Missing the boat: The problem of chronic Caribbean underrepresentation

One of the main reasons for focusing on capacity-building in the Caribbean region specifically is that Caribbean societies remain severely underrepresented at international meetings where decisions are being made concerning the development and governance of the global Internet. And for a region already burdened with a number of complex, deep-rooted and interrelated issues, the consequences of that chronic under-representation could be dire.

“The Internet presents wonderful opportunities for social and economic development,” he said. “But if global Internet Governance policies continue to be developed without the input of the Caribbean, then we will not recognise those wonderful opportunities or know how we can exploit them.”

Since 2013, the Saint Lucia-born Daniels, who is attached to the ICANN Engagement Centre in Montevideo, Uruguay, has been working to improve the level and quality of regional representation.

“If the Caribbean does not participate in the global dialogue where important decisions are made about changes in the shape and direction of Internet policy and standards, then the region will tend to remain unaware of those changes, and that is true whether or not those changes are working towards our benefit.”

The irony, Daniels said, is that the Caribbean, because of its geo-politics, has great capacity to affect global policy-making. He gave the example of ICANN’s GAC, which advises the ICANN Board on issues of public policy, especially where there may be an interaction between ICANN’s policies and national laws or international agreements.

“Membership in the GAC comes through accreditation, and there is a seat available for every Caribbean nation,” Daniels said.

He explained that the Caribbean has an almost oversized potential to weigh in on global decision-making processes.

“As a whole, the region represents a substantial portion of the votes available at the GAC,” Daniels said. “At the time that I joined, there were only four countries from the region represented: Jamaica, Trinidad, Montserrat, Cayman Islands. Since I joined, I’ve been able to assist Grenada, Dominica and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union with their GAC membership process, and they are now full members. The CTU has also become a member with observer status, as a regional treaty organisation. If half of the Caribbean countries would participate in the global dialogue, the region would be a force to be reckoned with. But policies are being developed without our input and as a result, they may or may not be working towards our interest.”

Casting the Internet wider

He offered ICANN’s new gTLDs programme as a specific example of how the region could be missing out. The gTLDs are the letters immediately following the final dot in an Internet address. Through the program, the number of gTLDS could expand from 22 to thousands.

“New gTLDs give corporations and regular Internet users the chance to operate under a name of their choosing, which helps enhance competition, innovation and choice. The new domains represent an opportunity for local communities, charities and small businesses to stand out from the crowd,” Daniels said.

“We could consider .Caribbean or .hotel or .rum, any name that a business person feels can create a commercial opportunity, not just at the national level but in the global marketplace. But what happens in the case where you have a commercial entity expressing an interest in a domain name that can also represent a geographic region like the Caribbean? Well, then the commercial entity could possibly get the domain name, simply because our region is sorely underrepresented and doesn’t in the decision-making process.”

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Engineering Institute to hold Caribbean Internet Governance forum

Regional technology experts will share their insights on global Internet Governance issues, from a Caribbean perspective, at an upcoming forum hosted by The University of the West Indies (UWI). Internet governance deals with the development of shared principles, policies and programmes that shape the use and evolution of the Internet.

“In the global, multi-stakeholder Internet Governance model, the Internet is seen as a borderless resource belonging to no single entity. Instead, it is managed by a global community of governments, corporations, technologists, academics, civil society and individual end users,” said Patrick Hosein, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computing and Information Technology at UWI, St Augustine.

This multi-stakeholder model is used by the Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Centre (TTNIC), the Registry for the .tt ccTLD, of which Hosein is the CEO. He also chairs the Computer and Communications Society (CCS) of the Trinidad and Tobago Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEETT), which is sponsoring the forum in association with the Trinidad and Tobago chapter of the Internet Society (ISOCTT) and the TTNIC.

Speakers at the forum will deliver interactive presentations and answer participants’ questions about Internet Governance. The ultimate aim is to strengthen the Caribbean presence in international fora where the future of the Internet is being determined.

Speakers at the forum include Tracy Hackshaw, ICANN GAC vice chair; Cintra Sooknanan ISOCTT president; Jacqueline Morris, member of the multi-stakeholder advisory group of the TTNIC; and Albert Daniels, ICANN Global Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Caribbean. This forum is being held during the same week as the South School on Internet Governance which will provide more intense training on Internet Governance to a select number of fellows.

