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.
Caribbean leaders will meet in Suriname this week to push forward the region’s technology development agenda. The South American country will host an executive meeting of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) on April 8th and 9th at the Hotel Krasnapolsky, Paramaribo.
The CTU’s executive council is made up of permanent secretaries from ministries with responsibility for telecommunications in the CTU member states. The council has oversight responsibility for the work of the CTU secretariat.
At the meeting, Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the CTU, will present to the executive council chairman her report on the performance of the organisation and the progress of its recent and ongoing projects.
Cleveland Thomas, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) area representative for the Caribbean, and Albert Daniels, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) global stakeholder engagement manager for the Caribbean, are also expected to make presentations at the high-level meeting.
The CTU was established by the heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in 1989 in Nassau, The Bahamas. The latest executive council comes on the heels of the 25th intersessional meeting of the conference of CARICOM heads of government, a top-level meeting which underscored the significant role of regional leadership in designing and implementing the Caribbean’s technology development agenda.
One highlight of the executive council meeting will be a video presentation by leadership development expert, Dr. Farid Youssef of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago. Dr Youssef will identify drivers for effective leadership in the Caribbean context.
Managing Caribbean Spectrum
The two-day event is sandwiched in a weeklong series of regional technology development meetings hosted by the government of Suriname, through its Ministry of Transport, Communications and Tourism, under the leadership of Minister Falisie Josef Pinas.
On April 7, Pinas delivered welcome remarks at the inaugural meeting of the Spectrum Management Steering Committee (SMSC), a multi-country team of senior government policy makers and industry regulators.
The inaugural SMSC meeting comes as the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is rolling out its Harmonised Caribbean Spectrum Planning and Management project across its fourteen member countries. The project, which was formally launched in Montego Bay, Jamaica in December 2013, is being undertaken with technical support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Compete Caribbean. It aims to harmonise practices and procedures for spectrum management across the countries.
The Spectrum Management Task Force (SMTF), a multi-country, multi-stakeholder technical committee of government, regulatory, private sector, academic and civil society personnel, held its first workshop in February. Conducted in collaboration with the ITU and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, the inaugural SMTF workshop focused on emergency telecommunications.
On April 7, the SMSC started building on the work of the SMTF. The SMSC is aiming to develop a regional frequency allocation table, which is intended to facilitate the adoption of common frequencies for disaster management and emergency telecommunications.
On the last two conference days, April 10th and 11th, the CTU will conduct a pair of workshops designed to highlight adaptive technologies available to deaf and blind people. Presentations will focus on ways in which people with visual and auditory impairments can use the Internet to make the most of opportunities for education, training and employment. Some sessions will highlight specific devices that can help people overcome the loss of sight and hearing, using popular platforms such as Apple’s iOs and Google’s Android.
Over 35 fisherfolk leaders and resource persons from 17 CARICOM countries met in August in Trinidad and agreed on a four-year plan of action which will see fisherfolk in the Caribbean mobilising for stronger representation in the region and internationally.
“There are many factors that are threatening the livelihoods of fisherfolk in the Caribbean and so it’s very important that they start taking a stronger role in governance,” said Nicole Leotaud, Executive Director of CANARI, a technical non-profit organisation aimed at facilitating participatory natural resource management in the Caribbean.
Fisherfolk agreed on an implementation plan for a four-year project funded by the European Union (EU) EuropeAid programme aimed at improving the contribution of the small scale fisheries sector to food security in the Caribbean through building the capacity of regional and national fisherfolk networks to participate in fisheries governance and management.
CANARI and its project implementing partners–the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) of The University of the West Indies, Panos Caribbean, the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations (CNFO) and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CFRM)–organised the four-day workshop, which was held in Trinidad.
“This week we have learnt extensively about areas that we can take action to impact policy and to link fishing to food security and nutrition. This is very important because globally these are very big issues–one policy we intend to impact is the small-scale fisheries guidelines,” said Mitchell Lay, Coordinator of the CNFO.
“These guidelines will impact all of us – I urge you get to know the guidelines better and encourage your governments to send representatives to ensure that our voices are heard,” he explained.
According to Lay, more fisherfolk need to be engaged in the global negotiations now taking place on the International Guidelines on Small-Scale Fisheries, being coordinated by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UN FAO). He said that at the recent negotiating meetings held in Rome this year only one Caribbean country was represented of all the 17 CARICOM countries represented at the fisherfolk workshop.
Participation in the ongoing negotiation of the international guidelines was one of the issues discussed at the workshop. Fisherfolk also analysed the Draft Agreement Establishing the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy and the CARICOM Nutrition and Food Security Policy.
The EU project will support efforts of fisherfolk to engage in national, regional and international policy debates to ensure that policies developed address the needs of small scale fisherfolk and ensure that they can continue to play a significant role in food security and nutrition in the Caribbean islands.
During the workshop fisherfolk also agreed on project activities to build the capacity of local, national and regional fisherfolk organisations through a combination of national training workshops, small grants, and ongoing coaching and support by a team of trained in-country mentors.
