ST GEORGE'S, Grenada -- The next two years can be very significant for the regional research and education network, C@ribNET, as the Caribbean moves towards a single information communication technology (ICT) space as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The heads of government at the 25th inter-sessional meeting held recently in St Vincent and the Grenadines, agreed that developing a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) digital economy is crucial to changing the socio-economic profile of the Caribbean -- for creating jobs, especially for the youth, new opportunities and engendering innovation and competitiveness.
Speaking under the theme “ICT for CARICOM Transformation”, Dr Keith Mitchell, prime minister of Grenada, and lead head of government on ICT in the CARICOM quasi cabinet, led the discussions at the meeting. He stated that a single ICT space logically complements the single economic space being created by the CSME.
He specified that C@ribNET, as the regional research and education network, is well positioned to be the regional knowledge centre and support for think-tanks for the region’s continued global collaboration. The prime minister went on to implore regional heads to nurture the development of national research and education networks (NRENs), which can help to exploit and develop national interests. In particular, he said, those countries that host key regional institutions have an even more urgent need, not only to form NRENs, but to ensure that they can function at their best, supported by the secure connectivity provided by C@ribNET.
Mitchell noted some of the benefits of the single ICT space including the creation of efficiencies, the generation of new businesses, the stimulation of growth in the ICT sector and, the promotion of opportunities for research and innovation.
“Our citizens will be transformed to digital citizens, ICT will be applied to various sectors in the economy, and innovation and competitiveness will increasingly contribute to growth and development,” he said.
He warned, however, that developing the CARICOM digital economy is not going to be easy, but to avoid it happening is not an option.
In the ensuing discussions, Portia Simpson-Miller, prime minister of Jamaica, encouraged the use of C@ribNET. She spoke of its capacity to support functional cooperation between and among institutions, citing a high definition telemedicine demonstration of non-invasive surgery from the Hugh Wynter Fertility Management Unit to a number of other regional locations in November 2013.
Dr Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines and chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government, said a roadmap to develop the single ICT space would be developed and presented to the heads of government meeting in July 2015.