GRAND ANSE, Grenada - A regional workshop recently held in Grenada encouraged local entrepreneurs to leverage cutting-edge technology to develop world-class products and services which address challenges facing Caribbean society.
The workshop, held at the Grenada Grand Beach Resort, Grand Anse on March 24th and 25th, was part of a broader World Bank-funded initiative called CARCIP, the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program, coordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).
“The underlying philosophy of the CTU’s ongoing regional workshop series is that the very same conditions that present severe challenges for Grenada and other Caribbean islands, are also creating unique opportunities for the region,” said Junior Mc Intyre, CARCIP Project Coordinator for the CTU, delivering welcome remarks at the opening ceremony.
The job of Caribbean innovators, Mc Intyre said, is to look past the challenges and discern the opportunities. Lead facilitator for the CTU CARCIP workshop, Bevil Wooding, underscored that reality.
“The survival of the region’s economies depends on our ability leverage modern technology to produce, compete and excel in the global environment,” said Wooding, who is an Internet Strategist with U.S.-based non-profit, Packet Clearing House.
Gregory Bowen, Minister for Communications, Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities, ICT and Community Development, described the workshop as an opportunity to deepen the Government’s ongoing thrust to develop the country’s ICT sector, in order to improve quality of life and create jobs in the local economy.
“Ultimately, the investment being made by the Government of Grenada is not just in the upgrade of the physical equipment but in the improvement of the quality of the lives of our citizens. Our goal is to ensure that all of our people in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique benefit from the development of ICT infrastructure,” Bowen said.
In March, a historic ICT Bridge connecting Grenada’s sister isles Carriacou and Petite Martinique to the global Internet, was formally launched at the Resource Centre in Hillsborough.
Jacinta Joseph, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, echoed Bowen’s emphasis on the dynamic link between infrastructure development to human development.
“Through CARCIP, we are aiming to advance the development of an ICT-enabled services industry in the Caribbean region by increasing access to regional broadband networks,” Joseph said.
Grenada is not alone in recognising the significance of ICT to national and regional development. At the 25th inter-sessional meeting of the conference of heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on March 10-11, Caribbean governments reaffirmed that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) plays a crucial role in advancing all regional development initiatives. CARICOM plans to focus over the next two years on developing a Single ICT Space as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
“The creation of a Single ICT Space within our community should be pursued vigorously in our efforts to bring technology to the people,” said CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.
Addressing the inter-sessional meeting, Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who holds responsibility for ICT in CARICOM, issued a call for the region to work together to develop appropriate regional ICT development strategies and programmes.
The work of implementing ICT development policy objectives falls largely on CTU, which plays a significant role in coordinating the region’s response to technology-related challenges through various public education activities, targeting ministers with responsibility for telecommunications, Internet Service Providers, regulators and policy-makers in the ICT sector, as well as end-users and consumers of technology.
Through extensive regional public education activities, such as its Caribbean ICT Roadshow, Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, and Strategic Ministerial Seminar series, the CTU has established a track record of creating awareness across various sectors of Caribbean society of the importance of ICT and Internet Governance to the region.
Against that backdrop, the World Bank approached the CTU to regionally coordinate CARCIP, working closely with the governments of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Grenada, and alongside regional organisations such as the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) and the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN).
Launched in June 2013 at the Crown Ballroom of the Grenada Grand Beach Resort, CARCIP aims to improve the efficiency of regional telecommunications infrastructure development in the Eastern Caribbean and ultimately, throughout the wider Caribbean. Through the World Bank’s International Development Association, the project was allocated a total disbursement of US$25 million, including loans to the three countries and a grant to the CTU.
The Grenada workshop is the third in the CTU’s ongoing series. The two-day event brings together local professionals in the field of telecommunications and regional experts in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), entrepreneurship, leadership development and innovation.
Among the workshop presenters are Dr Farid Youssef, an expert in neuroscience based in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine; Norman Gibson, an expert in rural development and environmental management in the Caribbean region; Eric Nurse, ICT Director for the Government of Grenada; Glenda Joseph-Dennis, an independent Business Development Consultant specialising in leadership and organisational development; and Joseph I. Gill, the software developer and entrepreneur behind mobile technology startup TopItUp.TV.
The first CTU CARCIP Innovation Workshop was held at the Bay Gardens Resort, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia on February 10 and 11, while the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines event was held at the Buccament Bay resort on February 26 and 27.