Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has said there were still many “vexing” issues confronting the Caribbean as it moves to establish a single Caribbean Community (CARICOM) information, communication and technology (ICT) space.
Addressing the 25th anniversary of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), Dr. Mitchell, who has lead responsibility for ICT within the quasi CARICOM Cabinet, said that regional leaders had last year agreed on working between 2014-19 on establishing the single space to enhance the environment for investment and production.
He said the single ICT space will be bolstered by the initiatives and programs in support of bringing technology to the population of the Caribbean “thus transforming them into digital citizens and digital entrepreneurs”.
He said there was also the need to mobilize resources and commitment of member states to invest in ICT and developing the CARICOM Digital Agenda 2025.
“Simply put, the vision is for a unified digital area where goods, people, services and capital can move freely; where everyone, from pre-kindergarden to post-retirement, can understand how to access and carry out online activities and access those across borders easily, safely and securely; where there is fair competition, regardless of nationality or place of residence, underpinned by a clear legal structure.”
Mitchell said that understandably, existing and perhaps “vexing” issues are also to be tackled as work continues on the single space.
The Grenada Prime Minister said that these issues include the removal or reduction of voice and data roaming rates; spectrum management and re-organization to facilitate increased competition in the market; advancing the regional legal and regulatory environment, the use of the Caribbean Research and Education Network (C@ribNET) as a repository for the regional research and education elements which could accelerate discovery of new products, product opportunities and processes; and drive innovation and development of the Roadmap for the Single ICT Space.
“A major aspect of the single ICT space will be how we maximise the opportunities offered by “Big Data” and the strategic use of our various repositories of critical information even while we address other issues.”
Mitchell said that for CARICOM countries, if it were a perfect world, 2015 would be the year in which we would be congratulating ourselves and reporting that we had achieved all the Millennium Development Goals (MDG); as well as the plans and goals enshrined in the World Summit on Information Society Plan of Action, and were well on our way to attaining “developed countries” status.
“However, recent reports emanating from the SIDS summit late last year, will show that we are in some instances quite far from showing positive gains in many critical areas, which are now on a “SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway” to help us chart our course after this year.”
Mitchell said in order to chart the region’s own pathway from 2015, there is need to move from dialogue to action.
“We need to become activists, people of action. We have a rich history forged by the activism of our foreparents who fought to secure our freedom, then had the foresight to craft this regional integration process that has helped to “enlarge” our individually small countries.”
Mitchell said the roadmap of the single ICT space to be delivered this July must be an action-oriented one.
“It must also address the softer issues of building trust and confidence within and outside of the ICT sector, and across the region. We must also try to remove some of our own binding restrictions toward it.
“The Single Space must be able to show a clear link between the development objectives in the Region and the proposed ICT initiatives,” Mitchell said, urging regional stakeholders to help ensure the success of the regional ICT plan.
“We have to recognize and embrace the reality that there is room for everyone at the table. With the dynamism of the ICT sector, there are no experts today; only experts of yesterday,” Prime Minister Mitchell said, adding “there is much work to be done, I cannot stress that enough. But we have the tools.
“It is time to move away from the age old question and debate about “who will lead,” and instead ask “who can we follow” or “who must we partner with to achieve the goals?”
“I submit to you that most of what we want to do as a region can be aided though the use of ICT; therefore, there is major responsibility on the ICT practitioners today, but we can all play a part.”
The conference is being attended by a number of regional telecommunication ministers as well as the CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque.
It will discuss a number of issues including “Caribbean Development in the Technological Storm; Elements of a Caribbean Single ICT Space and Funding ICT Infrastructure”.
A number of international ICT experts including Professor Tim Unwin, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, will also address the week-long conference.