High speed internet essential in modern society – CARICOM
Forty percent of households in developing countries should have internet access and internet user penetration should reach 60% worldwide, 50% in developing countries and 15% in Lesser Developing Countries (LDCs), according to CARICOM.
A World Bank Development Report touts Broadband as a key driver of economic growth, providing a boost of 1.38% in GDP in developing countries for every 10% increase in penetration.
For the Caribbean to realize these targets it must invest heavily in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and specifically increase its Broadband access.
“While investments should come from both the private sector and Government, CARICOM must of necessity lead the way,” said Chief Knowledge Officer, Congress WBN, Bevil Wooding.
He said forging private public partnerships and partnerships with International Development Partners (IDPs) is an imperative for CARICOM to even consider increasing its Broadband access to 2.0 G/bits.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) at a recent CANTO-IDB Broadband Forum in Miami – to which CARICOM Ministers with responsibility for ICT attended – announced their intention to partner with the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunication Operators (CANTO) to provide the Caribbean and Latin America with technical and other assistance to accelerate Broadband development “as a critical technology for innovation and as a means to increase productivity, growth and social inclusion, in four main categories: policy, strategic regulation, infrastructure development and capacity building.”
CARICOM further stated that its largest constituents – the youth, deemed the future of the Community – are looking outside the Community for the realisation of their hopes, aspirations and economic empowerment.
“They want a better quality of life with quality services delivery and they want it ‘NOW!”
It was noted that the Meeting of Senior Officials on ICT will therefore, recommend to the COTED, a policy framework which includes a 2.0Mg/bits per second as a minimum base-line speed to be considered as Broadband access; clear definitions for affordable access in keeping with the targets set by the Broadband Commission; a solid legislative environment and the development of national governance structure to treat with critical policy issues.
The officials agreed that high capacity broadband connections are essential elements in modern society. They acknowledged the urgent need to accelerate broadband deployment and adoption in the Region “to create knowledge based, smart, digital economies where all citizens have an equal opportunity to participate in the global economy and ultimately improve their quality of life.”
CARICOM underscored that it is clear that without broadband infrastructure and services, developing countries risk exclusion from participating in the burgeoning global digital economy. High-speed internet broadband – whether via fibre networks or wireless – is a pre-condition for a strong digital economy in the Caribbean Community.
According to Wooding, “it is no longer a nice to have, but a must have.” The issue therefore cannot be the cost for adequate broadband access, but the cost for not having it.
CARICOM Secretariat’s Deputy Programme Manager, ICT4D, Jennifer Britton was optimistic that a regional policy would help to realize the ideals of the integration movement. In making a case for the policy, she enumerated several benefits of increased broadband access in the Caribbean. Those include a full employment economy, a decent standard of living, improved quality of life for all and “spatially equitable economic growth within the Community,” as reflected in the Girvan 2007 Report: Towards a Single Development Vision.
More importantly, she added that affordable Broadband access would help to eliminate poverty and provide adequate opportunities for young people in the Region. Major opportunities are also possible for CARICOM businesses as long as there is enough investment in high-speed broadband access and support for innovation and research.