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Internet Exchange Points Critical to the Caribbean Digital Economy

Mark Vanterpool, Vice-president of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and Minister of Communications and Works, Government of the British Virgin Islands.
Mark Vanterpool, Vice-president of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and Minister of Communications and Works, Government of the British Virgin Islands.

Caribbean nations need to strengthen their Internet infrastructure if the region is to take full advantage of the global digital economy.

This was the view expressed by Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) vice president Mark Vanterpool, speaking at the official launch of CTU’s ICT Week on the 29th September 2015 in Tortola, British Virgin Islands (BVI).

Vanterpool, the Minister for Communications and Works in the BVI, used his country as an example of the benefits of investing in Internet infrastructure. He singled out the role of the local Internet exchange points, commonly called IXPs, as one of the key enablers of the Caribbean digital economy.

He explained that local IXPs reduce costs and increase efficiency by allowing networks to interconnect directly to exchange Internet traffic, rather than having to connect through third-party networks.

“Here in the Virgin Islands, we understood the importance of establishing a local IXP, and today we are happy to say that we have benefitted from having one of the very first IXPs established in the region. This was implemented with significant support from the CTU, to whom we remain grateful,” Vanterpool said.

The BVI’s IXP was established in June 2011 with technical and policy assistance from the CTU and Packet Clearing House (PCH), a US-based non-profit organization responsible for support for critical Internet infrastructure globally.

Vanterpool noted that while the full potential of the BVI’s IXP is yet to be unleashed locally, other countries throughout the region should take steps to adopt their own local IXPs.

“More has to be done to realize the full benefits of this development. Accordingly, I would like to see more emphasis toward adding value to our IXP, by exploring opportunities for data centres, data storage and local content.”

“I urge my fellow member states in the CTU to also implement a national IXP which, when joined with the other IXPs in the region, will be a powerful catalyst for regional growth and development,” the minister added.

Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist and Caribbean Outreach Manager for PCH, confirmed that the BVI was the first country in the English-speaking Caribbean to establish a local IXP.

“Packet Clearing House is working closely with the CTU and its member states to strengthen existing exchange points in the region,” Wooding said. “PCH is also collaborating with the CTU and the Caribbean Network Operators Group to support development of new IXPs and strengthening of technical capacity across the region.”

Open Data Key to Driving Digital Innovation in the Caribbean

By Gerard Best

Open data advocate Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, Packet Clearing House, presents at Caribbean Telecommunications Union Ministerial Briefing Seminar in Tortola, BVI on September 30, 2015.
Open data advocate Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, Packet Clearing House, presents at Caribbean Telecommunications Union Ministerial Briefing Seminar in Tortola, BVI on September 30, 2015.

TORTOLA, BVI – Across the Caribbean, governments are moving their essential services to digital platforms and generating more data than ever. Yet, much valuable public information remains locked away in proprietary systems, beyond the reach of Caribbean innovators and end users. A growing number of open data initiatives aim to change this, but it won’t be easy.
“The Caribbean can benefit tremendously from open data as part of its development agenda,” said Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, in a presentation on Open Data at the 13th Strategic ICT Seminar of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union held in Tortola, British Virgin Islands on 30th September 2015.
His call to make more government data available was timely, as he addressed an audience that included several government ministers and officials from across the region. Extracting maximum value from data is increasingly becoming a base-level requirement, as governments aim to measure progress and demonstrate achievements.
“Transparency, openness and accountability are three of the main benefits of open data,” Wooding pointed out. “However, there are also significant social and economic benefits that can be derived from the development of new applications and services based on open data.”
The Seminar was also addressed by Anat Lewin, an ICT Policy Specialist with the World Bank. Lewin shared on the work of the Bank in open data projects in the Caribbean, including Open Data Readiness Assessments in Antigua & Barbuda, Jamaica and St Lucia. She also announced that the Bank is supporting development of online open data portals in Jamaica and St Lucia.
In an interview following his presentation, Wooding noted that governments play a key role in collecting and disseminating data, but he said some are more open and effective than others.
“Open government is about more than a simple commitment to share data. It’s also about supporting a larger ecosystem for using data and spurring innovative new applications of data by tapping into creativity and resources that are not available within any single organisation.”
The process of making government more open, he said, is not an easy one, as it involves confronting tough questions, and unlocking entrenched mindsets concerning exactly what data should be open to the public.
“Governments are wrestling with the dilemma between promoting open data on one hand and maintaining data sovereignty and control on the other,” he said.
“The challenge has always been about where to strike a balance between the openness and information control.”
Privacy concerns are one of the most common obstacles faced by open data advocates. Even as the open data movement gains strength, difficult questions remain about how to protect information about private citizens. Without proper controls, such information could be used to shame, discriminate or cause other undesirable outcomes.
“In some countries, there’s simply not much data to share anyway,” Wooding said. “Data gaps are particularly acute in emerging markets that lack technology-powered systems, active research communities and strong institutional frameworks for data collection. Other countries have plenty of data, but don’t have tools, protocols or leadership motivation for using data effectively and ethically.”
To overcome these challenges, a growing array of stakeholders—including tech innovators, research institutions, governments, civil society, academia and individuals—are banding together to develop new models to promote and leverage open data. Theirs is a difficult but necessary struggle for the greater good of the region.

OECS partners with CTU to promote ICT-Development in Eastern Caribbean

Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS Commission, with Nigel Cassimire, acting Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the OECS and the CTU in Tortola, BVI on September 30, 2015.
Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS Commission, with Nigel Cassimire, acting Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, at the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the OECS and the CTU in Tortola, BVI on September 30, 2015.