The forum starts at 6.30 pm on May 1st and will be held in Room 101 of the Faculty of Engineering at the UWI, St Augustine. Registration is free and open to the public.

IEEETT CCS plans to hold a second seminar on 5G networks later this year.

More information is available from the  IEEETT CCS Society secretary.

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Representing the Caribbean: ICANN Roadshow comes to Trinidad and Tobago

Albert Daniels, ICANN Caribbean-area Manager, Global Stakeholder Engagement

Albert Daniels, ICANN Caribbean-area Manager, Global Stakeholder Engagement

PORT OF SPAIN. Local and regional technology experts will gather in Port of Spain, Trinidad later this month to share their knowledge with participants in a roadshow organised by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The roadshow will be the first such ICANN event in the Caribbean and it is expected to attract a wide cross-section of participants ranging from academia and technical communities, to corporations, government representatives, civil society and end users.

“We are extremely proud to break new ground in bringing the LAC-i-Roadshow to Trinidad and Tobago,” said Albert Daniels, Caribbean-area manager for ICANN’s Global Stakeholder Engagement team.

The event, which takes place at the Hilton Hotel, St Ann’s, will start at 8.30 am on April 25.

The LAC-i-Roadshow is designed to raise awareness across the region on key topics related to the transition to IPv6, the impact of the new generic top level domain (gTLD) program, and the security and stability of critical Internet infrastructure.

Besides Daniels, other ICANN representatives expected to present are Tracey Hackshaw, Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) vice chair, and Dev Anand Teelucksingh, At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) member.

Speakers are also drawn from regional registries and local organisations which work together to maintain the global interoperability of the Internet. Presentations will be made by representatives of The Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), the Regional Internet Registry for the Latin American and Caribbean regions (LACNIC), the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), and the Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Centre (TTNIC).

“There will be four editions of the LAC-i-Roadshow per year in the Caribbean, the Andean region, Central America and South America,” said Daniels.

 

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Surveying the region: Changing the game for data collection in the Caribbean

A mobile SMS-based survey service from a Caribbean-based company could change the way data is collected and analysed in the region.

If Kenfield Griffith has anything to say about it, his company will soon be adding potent fuel to the digital revolution smouldering quietly throughout the islands of the Caribbean.

Born in Montserrat and of Barbadian extract, Griffith is the CEO of mSurvey, a mobile surveys company based in Kenya. Kristal Peters, Director of Business Development and Strategy, runs the company’s Trinidad and Tobago office.

“It’s Friday morning. Let’s create a survey together,” Griffith says to a group of relative strangers gathered in a small room in the Max Richards Building at the Faculty of Engineering of The University of the West Indies, St Augustine for mSurvey’s workshop on data collection and surveying using mobile technology.

His confidence seems well placed. Within minutes, the demo survey is set up and sent to a pool of prospective participants located in Kenya and Trinidad and Tobago, who immediately start returning their responses via SMS technology. Soon, their data start streaming in to a dynamic web page, which aggregates and visualises the survey results in real-time. In no time at all, the roomful of workshop participants, about fifty in all, are analysing the fresh data.

The audience is an interesting mix of academics, researchers, policy makers, mobile carrier representatives, students and software developers, and many seem eager to learn more.

“Do you sell data to third parties?” asks one man seated toward the middle of the room.

“We have the technology that folks use to get other people’s data. But we don’t sell anyone’s data to third parties,” Griffith replied.

Moments later, he clarified his business model. The primary service that mSurvey provides is to help people, businesses and organisations to use mobile technology to get the precise data they need to make high-impact decisions quickly.

“We’re trying to solve a problem here and that problem is getting data.”

To have some idea of what Griffith means, you need only to have tried to get survey data quickly and reliably in the Caribbean context. For many organisations trying to use survey data to harvest meaningful insights and increase their ROI, the biggest stumbling block is the inability to gather data in the first place. Door-to-door surveys are costly and painfully slow. Open data sources like the World Bank are always just a click away but don’t necessarily give the specific insights required for contextual decision-making. And commissioned online surveys are challenged by the limits of the local population’s access and connectivity to the Internet. By some estimates, residential broadband Internet penetration in Trinidad and Tobago, for example, remains as low as 45%.

“Getting information in emerging markets is a pain point for most of us,” Griffith said.

