There is an emerging move to take practical steps to transform the Caribbean from a region that mostly consumes foreign Internet services and content, to a centre for the production of new online services and indigenous Caribbean cultural content.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Department staff from across the regional university gathered for an end of year retreat, themed “Revisioning ICT for the Single Virtual University Space”. The event, which took place from November 18th to 20th at The UWI St Augustine Campus Administration Building Conference Room, brought together IT professionals from UWI campuses in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados. It also included representation from the UWI Open Campus, which offers multi-mode teaching and learning services through virtual and physical site locations across the Caribbean region.
A special session on Friday 19th was devoted to advancing discussions about the role of the University in advocating the proliferation of the regional infrastructure and policy required to make this paradigm shift a tangible reality. The session was facilitated by Bevil Wooding, an Internet Strategist and Caribbean Outreach Manager for international non-profit research institute Packet Clearing House. In a presentation tailored to bring staff up to date on on-going initiatives to establish critical Internet infrastructure across the region, Wooding highlighted the opportunity current technology offers to create domestic and regional centres of Internet-based computing (also known as Cloud Computing), which can serve the specific development goals of the region.
A recurring theme from the session facilitated by Wooding was that The University of the West Indies has a unique responsibility to advocate, promote and support the appropriation of indigenous ICT solutions for Caribbean development. He reminded attendees of the significant stakeholder role the University must play in the advancing the regional Internet economy. The one-hour session examined the benefits that technical facilities, such as Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), can bring to the University’s staff, students and services. Several participants acknowledged that the University and the wider region could derive significant strategic benefit from the proliferation of IXPs in the Caribbean.
The three-day meeting was opened by Professor Clement Sankat, UWI Pro Vice Chancellor and St Augustine Campus Principal, who emphasised the need for UWI to remain a competitive tertiary education institution of first choice by improving student services through technology.
Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, UWI Pro Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development, who opened the second day of the Retreat, issued an 11-point challenge to the UWI ICT community, and underscored the critical role that IT must play in shaping University strategy and execution. Dr Tewarie also highlighted the essential leadership role that UWI must play in championing and driving the Caribbean ICT development agenda. He called for the University’s ICT Strategic Plan to be aligned not only with Strategic Plan imperatives for UWI but to be revolutionary enough to transform governance arrangements at UWI and to cause a redesign of UWI’s business model.