Secretary-General of the Caribbean Telecommunication Union Bernadette Lewis sat down with ITU on the sidelines of the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-17) to discuss what the Caribbean island nations are doing to attract investment in information and communication technologies (ICTs) to boost their future socioeconomic growth.
Ms Lewis was quick to point out that majority of CTU member nations have a population of less than 200,000, which makes it difficult to attract foreign investment in any one island.
“Potential investors are interested in Pan-Caribbean operations,” she said. “The challenge has been that, across the region, the countries are very diverse. [They have] different regulatory regimes, different bureaucratic processes. This adds to the cost of doing business, and consequently, there’s a real need to harmonize the policy frameworks, the legislative frameworks, the regulatory frameworks. And this needs to happen as a matter or urgency.”
“The CTU, one of our mandates is harmonization, and we’ve done a lot of work in that area,” she explained. For instance, she said, “We have a spectrum management plan for the Caribbean. In February 2017, the Caribbean heads of government agreed to a road map for the establishment of a single ICT space. This project is going to give the impetus that is necessary in terms of harmonizing across the region. That will put us in a much better position to attract investment in ICTs.”
Success in that project would “give life to our Caribbean single market and economy,” said
So what are the obstacles to making this happen?
“It’s a case of political will. It’s not an impossible task, but we have to recognize that as tiny, tiny countries we cannot stand alone,” said Lewis. “We have to work together. We have to integrate. … Or course, this is not unique. It is a global phenomenon. But we would really like our countries to work more closely together.
Lewis also spoke about the critical role that ICTs play in disaster relief for the hurricanes that routinely hit the region.
“ICTs are critical to the process in terms of the preparation, even as the disaster is happening, and in the recovery,” she said. “The devastation is an opportunity for rebuilding sustainably. … Are you going to rebuild what you’ve lost or are you going to rebuild infrastructure that is designed and constructed to withstand or at least mitigate the extent of the damage?”
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