The over 1 million Euro project is targeting fisherfolk organisations in the CARICOM countries of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos.
PARAMARIBO, Suriname – Suriname is taking steps to ensure that it is not left behind in the Internet-driven technology revolution sweeping the globe.
The Telecommunications Authority of Suriname (TAS) recently hosted an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) Awareness Symposium, designed to create greater public awareness of the role, function and benefits of Internet Exchange Points to the development of Internet-based economic activity in Suriname.
Ms. Juanita McLean, speaking on behalf of Telecommunications Minister Falisie Pinas, shared that the Suriname Government views connectivity as the enabler for economic development and sees the establishment of the Internet Exchange Point as a precursor to stimulating greater development of Surinamese content on the Internet.
Internet connectivity has been one of the major challenges in Suriname, which has a population density of less than 3 people per square kilometer. However, approximately 75% of the population live in urban areas along the coast of the 164,000 square kilometers sized country.
The Symposium was facilitated by Bevil Wooding, an Internet Strategist with Packet Clearing House (PCH), an international not-for-profit research institute which has built or supported more than one third of the world’s existing 300 IXPs. In his feature presentation, Wooding described IXPs as a cost-effective mechanism for achieving increased domestic connectivity, service gains and ICT sector growth.
Mr Stephen Lee, a network specialist and consultant for the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), presented on the technical requirements for establishing an IXP. Both presenters gave several examples of content development opportunities in the form of new Suriname-facing services that can be delivered by government and private industry. The two experts highlighted some of the obstacles that could be expected and also used international references to demonstrate the relationship between IXPs, growth in the domestic Internet economy and national development.
Their audience included representatives from across several sectors, including Internet Service Providers, educators, private sector representatives and government officials, regulators and technocrats. Participants were challenged to consider the possibilities for industry growth and for the revolution of education, e-health, youth empowerment, e-government and telecommunications.
Ms Jetty Olff, Director at the Telecommunications Authority of Suriname (TAS), indicated in her closing remarks that she was very pleased with the outcomes of the Symposium, and she shared that TAS is fully committed to supporting the establishment of an IXP in Suriname.
Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU, stated in her address, “The CTU is committed to raising awareness of the issues and opportunities around the use of technology for social and economic development in the region.” Lewis pointed out that the CTU, through its Caribbean ICT Roadshow, has been on a campaign to increase awareness across the region. She assured that the CTU will continue to work alongside the government and regulators to ensure that necessary assistance and policy guidance is available as needed.
The Symposium concluded with participants agreeing to advance the process through the establishment of a special Working Group representing the interest of all stakeholders. The Working Group’s first task will be to finalize the governance structure for the Internet Exchange Point (IXP). The introduction of an IXP in Suriname promises to facilitate greater domestic connectivity by allowing for local Internet traffic to be exchanged on a cost-neutral basis between Internet Service Providers.
The one-day event, held on January 26, was hosted in conjunction with PCH, CTU, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organizations (CANTO).
About Caribbean Telecommunications Union
The CTU is a policy formulation body, acting in an advisory capacity to the governments of the region. The organisation was established 20 years ago by regional heads of government to advise the regional governments on matters related to ICT. The CTU has been involved in the harmonization of policies across the Caribbean for the development of the ICT sector. It is governed by a Conference of Ministers from telecommunication and information ministries of the regional governments. Its membership base comprises governments, private sector and civil society organisations.
About Packet Clearing House
Packet Clearing House is a not-for-profit research institute with offices in San Francisco, London, Port of Spain and Kathmandu. PCH provides services to the public without cost or restriction wherever possible. PCH staff is drawn from the ranks of senior engineers and executives of Internet and telecommunications networking companies in many countries. Their decades of real-world experience in diverse regions of the world inform the organization’s work, perspective, and ability to bridge disparate communities of interest. PCH conductions workshops and develops and supports a variety of tools and services for the ISP, policymaking, and research communities.
Eighteen months ago, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) embarked on an odyssean journey to visit its 20 member countries throughout the Caribbean, with an initiative designed to educate, raise public awareness and demonstrate the transformative power of information and communications Technologies (ICT). A significant element of the programme was to promote innovation in the application ICT tools in order to realize their full potential.
The initiative, called the Caribbean ICT Roadshow, had as its theme “ Harnessing the power of innovation – the engine for ICT-enabled Caribbean development”.
The Caribbean ICT Roadshow is one of the CTU’s activities to commemorate its 20th anniversary which was celebrated on 28th April, 2009. However, the main reason for developing the initiative, was the recognition that there was a fundamental lack of awareness and understanding of the transformative power of ICTs; their potential to impact every sphere of endeavour and the need for innovative approaches when employing ICT tools and resources. This lack of understanding, extended from the level of governance to the man on the street.
Many Caribbean Governments have placed ICT on their national Agenda as a significant element of their developmental strategy to achieve competitiveness. There have been large investments in ICT, by organizations and by individuals, but few compelling examples of ICT-enabled transformation. We are, as a region, investing in the technology but are far from realizing their full potential because we have not taken the time makes our citizens aware and to to educate them how the power of the technology can be unleashed.