But for every problem, a solution. Mobile penetration in Caribbean islands like Trinidad and Tobago can be as high as 140%. Everyone, statistically speaking, has a phone…or two. So the mSurvey platform allows the entire survey process to be completed over a regular mobile SMS plan at no cost to participants. Respondents don’t need mobile or Wi-Fi broadband Internet connection, nor even a smartphone.

For mSurvey, the ubiquity of the mobile phone has become the answer to one of the region’s biggest obstacles to data collection.

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Driving development through innovation: CTU brings regional technology entrepreneurship seminar to Grenada

GRANDE ANSE, Grenada - A regional workshop recently held in Grenada encouraged local entrepreneurs to leverage cutting-edge technology to develop world-class products and services which address challenges facing Caribbean society.

The workshop, held at the Grenada Grand Beach Resort, Grande Anse on March 24th and 25th, was part of a broader World Bank-funded initiative called CARCIP, the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program, coordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).

“The underlying philosophy of the CTU’s ongoing regional workshop series is that the very same conditions that present severe challenges for Grenada and other Caribbean islands, are also creating unique opportunities for the region,” said Junior Mc Intyre, CARCIP Project Coordinator for the CTU, delivering welcome remarks at the opening ceremony.

The job of Caribbean innovators, Mc Intyre said, is to look past the challenges and discern the opportunities. Lead facilitator for the CTU CARCIP workshop, Bevil Wooding, underscored that reality.

“The survival of the region’s economies depends on our ability leverage modern technology to produce, compete and excel in the global environment,” said Wooding, who is an Internet Strategist with U.S.-based non-profit, Packet Clearing House.

Gregory Bowen, Minister for Communications, Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities, ICT and Community Development, described the workshop as an opportunity to deepen the Government’s ongoing thrust to develop the country’s ICT sector, in order to improve quality of life and create jobs in the local economy.

“Ultimately, the investment being made by the Government of Grenada is not just in the upgrade of the physical equipment but in the improvement of the quality of the lives of our citizens. Our goal is to ensure that all of our people in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique benefit from the development of ICT infrastructure,” Bowen said.

In March, a historic ICT Bridge connecting Grenada’s sister isles Carriacou and Petite Martinique to the global Internet, was formally launched at the Resource Centre in Hillsborough.

Jacinta Joseph, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, echoed Bowen’s emphasis on the dynamic link between infrastructure development to human development.

“Through CARCIP, we are aiming to advance the development of an ICT-enabled services industry in the Caribbean region by increasing access to regional broadband networks,” Joseph said.

Grenada is not alone in recognising the significance of ICT to national and regional development. At the 25th intersessional meeting of the conference of heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on March 10-11, Caribbean governments reaffirmed that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) plays a crucial role in advancing all regional development initiatives. CARICOM plans to focus over the next two years on developing a Single ICT Space as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

“The creation of a Single ICT Space within our community should be pursued vigorously in our efforts to bring technology to the people,” said CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.

Addressing the inter-sessional meeting, Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who holds responsibility for ICT in CARICOM, issued a call for the region to work together to develop appropriate regional ICT development strategies and programmes.

The work of implementing ICT development policy objectives falls largely on CTU, which plays a significant role in coordinating the region’s response to technology-related challenges through various public education activities, targeting ministers with responsibility for telecommunications, Internet Service Providers, regulators and policy-makers in the ICT sector, as well as end-users and consumers of technology.

Through extensive regional public education activities, such as its Caribbean ICT Roadshow, Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, and Strategic Ministerial Seminar series, the CTU has established a track record of creating awareness across various sectors of Caribbean society of the importance of ICT and Internet Governance to the region.

Against that backdrop, the World Bank approached the CTU to regionally coordinate CARCIP, working closely with the governments of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Grenada, and alongside regional organisations such as the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) and the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN).

Launched in June 2013 at the Crown Ballroom of the Grenada Grand Beach Resort, CARCIP aims to improve the efficiency of regional telecommunications infrastructure development in the Eastern Caribbean and ultimately, throughout the wider Caribbean. Through the World Bank’s International Development Association, the project was allocated a total disbursement of US$25 million, including loans to the three countries and a grant to the CTU.

The Grenada workshop is the third in the CTU’s ongoing series. The two-day event brings together local professionals in the field of telecommunications and regional experts in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), entrepreneurship, leadership development and innovation.

