”
Antoine continued, “We are fully aware that there is a window of opportunity for the region, and we must move quickly and decisively if we are to better help in the creation of jobs and growth. The formation of this OECS ICT Strategy Group is our starting point, and we are committed to accelerating the region’s transition to a single digital market and economy."
ICT Agencies Meet After CARICOM Heads of Goverment Approve Single ICT Space Road Map
Following the approval of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) single ICT roadmap earlier in February, the ICT cluster agencies in the region met last Friday to chart the way forward.
The meeting was held via videoconferencing, included representation from the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), the CARICOM Secretariat, CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD) and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU).
Discussions focused on developing an integrated work plan among the agencies towards the development of the single ICT space. The plan would include financial projections and sources of funding for the undertaking.
The single ICT space is conceptualised as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the region’s flagship programme. It encompasses the management of regional information, human resources, legislation and infrastructure in the sector to elicit maximum benefit for the region’s populace.
The undertaking is cross-sectoral and highly complex. The challenges include identifying the areas of strategic value, evaluating lessons learned and timely and appropriate decisions.
Jamaican Girls Who Code Inspire Others With Showing of 'Hidden Figures'
Learning how to code is good for your brain’s development and can take you to the top of your chosen profession, was the message from Melanie Subratie, chairperson of the Jamaica Girls Coding. She was addressing more than 80 girls mainly from high schools in Kingston and St Andrew, who were invited to watch a showing of the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures on Saturday..
The film depicts the story of a group of black women who played pivotal roles in the early days of the NASA, in particular John Glen’s landmark first orbit around the earth. The occasion was made possible by Jamaica Girls Coding in conjunction with the Seprod Foundation. The event was designed to inspire girls from Kingston High School, Trench Town Polytechic, Merlgrove High School, Campion College, Homestead Child Care Facilities and the Maxfield Park Children's Home to embrace what is possible when they enhance their skills in coding and mathematics.
“If you’re thinking of any profession, these skills can only get you to the top of that profession,” Subratie said while addressing the girls prior to the showing of the film. “And learning them is actually pretty good for your brain as it enhances critical thinking and many other areas,” she added.
She also expressed the view that there were themes in the movie that were relevant to Jamaica today, urging the girls to take the lessons home, use them wisely and empower themselves. Some of those themes found fertile ground with the girls who spoke glowingly about the movie afterwards.
“I thought it was really good because it showed how much girls can do even though we are in a generalized society where men should do this and women should do this,” said Lauren Campbell of the Lego Robotics Group who was in attendance at the viewing.
Julian Robinson co-founder of the Girls Who Code camp, added that “It was very inspiring. There are so many lessons; issues of breaking down barriers, striving for excellence, not allowing people to limit what you can do, the power of diversity and the importance of not having policies which discriminate against persons,” he said. “I hope it was an inspiration for the young ladies to show them that anything they set their minds on they can achieve anything in life and that they can be world beaters.”
For more than three years now, the Seprod Foundation has funded Jamaica Girls Coding, a programme under which young girls are taught coding, empowering them while improving on Jamaica’s knowledge economy.
Subratie believes that Jamaicans are creative and learning coding can take Jamaica to that next level. “Jamaicans are creative people, incredibly entrepreneurial so why not be creators of technology and not just consumers of it.” she stated.