Overview of Caribbean Internet

Bernardette LewisPresentation by Bernadette Lewis at LACNIC X
The Caribbean Telecommunications Union was established in 1989 by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). caricom.jpg With members drawn from the Caribbean governments, the private sector and civil society, the CTU focuses on ICT Policy formulation, Capacity building and representation of the region at international fora. The Union’s work in recent times has been in the area of ICT Harmonisation, (Spectrum Policy reform) Internet Governance and ICT training Caribbean. It was the late Sir William Arthur Lewis 1979 St. Lucian Nobel Laureate for Economics who said “The fundamental cure for poverty is not money but knowledge” I will expand his statement to state that information, access thereto and effective application of that information is the cure for many societal ills.
In this present age, the Internet is the single most comprehensive source of information. It is therefore imperative that citizens of the world and are able to access the Internet apply the information they obtain to solve their problems and improve the quality of their lives.
This is a very simplistic view of the potential of the Internet to change lives. In fact the issues related to shaping the evolution of the Internet and the means for deriving benefit from it are diverse and complex running the gamut from public awareness, education, infrastructure, content issues, policy, legislation, regulation and industry. How we treat these inter-related issues can be summed up in the term Internet Governance.

In this presentation I will endeavour to give a brief overview of Internet development and the Internet Governance initiatives in Caribbean, to comment on the drivers for ICT deployment and how effectively they have been employed.

Internet Penetration
When we look at Internet user penetration is generally low. This is directly related to the cost of computers and broadband access. In the majority of countries the cost of a computer is out of the reach of the average citizen. Jamaica and Barbados have managed to achieve a fairly high penetration of Internet Users: 40 % and 55% respectively.
The cost of a broadband circuit can range from US$ 30 In countries such as Jamaica to US$80 in Trinidad and Tobago. About half of Caribbean countries have a user penetration of less than 20 per 100 population.
When we consider the average penetration of Caribbean internet users is about 13% in comparison to the United States (70%) it is clear that there is a lot of work to be done in fostering increased usage.
E-Governance
There are very good e-governance policies.Trinidad and Tobago has a strong comprehensive policy framework. Generally the implementation is lagging resulting in mainly information delivery systems. Jamiaca is the only country that has been able to transition its policy to a comprehensive transaction-based e-governance system.
ccTLD Registries
Information on the Caribbean ccTLD Registries is not readily available. Based on a cursory survey we find that there is insufficient appreciation of fundamental guiding principles for the operation of ccTLD. It is not about making money, but is about enabling citizens to participate in the global economy and leveraging the role of the Internet in National Development.
There are inadequate levels of representation and participation in regional and international fora and slow adoption of policies perhaps related to limited technical and financial resources.
The registries are generally unstable and the manual processes are a hindrance to growth and development.

Caribbean Internet Governance activities
CARICOM in recognized this need and in January, 2005 mandated the Caribbean Telecommunications Union to address the issue of Internet Governance on behalf of the region. Since September 2005, the CTU has convened three multi-stakeholder Internet Governance for a which have
_ Commenced work on an Internet Governance Policy Framework for the Caribbean
_ Formulated Caribbean Ppositions on specific issues for presentation of the WSIS Tunis round.
_ Identified specific projects to be pursued in the Caribbean
_ Obtained commitment from regional Governments to support a regional Internet Governance Agenda
_ Established a Caribbean Internet Governance on-line forum
_ Developed a comprehensive Caribbean current-state survey for issuance in May (Phase1) and July (Phase2)
The future work of the CTU will be informed by the results of the survey and will entail:

Strengthening ccTLD Registries
_ Survey of Caribbean IG Stakeholders
_ Mobilisation of Caribbean Internet communities
_ Public Awareness Programmes
_ Facilitating regional participation in regional and international fora
_ Training of ccTLD Administrators
_ Development of a regional draft IG Policy framework
_ Further development via on-line forum http://ctu.int and regional meetings
_ Caribbean Internet Governance Fora
Identification and Execution of projects
_ Regional development metrics
_ Infrastructure development initiatives (physical, logical, content)

Key Success Factors
Jamaica has been able to increase penetration of Internet users, encourage affordable pricing for broadband access and implement its policies to establish a comprehensive transaction-based e-governance system. Critical success factors are the demonstration of political will and a champion at the highest level (the ICT Minister)to drive the process.

Required support Systems
It is necessary, before Caribbean countries embark on ICT projects to establish systems for measurement of the impact of the project on citizens and national development. It is difficult to guage the impact of Jamaica’s ICT development programme because the measurement parameters were not established before they embarked on their ICT developmental path. The successes are largely anecdotal.
Finally, the CTU looks forward to working with organizations like LACNIC to ensure that our citizens have affordable access to ICT and the Internet and are able to derive tangible benefits in every sphere of human endeavour.

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