Among the workshop presenters are Dr Farid Youssef, an expert in neuroscience based in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine; Norman Gibson, an expert in rural development and environmental management in the Caribbean region; Eric Nurse, ICT Director for the Government of Grenada; Glenda Joseph-Dennis, an independent Business Development Consultant specialising in leadership and organisational development; and Joseph I. Gill, the software developer and entrepreneur behind mobile technology startup TopItUp.TV.

The first CTU CARCIP Innovation Workshop was held at the Bay Gardens Resort, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia on February 10 and 11, while the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines event was held at the Buccament Bay resort on February 26 and 27.

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U.S. government plans to relinquish key internet stewardship

The U.S. government has announced its intention to divest itself of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. On March 14, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) declared its intent to transitionthe stewardship of key Internet domain name functions to the global, multistakeholder community.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was asked by the U.S. government to lead a process for a global multistakeholder community dialogue about what this transition will entail and how it will proceed. ICANN has since launched a process to transition the role of the United States Government relating to the Internet’s unique identifiers system, a release on the organisation’s website said.

The Internet’s unique identifier functions are not apparent to most Internet users, but they play a critical role in maintaining a single, global, unified and interoperable Internet. IANA functions involve the coordination of those unique Internet identifiers. These include allocating Internet Numbers in cooperation with the Regional Internet Registries, administration of the DNS root zone, and coordination of root zone management. The IANA functions are administered by ICANN.

“We are inviting governments, the private sector, civil society, and other Internet organisations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process,” said Fadi Chehadé, ICANN’s President and CEO. “All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners.”

The change is significant to the Caribbean community of Internet users.

“It is particularly important that users from the Caribbean take an interest in these developments, understand the mechanisms by which their voices can be heard in the global debate and then step forward as Caribbean nations and as a Caribbean region to make an input to the processes of dialogue and policy development,” said Albert H. Daniels, ICANN’s Global Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Caribbean, in a Q&A on regional technology blog ICT Pulse.

ICANN’s role as administrator of the Internet’s unique identifier system, remains unchanged, the release said.

“Even though ICANN will continue to perform these vital technical functions, the U.S. has long envisioned the day when stewardship over them would be transitioned to the global community,” said Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, ICANN’s Board Chair. “In other words, we have all long known the destination. Now it is up to our global stakeholder community to determine the best route to get us there.”

Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré issued a statement welcoming the announcement: “I would like to reiterate what I have said many times: the Internet is a global public good and therefore all nations and peoples should have an equal say in its running and development. I commend the US government’s announcement about changing oversight arrangements of the management of critical internet resources and I believe this development will lead to improved and productive cooperation between the telecommunications and internet communities.”

While the announcement does not affect Internet users and their use of the Internet, all Internet users have a stake in how the Internet is run, and it is therefore important to get involved, an ICANN statement said.

The first community-wide dialogue about the development of the transitional process will begin March 23-27 during ICANN’s 49th Public Meeting, in Singapore. ICANN described the process as “consensus-driven, participatory, open, and transparent”.

All global stakeholders are welcome to participate in person or remotely. More information on how to participate in the process is available from ICANN here.

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Governing the Regional Internet: CTU brings international Internet Governance school to the Caribbean

The Caribbean faces a number of complex, deep-rooted and interrelated challenges. Human resource development, economic growth, sustainable development and climate change all featured prominently on the agenda for the recently held 25th intersessional meeting of the conference of heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

A recurring theme in the quest to find solutions to these challenges is the role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Its prominence on the agenda was far from accidental. CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque described ICT as “the new frontier for regional integration”.

“The creation of a Single ICT Space within our community should be pursued vigorously in our efforts to bring technology to the people,” said LaRocque.

The regional body plans to focus over the next two years on developing a Single ICT Space as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

But history has proven that it will take more that speeches and press releases to bring this to pass. It has been almost a quarter-century between Caricom’s 25th intersessional and its tenth meeting of Heads of Government in 1989, when the notion of a common telecommunications space was first introduced.

Bevil Wooding, an international technology expert and one of the leading ICT voices in the Caribbean, believes the time is right, but rhetoric must be matched by investment in actual doing.

“The intention (to create a single space), though noble, is long overdue. Twenty-five years later, that dream is yet to be fully realised. If the timespan is an indication of the pace with which current declaration will be pursued by the regional body, then a catalyst must be found,” Wooding said.

