PRIME MINISTER DR. THE RT. HON KEITH MITCHELL
C A R I B B E A N C O M M U N I T Y
48th SPECIAL MEETING OF THE
COUNCIL FOR TRADE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (COTED)
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES
January 17, 2014
Brothers and Sisters,
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to our beautiful island of Grenada.
I am grateful to be with you this morning to set the tone for this forty-eighth (48th) Special Meeting of the Council on Trade and Economic Integration (COTED) on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
This meeting is a precursor to the Inter-sessional Meeting of Heads of Government to be held next month in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where the topic ICT will receive focused attention on the agenda—along with Human Resource Development.
These two elements fused together could be the catalyst to enhance our prospects for sustainable economic growth and development.
If managed, exploited and maximised, they could bring our Region and our people to a place which affords opportunities to develop new services, industries and markets that create jobs, return profits and drive growth.
It is heartening therefore, that 12 of our Member States are so seized of the prospects that they are represented here today—the vast majority at theMinisterial level. It is also heartening to see so many of the technologically-focussed groups and institutions with us this morning.
The fact that we are all gathered today to discuss the way forward for Information Communication Technology in the development of our region, speaks volumes, and shows that we have begun to understand the role that ICT must play moving forward.
Put simply, all our CARICOM Member States are at a crossroad with respect to the development of our economies, and providing a climate for the prosperity of our citizens. We are plagued by issues of High Debt, High Unemployment, healthcare problems, growing crime rates (some more than others), and overall low growth.
I am therefore clear in my position that the only way to get out of this downward spiral is to do things differently.
We need to transform we way we live, the way we work, and the way we form partnerships.
Sisters and brothers, the platform that we need to embrace is that of Information and communications technology. And the time to do so is NOW.
The application of ICT provides the promise of enabling transformation in all areas of human endeavours. We see it every day, in the use of the internet, You-tube, twitter, Facebook and Skype—to name a few.
The rewards are compelling, and we only have to observe the economic prosperity of many middle income countries who were early adopters of ICT.
Science, Technology and innovation have now been adopted as critical enablers for economic development in most emerging and developed countries, and we now have technologies in the labs, such as Biotechnology and nanotechnology that promise to revolutionise our lives in the areas of health, quality of life, and new infrastructure.
What does this mean for the Caribbean—a region of small island states in which growth of our economies have eluded the best amongst us; where crime and security have become a plague to our societies;
And the lives of our citizens are under constant threat of global climate change?
ICT must be able to help bring our island states closer together. It must contribute to fueling the integration process, and support functional cooperation amongst our public institutions and our citizens across the region.
ICT must be applied to the management of risk reduction as a consequence of climate change, which has ravaged our coastlines, eroded our mountains, cost much damage to our citizens—to their lives and property.
ICT must be applied in managing our citizens’ health, through the dissemination of timely information to our people, wherever they live; thus helping us to take preventative measures, and to provide remote diagnostics, prescriptions and operations to our people.
ICT must be applied to extend the scope and reach of affordable education to our citizens; as well as access to the development of relevant and appropriate skills and competencies.
Of paramount importance, sisters and brothers, we must be able to create an environment, enabled by ICT, in which our young people have opportunities for innovation; thus providing new products and services that are globally competitive.
Let me say that I genuinely believe that the leaders of our region have begun to understand the potential of the role of ICT in transforming our development processes, and the livelihoods of our people, so that we can become more globally competitive, and grow our economies.
For this reason, sisters and brothers, we commissioned the CARICOM Secretariat to develop a regional digital development strategy that will help inform member states of some of the critical sectors in which ICT can be effectively applied.
We have also identified the regional institutions that can contribute to the implementation of the strategies and the processes to facilitate such strategies.
The approach prescribes the establishment of a regional ICT cluster; comprising CARICAD, CTU, CKLN, CARISCIENCE and CBU, chaired by the CARICOM Secretariat.
Today we will focus on, and give consideration to some strategic ICT elements that have been identified as critical to the development of our economies, and some critical processes and actions to be taken in operationalizing the regional digital development strategy.
1) Single ICT Space including issues of roaming rates, a single area code, storage, copyright, spectrum and broadband, Intelligent or digital households or cities
2) Role of CKLN and C@ribNET
3) Cyber Crime
5) Governance and
6) Resource Mobilisation
I do believe that this will help us craft an agenda that we can take to our fellow heads at our heads of government meeting scheduled for February 28th in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
This meeting is carded to focus on ICT in the region, and I am confident that the leadership will deliberate wisely and elevate the role of ICT as one of the priorities for economic development of our region; and that they will support our recommended actions in moving forward the ICT agenda in the Caribbean with a view of transforming our economy.
I note that we will be having a presentation of C@ribNET this morning. This is one of the major achievements of CKLN—an institution that is headquartered here in St. Georges, and with which I have been closely associated.
C@ribNET promises much with respect to the potential of transforming our region. I believe that our region should be very proud that today, through C@ribNET, we are connected to one another through broadband.
What is left now is for us to organize ourselves at the national levels, and put the human resources in place to take advantage and leverage the use of the network to provide maximum impact.
Brothers and Sisters, we have a choice. Although as I see it, we really have no other option but to fully embrace the power of the current and emerging technologies; develop coherent strategies, and plan on using them;
…As well as put the appropriate governance and processes in place at both the national and regional levels.
I suggest that if we do not do this with haste it will be to our own peril, and we will therefore continue to struggle to deliver on the simple promise of creating environments of prosperity for our citizens.
In my own view, my passion for adopting the platform of ICT is driven by my vision for a future Caribbean:
This will be a Caribbean with an economy that is globally competitive and growing; a citizenry that is fully literate, and continues to learn and grow;
where poverty and diseases, such as HIV, AIDS and Cancer, have been brought under control; a society that feels secure and free from the perils of crime; where justice is the order of the day; a leadership that exercises good governance, encourages democracy and protects individual rights, as well as promote inclusivity of differences; the creation of an environment that promote trust between government and citizens.
This, my brothers and sisters, is a Caribbean I am sure we will all like to live in.