The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) and the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRCs) gathered virtually on September 13, 2022 for the 23rd ECTEL/NTRC Consultative Forum. The aim of the session was to provide a platform for the NTRCs and ECTEL to discuss their budgets and work plan for the financial year 2022/2023. It was also used to provide an update on the Universal Service Fund (USF) projects in each Member State and share lessons regarding the projects’ implementation.
In his update, the Secretary/Coordinator of NTRC Grenada, Mr. Lawrence Samuel identified several achievements attained over the last 20 years which include the promotion of open competition and the promotion of ubiquitous access and update of telecommunication services amongst others. However, despite the achievements he said there are still a few gaps to be addressed, such as the need to ensure greater quality of service monitoring. Some of the USF projects being undertaken in Grenada include a project on public safety and disaster management, a Solar ICT Centre built in a rural community and the staging of an Intergenerational Boot Camp where computer literacy and skills were relayed to participants over forty years old.
Next was a presentation by the Director of NTRC St. Kitts and Nevis, Mr. Ervin Williams. He told the gathering that in speaking with the new Minister with responsibility for electronic communications, Honourable Konris Maynard, it is evident that he is ready to support the Ministers in the other Member States to follow through with the passage of the Electronic Communications (EC) Bill. Mr. Williams also provided an update on a project for a health information system for the Ministry of Health under the USF.
Mr. Apollo Knights, NTRC St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Secretary/Director said some of the main programmes being undertaken include a review and update of the National Broadband plan for the island, which formed part of a pledge to the International Telecommunication Union initiative on connecting people everywhere; the execution of the 24/7 online project comprising four lots covering the provision of free wireless internet access at community centres, learning resource centres, playing fields, NGOs and some tourist sites. He also mentioned that a new tourism app would be completed soon. Mr. Knights said the app will support the creation of more local content as well as help support eco-tourism.
Mr. Craig Nesty, the Executive Director of NTRC Commonwealth of Dominica indicated that their consumer protection initiative is underway. Their website has been updated to ensure it is more consumer centric, he also noted that customers are being encouraged to file complaints using the correct channel instead of airing their grievances on the radio. Some of the initiatives being undertaken by the NTRC include the staging of Code Camp Caraibe for children 8 to 16 years geared at providing computer literacy and problem-solving skills and the launching of the Net4All initiative which provides broadband services for $10EC per month to persons in need.
To wrap up the presentations from the NTRCs, NTRC Saint Lucia’s Administrative Officer, Ms. Joanita Alexander said public awareness continues to be their focus and they plan to disseminate information on the Commission’s operations through a variety of media platforms, roadshows, town hall meetings and educational programmes. Ms. Alexander also provided an overview of their recently held Summer Tech programme which served 60 form Four students from Secondary Schools islandwide. Some of the USF projects being implemented in Saint Lucia include the provision of internet connection at the National Skills Development Centre; the provision of computers and internet connection at the Boys Training Centre and the smart bus shelter connectivity project among others.
The meeting ended with an update from ECTEL’s Managing Director (Acting) Ms. Cheryl Hector Fontenelle on the Directorate’s work plan for 2022/2023. She announced that the Directorate is in the process of developing a business continuity plan with a focus on resilience. She said, “We are committed to working with our governments to ensure the digital transformation of our economies, as such we have to transform our own organisation to have a very robust IT infrastructure”. Ms. Fontenelle also spoke about ECTEL’s role in the Caribbean Digital Transformation Project (CARDTP) which involves the review of the legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the electronic communications sector and the development of a Regulatory Impact Assessment Framework. Additionally, Ms. Fontenelle provided an update on the status of the Electronic Communications (EC) Bill in each ECTEL Member State.