“The survival of the region’s economies depends on its ability leverage modern technology to produce, compete and excel in the global environment,” he added.

The work of implementing ICT development policy objectives falls largely on the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), which plays a significant role in coordinating the region’s response to technology-related challenges. In fact, the CTU was also established 25 years ago–the same year that the World Wide Web was invented.

“The work of advancing the technology development agenda of the Caribbean region cannot be done in isolation, nor can it be done by public sector agencies alone,” cautioned Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU.

“The implementation of the Caribbean ICT development strategy is the collective responsibility of Governments, the private sector, civil society and other organisations. The work must take place in concert with the major decisions being made on the international stage.  The Caribbean must participate at this level because decisions are being made regarding the evolution of the global Internet which have serious implications for our ability to effectively leverage ICTs for development,” Lewis said.

Through extensive regional public education activities, such as its Caribbean ICT Roadshow, Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, and Strategic Ministerial Seminar series, the CTU has already established a track record of creating awareness across various sectors of Caribbean society of the importance of Internet Governance to the region.

“Making Caribbean leaders more aware of their role evolving Internet governance in the region and at a global level is a major priority,” Lewis said.

SSIG comes to Trinidad

The CTU’s new memorandum of understanding with the ICT Training Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean (CCAT-LAT) lends even more strength to that cause. The new MOU clears the ways for the CTU to introduce a five-day intensive training programme to the Caribbean that aims to improve the quality of regional representation at international gatherings.

 

The South School on Internet Governance, or SSIG, is a programme to prepare Caribbean and Latin American participants to actively participate in international meetings that determine the future of the Internet. The aim is to increase the level and quality of representation of Latin American and Caribbean countries at regional and international Internet Governance fora.

 

The Trinidad and Tobago Government, through the Ministry of Science and Technology, will be hosting the sixth edition of the SSIG. The event will take place in Hilton Hotel, Port-of-Spain, from April 28th to May 2nd. It will be the first time in its history that the SSIG will be held in the Caribbean.

 

“The CTU fully supports of the convening of the South School on Internet Governance in the region, as that venue gives Caribbean stakeholders greater access to benefit from the programme,” Lewis said.

 

With more than half of the registered participants from the region, the programme prepare participants to engage in the formulation of national, regional and international Internet policy, addressing with a special focus on Caribbean issues. Participants will hear from local, regional and international experts in a range of technology-related areas.

 

“The Internet is a global resource, and governing it requires a multi-stakeholder approach. That’s why SSIG participants are given an understanding of the global Internet ecosystem and its evolution,” said Dr Olga Cavalli, Director of the SSIG.

 

Cavalli, a Lecturer in Networking, Telecommunications and Informatics at the University of Buenos Aires, is Argentina Representative for ICANN and a member of Advisory Committee to the United Nations Secretary General for the global Internet Governance Forum.

 

Director of Institutional Relations at SSIG is Adrian Carballo, a former coordinator of the ICT Financing Group in the Strategy for the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean (e-LAC), coordinated by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) of the United Nations.

 

“The principal objective is to create a new kind of leader, one who is better equipped to represent the needs of the region,” Carballo said.

 

SSIG 2014 participants, drawn from the public and private sectors, civil society as well as academia, will have the opportunity to network with members of organisations such as the Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Centre (LACNIC), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which help to shape the future of the Internet.

 

Since its inauguration in 2009 in Argentina, the location of the SSIG has been rotated annually to Sao Paolo, Mexico City, Bogota and Panama City. Emily Fitzpatrick, Business Development and Research Officer at CTU, completed SSIG 2012 in Bogotá, Colombia. Initiatives like the SSIG can play an important role in fostering healthy dialogue about Internet Governance in the Caribbean, she said.

 

“SSIG is a diverse and safe forum where people with varying levels of expertise, knowledge and capacity can have meaningful dialogue. The real beauty of SSIG is the ability to sit in small groups with colleagues converse and reflect on the flow of information coming from the presenters. The cross-pollination that takes place in that forum is healthy and needed in the region.”

 

Selected SSIG sessions will be livestreamed online and open to remote participation in Spanish and English. Full course details are available on the official SSIG website, www.gobernanzainternet.org and on the CTU’s official website, www.ctu.int.

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