CTU/ICT Week opens with focus on Leveraging Global Partnerships for Caribbean Connectivity, affordability, benefits of single telecoms Regulator

Ambassador Leon Willams with a delegate at the CUT/ICT WEEK.

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) Ministers, ICT Regulators and representatives from private and public sector organizations from across the region, opened their week-long Caribbean Telecommunications ICT Week Meetings (Monday, September 5) at Margaritaville Beach Resort, West Bay Street.

They were joined by regional telecommunications operators, internet service providers, representatives of academic institutions and other stakeholders. Hosted by the Government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, in collaboration with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, CTU ICT Week 2022 will focus on the theme “Leveraging Global Partnerships for Caribbean Connectivity” and will provide a forum for the exchange of ideas related to how regional Governments can collectively respond to, and work with global partners and the private sector in closing the digital divide and connecting the unconnected using various digital platforms and new and innovative technologies.

Officials say the sessions will go beyond discussions on connectivity and look at ways in which partnerships and collaboration can help the region to rebound from the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with greater social and economic resilience.

The five days of activities will also address the many facets of digital transformation at the regional level and propose recommendations for follow-up action. As well as focus attention on technology for persons with disabilities and mobility.

(The Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is a Caribbean inter-governmental organization dedicated to facilitating the development of the regional telecommunications sector. The CTU assists the development of telecommunication within the Region by facilitating the coordination and development of intra-regional and international telecommunication networks to meet the immediate and future needs of the region; provide a forum for discussion and resolution of technical telecommunication issues concerning the Region; and assist advocacy in this area, in national, regional and international fora.)

CTU Secretary-General, Mr. Rodney Taylor, said the theme: “Leveraging Global Partnerships for Caribbean Connectivity” will take a further look at how the region can work with international organizations such as International Communications Union to help drive the connectivity to build more robust internet and telecommunications infrastructure – telephone services, internet services, and mobile services.

“We will discuss how do we leverage those partnerships to build more robust partnerships but also –  for those persons within the Caribbean who are not connected because  there are still a quite a few thousand of those persons who are not connected – how do we get them connected, how do we leverage investment in the telecoms network using global partnerships. For example, the ICU has initiatives such as Partners to Connect where they are inviting support, investment from the private sector, from NGOs, to help push the connectivity agenda.”

Secretary-General Taylor said connectivity is key to sustainable development.

“The United Nations has, as part of its Sustainable Development Goals Agenda, to connect persons to the internet because if you are not connected to the internet, you are not connected to sources of information, you are not connected to economic opportunities, you are not connected to educational opportunities as well, and so it is very important that we get the whole world connected, and certainly that we get our CARICOM nationals connected at affordable rates and for robust connectivity.”

The CTU Secretary-General had “high praise” for Monday’s Opening Sessions, which saw the Week return to the place where the CTU was first established in 1989.

“Opening Day went well. The CTU was founded in The Bahamas in 1989 and so we are happy to be back home in The Bahamas. This morning we discussed issues of establishing a single telecommunications Regulator, as even though we are a part of the Caribbean Community and CARICOM, each Member-State has its own set of regulations governing the telecommunications sector. What licenses are needed, what spectrum is assigned, what taxes they pay and what the operators are saying is that they would like to see a more harmonized approach.

“The Heads of Government (Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community) have actually also mandated us to look at harmonizing that Regulatory Framework to make it easier for them, but also benefit of CARICOM nationals because it will enhance things like roaming for example within CARICOM with your mobile phone so that (nationals) can start doing things like roaming as though they are home. There is no additional cost for using your mobile service outside of your country because it (will be) one regional communications network,” Secretary-General Taylor added.

Mr. Wayde Watson, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for the country’s Digitization process, said the issues of digitization, connectivity is very important for The Bahamas in the way forward.

“The issue of digitization and using ICTs to improve governance and the ease of doing business is critical, but there is also the issue as it relates to affordability for our citizenry to ensure that our citizens not only have access, but that they can afford the tools that they need so that they can use Information Communications Technology to advance the country digitally and increase our competitive advantage across the board.”

Parliamentary Secretary Watson also spoke of the significance of the Week’s return to the birthplace of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union.

“I think it is very important because it gives us an opportunity to collaborate, to make certain that we establish synergies across the ICTs and the ICT ecosystems, not only from a connectivity perspective but also from an infrastructural perspective and also when you look at regulatory issues as it relates to Information and Communications Technologies, it is important for us to make certain that we collaborate because the region is small in nature. But once we combine, we can make some things happen at the international level,” Mr. Watson added.    (BIS Photos/Anthon Thompson)

Diana Swann and Wayde Watson MP