Flow wants broadband for sustainable development
Below is a commentary from Columbus Communications Jamaica in commemoration of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, which is being observed today, although the official date is tomorrow, which marks the anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union.
OVER THE past decade, our region has benefited from a fundamental shift in its technological infrastructure.
This has resulted in a significant increase in the use of new technologies, applications and devices both at work and in homes. The continuing development of broadband and information and communications technologies (ICTs) has created an array of exciting opportunities for governments, businesses, institutions, and individuals. At the most basic level, it has positively transformed our ability to create, communicate and collaborate with anyone, from our next-door neighbour to a companion, colleague or customer half a world away.
Even so, there is still much to be done to fully realise the transformative impact that broadband and ICTs can have on our region. Last year, during World Telecommunications Day, we emphasised the need for stakeholders to look at the industry from a more collaborative vantage point. We outlined why the region needs to work as a collective to define and execute a broad, efficient technology strategy that would address and challenge the barriers to sustainable development in the Caribbean and Pan-American region.
A year later, we feel it necessary to reiterate these same sentiments, for there still exists a miscalculated reluctance to embrace and exploit the changing technological landscape, and create an enabling environment in a rapidly evolving broadband era.
As service providers, companies like Columbus realise we are not exempt from this shared responsibility. Acting on that understanding, each day, we work to expand and improve the underlying networks that make this technological revolution possible, equipping our region with the foundation necessary to develop its culture and economy. Competition aside, we have taken a bold approach to collaboration and have developed cooperative relationships with competing entities to pool resources, allowing us to expand, innovate, enable and serve in a way that the region has not previously witnessed.
As a demonstration of this spirit of 'co-opetition', this year Columbus embarked on two separate joint-expansion ventures - one with Cable and Wireless, as well as a more recent alliance with Ocean Networks - each of which contributes to our significant sub-sea expansion activities in the region. Each alliance has made the region significantly more attractive for investors and has created opportunities for commercial development.
We believe that these actions represent another critical stage in the ongoing development of regional connectivity - opportunities which are boundless.
Our endeavours, however, are often dependent upon the actions of others. In order for us to truly create the positive changes that the region is demanding, we need to develop our relationships with others in both the public and private sectors; we need to speed up response times from regulatory agencies; we need to lower entry barriers that inhibit involvement in any given country's ICTs and infrastructure development; and, ultimately, we need to change negative misconceptions of technology's place in our digital world.
ENHANCING DIGITAL COMPETENCY
Raising awareness and inciting administrative bodies to drive public investment in broadband would boost confidence in private investors to do the same. Too often we see investments such as the ones we have made met with mistrust; a reluctance to enable change, and perhaps most significantly, a failure to take advantage of the opportunities that the network provides.
Hand in hand with infrastructure development is the need to enhance the digital competency of the region. Initiatives like TechLink - community technology training initiatives of the BrightPath foundation exemplify the pressing need for raising technological awareness, and works to ensure that the region produces and directs its own digital content and technologies.
Columbus will continue to support these types of training initiatives as they focus on teaching 'digital natives' and 'immigrants' alike how to practically apply their digital devices and use them for personal, educational or business-oriented purposes; they are meant to encourage the productive application of broadband and ICTs to create content and therefore manifest their local culture, knowledge and general intellectual property.
COMMUNITY ACCESS POINTS
Moreover, we continue to extend our support to the development of community access points - also known as Internet exchange points (IXPs) - that likewise advance the production of local content. IXPs are centres of interconnection, where multiple Internet service providers come together to exchange customer network traffic.
They eliminate the need for foreign IXPs and therefore have a considerable, positive impact on our region's bandwidth, as well as its associated latency and cost. Aside from these quantifiable advantages, there are the simultaneously tangible and intangible benefits of increased content creation, which is, perhaps, the ultimate object of constructing IXPs; local content fosters communities, increases digital literacy, exposes our region and advances society overall.
To echo the views we shared on this important day last year, we have to recognise that enablement begins with technology adoption by society as a whole. To ensure that our region utilises broadband and ICTs in a sustainable manner, each one of us - from the service providers to the government officials - has to create an environment in which technology is valued and utilised. Doing so is the only way to effectively progress and secure a better tomorrow for our region.