Industry experts agree: Regulators must protect Caribbean mobile subscribers

Mobile telecommunications operators in the region will continue to take advantage of consumers until stronger regulatory frameworks are built to protect Caribbean citizens. Regulators across the region must take decisive action to protect consumer choice, and the neutrality of the Internet across the Caribbean.

This is the consensus emerging among several Latin America and Caribbean Internet and telecommunications industry experts who spoke to the T&T Guardian after a move by regional mobile operators Digicel and LIME to block Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services over their networks in Haiti, Jamaica and T&T.

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Legacy of 1804: Caribbean cellcos block VoIP in Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad

Blogosphere and ICT Pulse on Alice Backer's Legacy of 1804

Blogosphere and ICT Pulse on Alice Backer’s Legacy of 1804

Can you hear me now?

Tonight at 9 Eastern, I join Michele Marius (ICT Pulse), Gary Dauphin (USC Annenberg) and Pascal Antoine (HaitiXchange), to discuss Caribbean cellcos’ move to block VoIP in Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Tune in to Legacy of 1804, hosted by Alice Backer.

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The Caribbean urgently needs better communications infrastructure. Could public-private partnerships be the answer?

Caribbean countries are deepening their investment in critical communications infrastructure, in order to secure future economic growth and create pathways to social innovation.

 

Regional leaders reiterated the importance of information and communications technology (ICT) to regional growth at the Caricom Heads of Government conference held at Dickenson Bay, Antigua and Barbuda from July 1st to 4th. They noted its importance as an enabler for other sectors and as a critical sector in its own right to spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

 

The governments of Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines are now partnering with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) to harmonise the development of national communications infrastructure across the Eastern Caribbean. As an agency of CARICOM, the CTU was approached by the World Bank in 2012 to support a holistic approach to regional public infrastructure development, through a program called CARCIP—the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program—funded through the World Bank’s International Development Association. CARCIP was allocated a total disbursement of US$25 million, including loans to the three countries and a grant to the CTU.

 

CTU hosts PPP talks

Under CARCIP, the countries will establish and upgrade submarine cable infrastructure, terrestrial broadband backbone fibre networks and cross-border links, as well as Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). More significantly, a pilot initiative launched under CARCIP could change how regional governments work with the private sector to keep their national broadband network infrastructure upgraded, secure and open to competitors. On July 8, the CARCIP project coordination unit of the CTU will host a workshop on public-private partnership, commonly called PPP. Government officials attending the workshop will seek to develop a better understanding of PPPs among stakeholders in the CARCIP countries, and a plan for the development of a legal, regulatory and institutional framework that will support the implementation of PPP projects.

 

The workshop will be facilitated by Denzel Hankinson, a public-private partnership (PPP) and telecommunications specialist, and owner of DH Infrastructure, with almost two decades of experience in public infrastructure development projects and PPP training for projects in Mongolia, Nepal, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ghana and the United States.

 

The use of PPPs in the region has, in general, been limited and mostly ad-hoc, but renewed interest has emerged due to increased fiscal pressures. An official communqué from the CARICOM heads of government conference in Antigua describes the promotion of more private sector investment and public-private partnerships as “a critical driver of economic growth in a mutually beneficial partnership towards the promotion of the community’s growth agenda”. At the conference, a meeting of heads of government and regional business leaders touched on the need to create “capital-friendly economies through an improved harmonised regulatory framework and public private partnerships”.

 

CARCIP is, in this context, a pilot initiative providing proof-of-concept for the wider regional PPP implementation efforts. The second report of the Caricom Commission on the Economy, which focussed on the reform of the region’s business operating environment, specifically identified the need to promote public private partnerships for the development of the economic infrastructure with technical advice from the World Bank and other international organisations. But there is little activity in the wider Caribbean, no doubt in part becuase the understanding of what PPPs are, when to use them, and how to structure transactions remains limited, although Jamaica and T&T have introduced PPP policies, established PPP units, and are developing detailed guidelines for procuring projects as PPPs.

 

As a precursor to the PPP Workshop, the CTU will host a meeting of CARCIP project coordinators and permanent secretaries of the respective ministries with responsibility for ICT, on July 7th. Representatives from the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) and the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN), who are partnering with the CTU on the regional project, will also attend.

Both CTU meetings will take place at the its new headquarters in St Clair, Port-of-Spain.

 

“We are happy to host the CARCIP meeting and public-private partnership workshop, and look forward to a productive session,” said Junior Mc Intyre, CARCIP CTU project coordinator.

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Bright path to digital careers at TechLink Barbados

BrightPath facilitator Juma Bannister, left, leads eager young participants in a hands-on Digital Photography session at BrightPath's TechLink Barbados workshop, Cave Hill School of Business, June 21. Photo courtesy The BrightPath Foundation.

BrightPath facilitator Juma Bannister, left, leads eager young participants in a hands-on Digital Photography session at BrightPath’s TechLink Barbados workshop, Cave Hill School of Business, June 21. Photo courtesy The BrightPath Foundation.

More than thirty young Barbadians learned basic skills for developing successful mobile apps and producing high-quality digital photography at a special workshop facilitated by the BrightPath Foundation, in collaboration with Columbus Communications.

A mix of small business owners and entrepreneurs assembled at the Cave Hill School of Business for BrightPath’s TechLink, a regional technology education program offering training in digital content creation and business development.

Bevil Wooding, executive director of BrightPath Foundation, described TechLink as “practical training in technology related skills to communities across the region.” Continue reading

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Agrocentral: A Caribbean Startup Success Story in the making

Jermaine Henry, left, and Janice Mc Leod, two of the creators of Agrocentral at Gordon House, Jamaica

Jermaine Henry, left, and Janice Mc Leod, two of the creators of Agrocentral at the CMIP Launch at the UWI Regional Headquarters, Mona Campus, Jamaica

A beautiful thing about living in the Caribbean is being part of a Diaspora of developing nations, in which people are faced the same issues you contend with at home. Seen through the right lens, the so-called Third World transforms from an environment defined by limitation and constraint, to one in which you’re surrounded daily with opportunities to develop meaningful answers to complex, deep-rooted and inter-related problems, and you have a global market for any marketable solutions that you can deliver!

It’s all a matter of perspective. Somewhere in Jamaica, for example, there’s a farmer growing really high quality produce, but whose assured market is so small that she suffers perennial spoilage. Meanwhile, over in Trinidad and Tobago, there’s an agro-processor who insists he could make it big, if he only had a more consistent quality from his supplier. And up north, in the Bahamas, a medium-sized restaurant is on the verge of breaking through but needs assured delivery of agricultural produce.

Now, if some young, bright, entrepreneurial, innovative minds were to get together, surely they could design a system that allowed the farmer to get to market and find the best offers, and allowed the businessmen to access produce at competitive prices. Just ask 23-year-old Jermaine Henry, one of four thinkers behind AgroCentral, Jamaica’s new digital agricultural clearing house. Continue reading

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Congress WBN President partners in the search for values-based solutions to crime in Trinidad and Tobago

CAPTION: Dr Noel Woodroffe (centre), Senior Elder of Elijah Centre and President of Congress WBN, moderates a panel of business leaders including Richard Young, chairman of the Economic Development Board, Joseph Remy, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organisations (FITUN), Ronald Hinds, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce’s e-Business Roundtable, and Gregory Aboud, President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association at a meeting of Christian leaders which took place at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain from May 27th to 29th. The meeting aimed to find values-based and practical solutions to crime.

Dr Noel Woodroffe (centre), Senior Elder of Elijah Centre and President of Congress WBN, moderates a panel of business leaders including Richard Young, chairman of the Economic Development Board, Joseph Remy, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organisations (FITUN), Ronald Hinds, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce’s e-Business Roundtable, and Gregory Aboud, President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association at a meeting of Christian leaders which took place at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain from May 27th to 29th.

