By Julie Carrington
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- The importance of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as one of the integral drivers of the socio-economic development of Barbados will come into sharp focus, when Government's Telecommunications Unit, in collaboration with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) hosts the Caribbean ICTs Roadshow.
Under the theme: Harnessing the Power of Innovation: The Engine for ICT-Enabled Development, the event, which will showcase the strides made in the sector over the last two decades, begins on Friday with a Techno Forum in Independence Square, the City, and continues from Monday, September 10 to Thursday, September 13.
Persons attending the Roadshow will get an opportunity to learn more about a number of online services being offered by government departments including the Immigration Department, the Land Tax Department, the Value Added Tax Division of the Customs and Excise Department, National Insurance Scheme and the Data Processing Department.
Underscoring the importance of ICTs, business development and operations manager at the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), Rodney Taylor, explained the significance of the Road Show and the benefits to be gained.
"The Caribbean ICT Roadshow is an initiative of the CTU which was started in 2009 to celebrate the organisation's 20th year of existence. So far, the initiative has touched 17 countries with a view to promoting the effective use and production of ICTs, as a means of driving economic growth and development within the Caribbean," he added.
Acknowledging that the economic recession had given some countries a "knockout punch," the CTU business development officer said the "message from the Roadshow is that ICTs can be used in every sphere of economic activity in Caribbean countries".
"...The ICT Roadshow will result in a greater uptake of information about ICT tools and services [which would] lead to a more effective use in business activities, government and throughout the wider community. Once these skills are mastered, it would help to promote economic development within the countries," Taylor underlined.
Even though some Barbadians were aware of the benefits of ICTs, the CUT's business development and operations manager acknowledged that more must be done to enhance this awareness.
"There is awareness, but we think that this can be enhanced. We [CTU] believe that the tools of ICTs are not being used as effectively as they should be. If you look at the global ranking as it relates to economic competitiveness and ICT readiness, the Caribbean has fallen way below many other countries in the world. However, Barbados has done relatively well within the region and is ranked very highly, but, we certainly think there is room for improvement," Taylor observed.
In terms of investment in ICTs, he said countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom and Finland were investing heavily in the development of broadband networks. Given the importance of ICTs, Taylor expressed the hope that the various sessions for stakeholders such as fisher folk, farmers, small entrepreneurs and government, would go a long way to generating more interest in the use of ICTs.
"We have a number of forums that will target different groups across society. For instance, there are ICT sessions in education and government. Additionally, there will also be discussion forums for farmers and fisher folk, as well as a talk to small business owners on e-commerce."
Some of the other presentations slated for the ICT Roadshow on Monday include: e-government Barbados: major projects and initiatives by project coordinator in the Ministry of Finance's Special Projects Unit, Trevor Forde; and Government Online EZ Pay by Antoinette Agard, of the Data Processing Department.
Later that day, senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, Dr Kim Mallalieu, will give a talk on ICT and the fishing industry, at the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex, St Michael, starting at 5:25 p.m. This will be followed by discussions on ICTs and the fishing community by representatives from LIME, Digicel and the CTU, beginning at 7:00 p.m.
On Tuesday, September 11, there will be an all-day investment forum at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. Later that day, a number of topics will be discussed during the interactive sessions including: the innovation investment climate in Barbados; show me the money: business modelling for innovators; financing, and a panel discussion on Caribbean innovation in a global market.
Also on that day, Minister of Family, Culture Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, will deliver the opening remarks during the Youth Forum.
The following day, Wednesday, September 12, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, will give opening remarks during an education forum starting. Other highlights of the day include a panel discussion on education reform and a video presentation on dangers in cyberspace at noon.
The roadshow will culminate with a cyber security forum on Thursday, September 13.