The Caribbean ICT Roadshow journey has been one of discovery. Each roadshow has been customized to address specific issues in each country it visits and the Roadshows are designed to initiate programmes that will yield tangible benefits.
We began, with great optimism in August 2009 in St. Kitts and Nevis. We found that there were whole sectors of the society who felt that technology had nothing to do with them and would not attend the formal Roadshow sessions. As a matter of fact it was ICT practitioners, who attended the Roadshow.
Since the initiative was designed to engage all sectors of the national community, we went back to the drawing board and crafted Community Outreaches to engage citizens in their communities and to present ICT in the context of their environment. This approach proved to be very effective in driving home the message “ICT is for everyone”.
The Roadshow actively promotes innovation. Each Roadshow showcases local ICT innovators. We travelled to, Antigua and Barbuda and Belize, and by the time we reached to St. Vincent and the Grenadines we had met many ICT innovators with world class ideas but no support for them in creating sustainable revenue-generating businesses. These innovators did not appreciate the power of their own ideas and how fundamentally the world had changed and new global opportunities for business.
It was clear to us that there was a wealth of creative talent in ICT that was being squandered. We believed that innovation can be sparked and entrepreneurs cultivated, so we developed a programme of assessment, training, mentorship and exposure and established a framework to support these innovators.
One young man from Montserrat, when we met him, wanted to be the best software developer in the Eastern Caribbean. We put him through our programme and from the last we heard, he was about to sign a lucrative contract with Formula-1 in Saudi Arabia. We are looking forward to hearing great things from him.
As we continued the journey to Curacao, Suriname and Montserrat, the issue of Internet traffic routing, and the need to establish local Internet Exchange Points (IXP’s) and the possibilities for spawning new types of businesses associated with an IXP was brought to the attention of Caribbean Governments. We developed an Internet Exchange Point Symposium to explain the issue in greater detail. This symposium was delived in seven countries. The British Virgin Islands now on course to establish the first IXP in the English-speaking Caribbean as a result of the Roadshow and other countries are moving towards establishment of a national IXP.
By the time we got to St. Lucia, Jamaica and Dominica, we had recognised that, as practictioners, we took much for granted and assumed that the people, who are not intimately associated with ICT, understood what we speak about as a matter of course. This was not the case, so we have added ICT 101- An introduction to information and Communication technologies that explains in layman terms what ICTs are about. One Member of Parliament said he had learned more about ICT’s in the two days of the Roadshow than the two years of his tenure.
The Roadshow has a strong emphasis on youth engagement – they are born into the technology and have a natural affinity for ICT. We have programmes designed to alert them to the very real dangers in cyberspace and because many parents, teachers and guardians, are not literate we have incorporated sessions entitled “What Parents Don’t Know”. These sessions have been revelatory for both young people and adults.
We have come to understand that it is not just about the technology, but about people and engaging them at a level where they can see the benefits and voluntarily embrace the ICT tools so we give compelling examples and demonstrations of the transformative power of ICT.
These are but a few examples of what the Roadshow initiative has achieved.
Every country we have visited confirms our initial premise, that there is indeed a fundamental lack of understanding of ICT that needs to be addressed, because we have seen:
Computers being used as typewriters
People walking around with backberrys but only using them to make telephone calls
The contemplation of bans on cell phones in schools
Principals who do not recognize that ICT provides new avenues for pedagogy
We have seen:
The results of applying 19th century systems and processes to 20st century technology – it does not work
He frustration of young professionals trying without success to encourage ICT use in their organisations
The smothering of innovation
Young people with unfettered access to the Internet being enticed and led astray in cyberspace and
Parents who are clueless
These observations strengthen our resolve to continue the Roadshow in 2011.
The Caribbean ICT Roadshow has been effective in meeting the real and present needs of citizens in the 12 countries we have visited. We commenced the initiative Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday with a Community outreach programme in Siparia.
One primary school student was so excited when we introduced him to google earth, he wanted to know when we were coming back
A parent said she had to reconsider what she was putting up on Facebook during the break she called several of her friends to tell them about the programme.
A teacher said that the information she had received would help her tremendously as she was dealing with an issue of students posting pornography on the internet.
We are going to visit five other communities and the Roadshow will culminate in 2-day event on 10th and 11th February during a week of dedicated to a number of ICT activities:
8th Ministerial ICT Strategic Seminar
An Innovation and Entrepreneurship Workshop
An Electronic Numbering Seminar
The Caribbean ICT Roadshow
I believe that all of us here are all serious about enhancing the Caribbean’s competitiveness and ICT presents an opportunity for a new type of economy – an information society but this requires a critical mass of citizens who understand and are able to leverage the transformative power of the technology and the Caribbean ICT Roadshow initiative has been providing the keys to unlocking ICT’s potential.
We will be visiting 10 more countries in 2011. Educating our citizens is a collective responsibility so I encourage you to partner with the CTU in taking the Roadshow to the remaining Countries in 2011.