DURING the first week of February, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) arranged an “ICT Week” in Trinidad, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the organisation. The theme for the week was “Celebrating our past; Committing to our future”.
The meeting gathered participants from across the region as well as from regional and international organisations. There were four of us from Saint Lucia – Mr. Philip Dalsou, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Information and Broadcasting, (Government), Mr Embert Charles, ECTEL, (regional organisation), Mr Albert Daniels, ICANN, (International organisation), and myself (civil society).
In her opening remarks the Secretary General, Ms Bernadette Lewis encouraged participants to look for solutions which are “right for us” and not to forget that plans are unsuccessful without implementation. Several of the speakers in the opening session were ministers of governments. The feature address was given by Dr. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada. From these speakers we heard an emphasis on immediate concerns, particularly on the need to abolish roaming rates in the region. There was some discussion of the proposed merger between Cable & Wireless and Flow. However that issue was made awkward by the fact that Jamaica had already given approval while CARICOM as a whole was still considering the issue.
I had been asked to make a couple of presentations during the meeting, and had decided to focus on the “Internet of things”, a growing phenomenon of everyday objects which are also communication devices. For example there are now toothbrushes that will report to you on the state of your teeth, and fridges which will create a shopping list for you, dresses which are mobile phones. All of these create data which may become public. It is important to anticipate this situation and plan for it appropriately. Many of the non-government speakers addressed the same concerns.
On Wednesday afternoon there were presentations by two young entrepreneurs who had made the internet work for them – Mr Akhenaton Laborde from Trinidad and Mr Warren Cassell from Monserrat. Cassell is fifteen years old. During the week many of the participants spoke of the need to include and to encourage “the youth”, but these two young men seemed to have created their own success. On Thursday and Friday there was another demonstration of what the Caribbean is capable of – a “code sprint”, a 24 hour competition to find solutions to problems using open data.
The impressions I brought home with me? People currently in government tend to focus on immediate issues (roaming charges). Several speakers spoke of the need to change and open our mindsets (or as one speaker put it our mind spaces). Some of the “solutions” that we may have been relying on may not be solutions after all. There is still a great concern about “the youth”; meanwhile “the youth”, or at last some of them, are running way ahead of us.
Thank you CTU for inviting me, and happy 25th anniversary.
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