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.
The St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards is establishing a number of Technical Committee’s in order to establish national standards, and they began with ICT. ICT stakeholders met with officials from the Bureau and CROSQ – CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality – on Wednesday to estblish the Technical Committee for ICT.
Mr. Fulgence St. Prix of CROSQ gave some background for the need for standards.
“St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards is developing their standards infrastructure so that they can begin declaring national standards, and as part of that process, they need to have technical committees in place. Standards development is about the experts, they are the ones who develop the standards and not the staff of a bureau, and CROSQ is here to provide technical assistance to the St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards to have things in place.”
When asked, why ICT standards were important. Mr. St. Prix, stated that standards help improve competitiveness and grow an economy, and the National Bureau set about identifying priority areas.
“The management team at the bureau under took a proceess and identified some six sectors that they would being a process of standards development. These were identified from national priority development plan established in 2015 based on discussions with stakeholders and review of the budget address. ICT is a sector that government has shown priority in developing.”
We asked where St. Kitts and Nevis stood in this effort compared to our regional neighbours, and St. Prix said St. Kitts and Nevis is the first bureau to move on ICT.
As it pertains to other regional member states within CARICOM, others have identified ICT as a priority however, they have not really moved to develop National Standards in the ICT Sector. So we could say that the St. Kitts and Nevis Bureau of Standards is a pioneer in moving forward with developing standards, in that sector.
Antigua- Barbuda To Host ICT Week and Symposium
The rapid pace of innovation in information and communication technologies (ICT) is impacting every aspect of Caribbean life. There is a clarion call for the region to keep abreast with and understand the potential of these new and revolutionary technologies to overcome the challenges faced by the Caribbean and to drive economic growth.
It is imperative that Caribbean leaders consider the opportunities presented by the ICT revolution and adopt the technologies that can transform all sectors and promote social and economic development.
It’s against this backdrop, the government of Antigua and Barbuda, in collaboration with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), will host it’s ICT Week and Symposium on Monday 20th March 2017.
Bernadette Lewis, the Secretary General of the CTU noted that the theme for the Symposium is “ICT: Driving 21st Century Intelligent Services”. She explained the purpose of the Week’s activities as being “to raise awareness of the ICT revolution, the implications for policy, legislation and regulations and how they can be employed to transform existing operations; to foster social inclusion; provide ICT-based solutions to the challenges we face in the region and promote national and regional development.”
The week’s activities include a number of ICT events which include a Smart Caribbean Conference, 15th Caribbean Ministerial Strategic ICT Seminar, 3rd Caribbean Stakeholders Meeting: Cyber security and Cyber Crime and culminates with the Training Programme on Mobile Money for Financial Inclusion.
CTU Presents Road Map For ICT Single Space
The Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), Ms. Bernadette Lewis addressed the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community on 17th February, 2017 in Guyana.
On the subject of the Vision and Roadmap for the CARICOM Single ICT Space, Ms. Lewis made a presentation on behalf of the CTU, the lead agency for the development of the document. She noted the contribution of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union, the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security,
the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration, the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network Agency, the CARICOM Secretariat and many other organisations and individuals from the public and private sectors and civil society, who were consulted in developing the Roadmap.
Having been asked by the CARICOM Head responsible for Science and Technology Hon Dr. Keith Mitchel Prime Minister of Grenada to present a high-level view of the Roadmap to the Conference, the Secretary General stated the vision for the CARICOM Single ICT Space as: an ICT-enabled borderless space that fosters economic, social and cultural integration for the betterment of Caribbean citizens. She defined it as an ecosystem of regionally harmonised ICT policies, legislation, regulations, technical standards, best practices, networks and services.
The Secretary General explained that the objective of the CARICOM Single ICT Space is to provide the ICT-enabled foundation for enhancing both CARICOM’s functional cooperation and fulfilling the social, cultural and economic imperatives of the region.
The French telecoms company Orange is to build a 1,900km subsea cable connecting French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe as part of an investment programme that will also see the company expand its fibre and 4G plan. The plan was announced by Stéphane Richard, Orange’s CEO, during a trip to French Guiana, the territory on the South American mainland that is legally part of France.
"Today, French Guiana is one of the regions with the most dynamic demographics
in France," said Richard. "It is to accompany the growth of traffic that Orange will invest €35 million to deploy a new submarine cable between Kourou in Guyana, Martinique and Guadeloupe." Kourou is the site of Arianespace’s space port from which many communications satellites have been launched.
The new subsea cable, due to be in service by the second half of next year, will also interconnect with the East Caribbean Fibre System (ECFS) to give French Guiana a direct link to the American continent. French Guiana is also connected to the Suriname-Guyana Submarine Cable System (SGSCS).
This additional EFCS connection will make it possible to secure more traffic to and from the US, which represents more than 80% of the volume, said Richard in Cayenne.
Nevis To Hold Its First ICT Week Of Activities
The Department of Technology in the Nevis Island Administration will host its first ICT Week of Activities at venues across the island beginning Saturday 11th February. The theme of the week is “An Introduction to ICT for Positive Social Economic Development”, we spoke with Director of Technology Mr. Quincy Prentice to learn more.
We asked how the department planned to set about achieving the goal of the week’s theme, and why now?
Prentice said that this was a long term objective, “We won’t fully achieve the goal in a week, but we are hoping to start to bridge the gap in a number of areas. For instance bridging the gaps in the knowledge base of users or consumers of various ICT products and services and also in the bridging gaps in the knowledge base of providers of those ICT based goods and services.”
He continued, “The overall idea is that ICT has been out there for a while and persons are using ICTs on a day to day basis without truly understanding how it works or knowing how fully utilise or to maximise the use of it. So we’re hoping provide some of that knowledge that would assist persons enhancing their use of ICT for their own benefit and that would then redound to improving our social and economic development.” Prentice stated.
We asked who the activities were targeted at and how they were going to be reached.
“Our target would be a wide range of civil society, including school children and youths. We have two talks planned at the two high schools, Gingerland Secondary School and Charlestown Secondary School. We are particularly encouraging students following any of the ICT related programmes whether it be, Computer Science, Information Technology or EDPM to come to those session or persons who might not be enrolled to hear what we have to say as it pertains to ICT as a career.” Prentice explained.
He also indicated that they have prepared content particularly for the youth, “We have sessions on cyber-bullying and cyber-security, those are issues we want to improve their level of awareness on so that hopefully it would improve their use and the way they use ICTs”
We will carry more of our interview with the NIA’s Director of Technology and their ICT Week of activities however, you can visit ictweek.niagov.com to access the full schedule of events in subsequent broadcasts.
Dominica Exploring Use Of GIS In Monitoring and Managing Diseases
Dominica is exploring the feasibility of developing a Geographical Information System (GIS) in monitoring and managing the black sigatoka disease. This is being done through a two day workshop organized by the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute, (CARDI) in collaboration with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Black sigatoka disease has been identified as one of the major constraints to banana and plantain production in the Caribbean. Since the disease was confirmed in Dominica in 2011, the disease has significantly impacted the island’s banana and plantain production as well as cost the country millions in managing it.
The use of Geographical information systems (GIS) is growing in importance as a decision making tool for the agricultural sector as they provide valuable information that can be used to cost effectively and efficiently monitor, predict and manage the spread of agricultural pests and diseases.
The use of geographical information system tools is being considered as part of the suite of options in the development of an integrated management plan for black sigatoka disease.
The workshop, formed part of CARDI and CBD’s project at developing an integrated disease management program for Black Sigatoka in Dominica, Guyana, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Department of Technology in the Nevis Island Administration is holding its first ICT Week of Activities at venues across the island this week, under the theme “An Introduction to ICT for Positive Social Economic Development”. Today the department will be holding their open day, we spoke with Director of Technology Mr. Quincy Prentice who told us what visiters could expect to see and learn today.
“We are hoping to have someone from the Consumer Affairs department launch an app that has been developed that allows users to compare prices at supermarkets and retail outlets across the island. Additionally, we will have Mr. Jevon Claxton will demonstrate drone technologies, and someone from the Nevis Island Government Information Service will give a presentation on Digital Video Production.”
Prentice continued, “as a musician in my spare time this is something close to my heart, as there will be a session by Antonio Liburd of Abo’s Digital Factory and Cory Massable Tyson of “Love we Festival” fame who will be giving a presentation Digital Audio Production.”
As you can see there is a little bit in there for everybody, and as I said it speaks to the pervasive nature of technology. We have gone through a vast array of topics and everyone of them has some aspect that touches on some aspect of technology, We want to bring persons closer to the technology and improve on their level of knowledge so they can improve the way use technology and gain further benefits.
Digicel Endorses Regional Co-Regulated Approach To Open Internet
Speaking at the 11th Capacity Caribbean Conference in Puerto Rico, David Geary, General Counsel for Digicel Caribbean, compared the debate on Net Neutrality to that of Brexit in the United Kingdom.
He outlined that no one really knows what either Brexit or Net Neutrality means as both mean different things to different people, and like the debate about ‘Soft Brexit’ and ‘Hard Brexit,’ some people are in favour of very extreme Net Neutrality – or ‘Hard Net Neutrality’ rules. “‘Hard Net Neutrality’ will be very damaging to the Caribbean,” said David Geary, during the panel discussion on the topic.
“Instead of copying other regions, the Caribbean needs to decide what is best for Caribbean consumers to promote jobs and investment in the region,” Geary continued.
He welcomed the case for co-regulation recently presented by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL), and also praised the leadership of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) on its initiative to formalise the partnership between industry, government and regulators by launching the Caribbean ICT Collaboration Committee. This Committee will consider all of the priorities of the Caribbean and propose the best approach to Net Neutrality for the Caribbean. It is due to produce these recommendations this year.
“The Caribbean region needs to be at the centre of the new digital economy and we cannot afford to sit back while jobs and investment go to other parts of the world,” closed Geary.