Christian leaders in Trinidad and Tobago have responded to the country’s escalating crime rate by calling for solutions based on internal character development and the propagation of moral values.

A meeting of the country’s Christian leaders aimed to find values-based and practical solutions to the country’s spiralling crime rate, which has led to widespread social fallout and economic impacts.

“The less self-governed we are, the more external policing we will need. It is time for a more mature society,” said Dr Noel Woodroffe, Senior Elder of Elijah Centre and President of Congress WBN, an international non-profit with operations supporting values-based community development and nation building initiatives in more than 90 countries.

Dr Woodroffe was leading a panel discussion on business sector solutions for crime in Trinidad and Tobago. Panellists included Richard Young, chairman of the Economic Development Board, Joseph Remy, President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and Non-Governmental Organisations (FITUN), Ronald Hinds, Chairman and CEO of Teleios Systems and chairman of the e-Business Roundtable, and Gregory Aboud, President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA).

In 2013, criminal cost the T&T economy some $1.1 billion, according to estimates quoted by Dr Woodroffe.

“Crime deters business investment and increases business costs,” Young said.

Murder and violent crime are among the most serious issues. In the first five months of 2014, the country registered 183 murders, a 20 per cent increase from the comparative toll in 2013, according to news reports. Police have linked many of the country’s murders to underworld elements controlling various community-based gangs.

“Gang culture is a pointer to the importance of community and a sense of identity in peoples’ lives,” Hinds said.

Reports in The Economist and Vice News have further linked violent and gang-related crime to endemic high-level corruption and the regional traffic in illicit drugs, as part of a global system of international trade.

“We are witnessing in T&T a failure of the society to tell each other what is right and what is wrong,” Aboud said.

“The focus of labour has to be on nation building and safeguarding of the moral fabric of our society,” Remy said.

The panel also aimed to address crimes such as fraud, bribery, tax evasion and underpayment.

“Businesses have to manifest the values they profess,” Young said.

Called Prayers Plus, the three-day meeting was held at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, Port of Spain from May 27th to 29th. It was the brainchild of Cleveland Thomas, a former Trinidad and Tobago public servant, who says that hefelt the need and the call of God to gather the Body of Christ together to pray for our nation concerning the crime situation,” according to the conference website.

Themed ‘Finding Solutions to Crime’, the Prayers Plus meeting aimed to bring together the leaders of the Christian faith in the country to discuss crime challenges in order to find common solutions built on foundational Biblical principles such as justice, integrity, accountability, transparency, community and love.

Apart from the session on the business sector, other conference sessions focused on youth, women, the protective services, the judiciary and the media. On the closing day, Chief Justice Ivor Archie called for a greater partnership between the church and the judiciary in the fight against crime.

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eGovernance and cyber security take focus in Commonwealth ICT meeting

Commonwealth-flag-Source-flagdatabase.com_An upcoming meeting of Caribbean Commonwealth officials with responsibility for ICT will bring the region’s eGovernance and cybercrime issues squarely into focus.

At the conference, to be held in Port of Spain from May 26th to 28th, delegates are expected to discuss the impact of cybercrime on social and economic development, with a view to identifying next steps in implementing e-Governance and infrastructure initiatives in identified countries.

“An efficient, effective and secure public service is essential for economic investment and development as well as for deepening citizens’ participation in policy and service delivery,” said Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Marahaj.

The meeting is being convened by the Commonwealth Secretariat, in partnership with the Ministry of Science and Technology of Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean Telecommunications Union, Organization of American States, International Telecommunications Union and Microsoft.

“The Commonwealth is uniquely positioned to bring together the major regional players in ICT for development. This meeting presents a significant opportunity for collaboration by a range of stakeholders on issues that have a direct impact on citizens’ lives,” Maharaj said.

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