ICT crucial to future Caribbean development
Caribbean telecommunication officials began a three-day meeting in Miami, Florida, on Sunday underscoring the need to develop the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector to be able to meet the goals of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie also challenged delegates attending the 28th Caribbean Telecommunication Organisation (CANTO) annual conference and trade exhibition to provide regional policymakers with information on how to make ICT more affordable and equitable.
"It is for me to challenge you in these meetings that you are in, to tell us the policymakers, what laws we must enact, what policies and rules we must enforce; one, to make broadband ubiquitous; two, to make broadband affordable for the everyday citizen; three, to make broadband reliable to all of our citizens," he said.
Christie, quoting a report from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), said the challenges of developing broadband are so formidable that the private sector alone will not be able to face them alone.
"Indeed, governments will have to join with the private sector and provide leadership to reduce not only the digital divide, but also to use digital means to narrow the social divide that is so pressing and important in our countries," he said.
Christie said he believed regional governments would have to join with the private sector to "provide leadership initiatives to reduce not only the digital divide but also to use digital means to narrow the social divide".
The three-day event is being held under the theme, 'Accelerating Broadband Experience in the Caribbean - Transforming the way we Live'.
Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, Dr Hamadoun Tourse, told the Caribbean Media Corporation that he believes ICT is necessary for the region to meet the MDGs set for 2015 and beyond.
Tourse, who held discussions with regional information technology ministers, said despite the fact that the Caribbean is still a long way off in bridging the digital divide, he is pleased that the region has shown full commitment to the ICT sector.
"This industry is one that has created more jobs than any other sector in the world. Two thirds of the new jobs in the world have been created in the ITC sector and that's true in the Caribbean region too and therefore it is giving us tremendous potential. It will be the tool that will help the other sectors evolve as well," Tourse said.
Tourse said his discussions with the ministers centred on tourism, health, education, government online and "all of those will be done only through the ITC".
The IDB is expected to announce at the conference funding for ICT projects in the region.
CANTO General Secretary Regenie Fraser said the funding would "facilitate wider adoption and deployment of ICT in small and medium-size enterprises in a number of countries, including Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago".