Telecoms liberalization is good for ECTEL member states

Students at the ICT Forum in St. Kitts.

OECS Secretariat, Castries, St. Lucia – Member States of the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ECTEL) have shown improved economic viability through the liberalization of the telecommunications sector.

That’s the view of the Prime Minister of The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis Dr. Denzil Douglas, who addressed a special awards ceremony in Basseterre for locals who made sterling contributions to the liberalization of the telecommunications sector. At a  formal ceremony  in early September at the Sir Cecil Jacobs Auditorium at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Headquarters awards were presented to Hon Dr Denzil Douglas, Hon Sam Condor, Hon Cedric Liburd, Dr. Kenneth Ballantyne, Mr. Cosbert Manchester, Mr. Jason Hamilton, Mr. Joseph Richardson and Mr. Christopher McMahon. Twenty-six persons were publicly acknowledged for their contributions, the list included former and present Commissioners and former and present staff of NTRC St. Kitts and Nevis.

Prime Minister Douglas stated that the success of the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector was not possible without ECTEL, the enabling institution which provided the harmonized regulatory and transparency frameworks.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s sentiments, Director of ECTEL Embert Charles told the OECS News Link www.oecs.org the liberalization of the telecommunications sector has inspired social and economic growth for ECTEL Member States: “Firstly there was a significant increase in investments in the sector which has spin off effects for a number of other areas. The liberalization also caused a number of new industries to develop such as the provision of customer service equipment because as you might realize the incumbent has ceased operations where it has exclusive rights to deliver all these services. So there was a triggering of economic activity generally. There was also the added economic benefit for small businesses whereas they could use ICTs  in the expansion of the marketing of their business and so forth. Farm to market information has become more reliable and readily available for certain business people. At the level of the consumer one would also realize that because of the lowing of prices in basic services  consumers were able to do more; people were able to be in more  places at the same time so to speak. So that in a sense had its own economic benefits.”

Embert Charles, ECTEL

However, experts have reported that the downturn in the economy has influenced a slow down in investments which leveled off between 2008-2009. In this regard Charles is hopeful that notwithstanding the slow down, the challenge for the region is to use the new available technologies to build on the sector because it can continue to grow if new technologies are applied: “For instance we at ECTEL will soon be using a new section of our regional spectrum called the 700 spectrum for some providers to deliver more services on the same platform. That section of the band behaves in lay-man’s terms, like a broadcast free-to-air.  So you don’t necessarily have to dedicate your delivery of service only to voice or data It is so wide in its use and propagation characteristics that you can deliver voice data and video services using that spectrum. So in a sense although you have an economic downturn there are many opportunities to rebound in the area.”

Charles expects an influx of investors should the economic challenges lessen. He says the  ICT sector is a high yielding area in which people can turn around their investments rather quickly. He further noted that small businesses stand to gain tremendously from a spike in investment.

Other activities in St. Kitts and Nevis included two Youth Symposia on Information and Communications Technology which were held simultaneously at the Nevis Cooperative Credit Union and at the National ICT Centre in St. Kitts.

The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications authority is now finalizing plans for a ceremony in November to honour individuals from Dominica for their sterling contribution to the liberalization of telecommunications and the establishment of ECTEL. This will be the final ceremony for the year and follows four others, the most recent being in St. Kitts and Nevis. Charles says the Roseau event is shaping up to be grand. He states that like Grenada, where the series of awards ceremonies began earlier this year,  members of the ECTEL Board and Ministers for Telecommunications in participating Member States will be present, since there will be a meeting of the ECTEL Council. In addition there will be a national symposium in Dominica and prior to the event the ECTEL 10th Anniversary magazine will be launched.

Two youth symposiums were also part of the programme of activities in St. Kitts and Nevis, in observance of the tenth anniversary of the establishment of ECTEL.

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