CARICOM to Develop a Digital Development Action Plan

The Caribbean Moves Closer to a Regional ICT Development Plan.

Flags of CARICOM Member States

1-Nov-2010. PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD. Some two dozen representatives from three sub-committees of the CARICOM Regional Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Steering Committee met in Trinidad last week to formulate a draft Implementation Plan for the Regional Digital Development Strategy.

ICT for Development (ICT4D) is a sub-programme in the Office of the CARICOM Deputy Secretary General. The overarching goal of this programme is to transform CARICOM into a knowledge-based society, through the use of ICTs. The ICT4D Strategy sets a deadline of 2015 for full inclusion of the Caribbean Community into the Information Society, according to the CARICOM ICT for Development website.

Mrs. Jennifer Britton, Senior Project Officer of the CARICOM ICT4D initiative, explained that the week of meetings was a critical stepping stone in the developmental timeline.

“Last year, the CARICOM Heads of Government mandated that the Secretariat develop a [regional ICT] Strategy. This was completed in May 2010. In July 2010, we then moved to develop an Implementation Plan for the Strategy, to be tabled at the next Inter-Sessional meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in 2011. This is why we’re meeting in sub-committee form to identify priorities to feedback to Heads of Government,” said Britton in a post-session interview on the second day of meetings.

In the opening session of the first day of meetings, Dr. Camella Rhone, an ICT Strategy Consultant hired by the CARICOM Secretariat, made it clear that the purpose of the meeting was to prioritise critical regional issues and to identify the approaches that should be taken to deal with these issues. This is the crucial purpose behind the Regional Digital Development Strategy.

The week of meetings focused on three core issues pertaining to regional ICT development, namely Access, Connectivity and Internet Governance; Business, Trade, Culture and Disaster Management; and Capacity Building.

“The region is becoming increasingly aware that ICT development is not primarily a technical issue; it’s a social issue. The real priority on the agenda in this week of meetings is therefore how best can the region take advantage of existing innovations and developments in information and communications technology to facilitate real Caribbean development.” said Mr. Bevil Wooding, Chief Knowledge Officer of Congress WBN, and chair of the Working Group sessions on Access, Connectivity and Internet Governance.

“The Internet has to be seen as a developmental platform for the region,” said Dr. Carlton Samuels, ICT Specialist and former Chief Information Officer at The University of the West Indies. “The Internet, for us, is about social and economic development.”

Samuels described ICT as “a cross-cutting enabler of development”, and called for Caribbean researchers to do more fact-finding, in order to allow regional experts to interpret the data presented in international benchmarks such as the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the International Telecommunications Union’s ICT Development Index (IDI) and the World Economic Forum’s Networking Readiness Index (NRI).

The week-long event brought together representatives from the CARICOM member states, regional universities, the CARICOM Youth Ambassador, the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN ECLAC), Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), Caribbean Association of National Telecommunication Organisations (CANTO), Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD), Carinfo (the Caribbean Information Action Group, which is the successor body for the Consultative Committee of Caribbean Regional Information Systems), and Congress WBN, a Trinidad-based global non-profit representing civil society.

The next immediate step in the process is for the Implementation Plan to be presented at the Fifth meeting of the Regional ICT Steering Committee in November 2010 in Barbados. The plan will then be presented to the regional Heads of Governments in early 2011.

ABOUT CARICOM ICT4D

ICT4D is a sub-programme in the Office of the Deputy Secretary General of the CARICOM Secretariat. The goal of its work programme is to advance the development of the people of the Caribbean Community using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as a catalyst for the transformation of the Community into a knowledge-based society. The CARICOM member states are Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. For more information, click http://www.caricomict4d.org/ or send e-mail to contactict4d@caricom.org.

ABOUT THE REGIONAL ICT STEERING COMMITTEE

The Regional ICT Steering Committee was established in 2004 and serves as an advisory body to the Ministers of ICT in the region, to the CARICOM Secretariat, and to the Lead Head of Science and Technology, who is Mr Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada. It comprises delegates from CARICOM Member States, regional organisations and institutions, the private sector, civil society, and the CARICOM Secretariat. The work that is conducted under the Steering Committee is geared towards advancing development of the Caribbean Information Society. The Committee is part of the Caribbean Information Society (Carib-IS) project, which is funded under the 9th European Development Fund.

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