ICT On The Agenda of CARICOM Heads Inter-Sessional Summit
As Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders began their two-day inter-sessional summit in Guyana on Thursday, crime and security, economic development and international relations were high on their agenda, but so too is ICT.
The regional leaders will also discuss the Single Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Space with LaRocque describing ICT as a sector in its own right as well as an enabler of development.
He said a roadmap to this end will be before the CARICOM leaders and issues that it will cover include regionally harmonised ICT policies, legislation, technical standards, networks and services, roaming rates, spectrum and broadband matters and regional best practices.
Five Caribbean businesses are closer to securing private investment having each received $25,000 USD through the LINK-Caribbean Investment Readiness Grant programme.
The recipients are Carepoint and Caribbean Transit Solutions of Barbados; Bluedot Media and Innovative Menu Solutions Ltd from Jamaica and SystemIz Incorporated from Trinidad and Tobago.
According to Chris McNair, Manager for Competitiveness and Innovation at Caribbean Export, “the grants will be used to assist firms in making the necessary improvements to their businesses with the aim of attracting greater investment from private investors, such as Business Angels within the next 6 months.” The firms were selected from more than 130 applications from across the region, 7 of which were chosen to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges in the hope of securing an investment readiness grant. LINK-Caribbean, a programme of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) supports the development of an early stage Investor eco-system within the region. Launched last September, it is funded by the World Bank and sponsored by the Canadian government.
Barbadian recipient Shannon Clarke from Carepoint expressed humility for his selection and spoke of looking forward to the guidance from Business Angels and importantly “their assistance to help push the adoption of ICT in the delivery of healthcare throughout the Caribbean”
Khalil Bryan of Caribbean Transport Solutions also from Barbados highlighted some of the key initiatives hosted by World Bank and Caribbean Export “Starting from 2015, their team hosted Entrepreneur sessions to sensitise us to key items that would prepare us to raise Capital to providing support as we deploy capital from the grant.
They have truly been a catalyst to improve the investment climate in the region - from building angel groups to disbursing grant funding to prepare us for investment. We appreciate the role that they have played and would encourage them to continue in this vein as entrepreneurship will truly be a catalyst to impact the economies of our region."
Aun Rahman, Financial Sector Specialist for the World Bank who also has responsibility for EPIC’s Access to Finance programme stated that the Bank is encouraged with the initial response to LINK-Caribbean’s first grant cycle. “We are looking forward to building a stronger pipeline of more applicants who will be eligible to become beneficiaries under the programme in future grant cycles.”
In addition to these grants, LINK-Caribbean provides other support activities to stimulate early stage investing in the region. It facilitates the development of deal-flow for early-stage investors through the Regional Angel Investor Network (RAIN). “We strongly encourage entrepreneurs and investors to join RAIN to uncover new investment opportunities throughout the Caribbean,” added Mr McNair.
Caribbean Telecommunications Union Promotes Using ICT To Empower Disabled
The head of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is calling for strong collaboration among stakeholders to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower people with disabilities (PWDs).
CTU Secretary General Bernadette Lewis says this requires the involvement of governments, people with disabilities and the organizations that serve them, ICT service providers, network operators, regulators; as well as the support of corporate citizens.
She was speaking at the demonstration of the features of the Caribbean Video Assistance Service (CVAS), which enables the deaf not only to call each other and communicate directly, but also to speak with trained sign language interpreters who relay conversations between them and hearing parties.
The proposed CVAS is a collaboration between the CTU and VTCSecure that uses a technological platform to facilitate communication, without expensive equipment, via an individual’s smart phone, computer or wireless device from virtually anywhere. VTCSecure is a global company that provides secure On-Demand, Video, Voice & Text Call Center Services.
Curacao Signs Agreement With AirBnB
The government of Curaçao has signed an agreement with homestay provider Airbnb, becoming the third destination in the Caribbean to do so.
According to Minister of Economic Development, Eugene Rhuggenaath and Finance Minister Kenneth Gijsbertha, who both signed the agreement earlier this week, it will “create a framework” to address issues including taxes, accommodation standards and regulations share aggregate data and support Curaçao’s tourism marketing campaigns.
Airbnb’s representative for the Caribbean and Central America, Shawn Sullivan, said the “agreement with the government of Curaçao is a great example of how governments and the private sector can work together to achieve mutually desired goals. Curaçao is an important and growing market for Airbnb and we are very excited to be working with the government to help grow sustainable tourism to the island.”
Airbnb plays an important role in Curaçao tourism industry, with one thousand listings across the island, and a typical host earns US$4,400 per year. The agreement brings new opportunities to grow Curaçao’s economy and to spawn new jobs with the sharing economy.
“Collaboration is vital determinant of success and competitiveness for both individual tourism entities and destinations alike. Through our collaborative efforts, we can achieve more effective and efficient tourism development and a greater degree of environmental and social-cultural sustainability. Therefore, I am very pleased with the agreement signed today with Airbnb,” Rhuggenaath said.
With this partnership, Airbnb will continue promoting tourism and highlighting Curaçao’s history and culture. The strategy focuses on the diversification of the tourism industry and maintaining a balance with citizens and visitors.