TORTOLA, BVI – An agreement between the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) promises to deepen collaboration between the institutions in leveraging information and communications technology to support development in the sub-region.
Speaking at the signing ceremony in Tortola, British Virgin Islands on September 30, representatives from both organizations expressed confidence that the formalization of their collaborative relationship would redound to the benefit of their member states.

“This agreement will allow us to converge our efforts and expertise and multiply the output of our shared objectives,” said Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the OECS Commission.

“The CTU has an unrivaled track record as an actioned-oriented organization and as the region’s premiere telecommunications body. We are looking forward to collaborating more closely with them to develop strategies and practical initiatives to promote the interest and advancement of OECS member states through the effective use of information and communication technologies (ICT),” Jules added.

Nigel Cassimire, speaking on behalf of the CTU Secretary General, Bernadette Lewis stated “The CTU has a long history of supporting the sub-region in areas that include telecommunications policy formulation, spectrum management, internet exchange point proliferation, technical capacity building and public education on the development opportunities ICTs presents. We fully expect our work in the sub-region to be strengthened by this agreement.”

The OECS is an international treaty organisation whose membership comprises Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and Martinique are associate members of the OECS.

The CTU is an inter-governmental organization, established by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads, with a mandate to facilitate development and the formulation of policies for the region’s information and communication technologies (ICT) sector. It has twenty regional state members, including all the OECS countries, as well as private sector and civil society members.

Barbados Elected New President of the CTU

Newly appointed CTU President Darcy Boyce, left, and Vice President Mark Vanterpool at the 18th General Conference of Ministers Meeting held in Tortola, British Virgin Islands on 29th September, 2015.
Newly appointed CTU President Darcy Boyce, left, and Vice President Mark Vanterpool at the 18th General Conference of Ministers Meeting held in Tortola, British Virgin Islands on 29th September, 2015.

The Caribbean Telecommunications Union has elected Barbados, represented by the Hon. Darcy Boyce, as its new President.

Boyce, who serves as Minister in the Government of Barbados with responsibility for Energy, Telecommunications, Immigration and Investment, was elected by unanimous vote at the 18th General Conference of Ministers Meeting held in Tortola, British Virgin Islands on 29th September 2015. The BVI, represented by Minister for Communications and Works, Hon. Mark Vanterpool, was appointed Vice President, also by unanimous vote.

On the previous day, 28th September, new appointments were also announced for the positions of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the CTU’s Executive Council following elections conducted as part of the 31st Executive Council Meeting also held in the BVI. St. Lucia, represented by Mr. Philip Dalsou, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Information and Broadcasting, was elected as Chairman, with the BVI, represented by Mr. Anthony Mc Master, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications and Works as Vice-Chairman.

The outgoing CTU president Hon. Philip Paulwell, Minister of Science and Energy of Jamaica wished his successor well. The CTU ministers also thanked Mr. Reginald Bourne of Barbados, outgoing chair of the Executive Council for his contribution to the organization.

The appointments came as part of a series of high-level meetings, dubbed “ICT Week”, hosted by the BVI Government and the CTU from September 28 to October 1.

Activities included the meetings of the CTU’s Executive Council and General Conference of Ministers, a strategic ICT seminar, and the second annual Caribbean Regulators’ Forum.

IATA Interested in SXM Aviation Training Academy

SIMPSON BAY, St. Maarten — The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is showing keen interest in partnering with the Princess Juliana International Airport, SXM, with its Aviation Training Academy. This was revealed at a recent meeting held between a delegation of SXM led by managing director Regina LaBega and representatives of IATA’s Training and Development Institute (ITDI) upon the latter’s invitation, at their regional office in Miami.
ITDI expressed great interest in exploring SXM’s needs, but more importantly wanted to determine how it could be part of SXM aviation training plans through a possible partnership. ITDI offers training in all areas related to the aviation industry except for the training of pilots.

L-R: Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director, Suzy Kartokromo, SXM Acting Manager, Customer Service Department, Gurjit Gill, Manager, Training Partners and Business Development, Theresa Light,  Manager, Regional Training Center The Americas  (both of ITDI), and Lionel van der Walt, IATA Area Manager for the Caribbean. (SXM photo)
L-R: Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director, Suzy Kartokromo, SXM Acting Manager, Customer Service Department, Gurjit Gill, Manager, Training Partners and Business Development, Theresa Light, Manager, Regional Training Center The Americas (both of ITDI), and Lionel van der Walt, IATA Area Manager for the Caribbean. (SXM photo)

According to LaBega, SXM Airport is interested in identifying training areas that would set it aside from the rest of the pack. The discussions therefore focused primarily on the excellent opportunity that presents itself due to the fact that the entire region is in need of an aviation training academy, especially in filling the void in training for the French Caribbean.
“As a multi-lingual destination, SXM can fill this void,” LaBega said.
The possible partnership with IATA in establishing the Aviation Training Academy would result in SXM Airport being fully endorsed by IATA and Airport Council International (ACI) as an IATA Regional Training Host. This in turn would mean that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) would certify SXM Aviation Training Academy.
As an IATA Regional Training Host, the SXM Aviation Training Academy would be authorized to host IATA classroom courses on its premises, and thus be included in the global IATA classroom schedule.
The Academy would also create high-skilled jobs for potential trainers and enhance business in a number of sectors, such as accommodation, car rentals, restaurants, supermarkets, etc. It would similarly attract business from the region, as trainees from all across the Caribbean would be able to make use of it.
“Some European countries have also indicated that they would consider training their staff at our Academy when established instead of having to do so in Miami and other areas that may be more expensive,” LaBega disclosed.
For all of this to happen, however, support and cooperation from the Civil Aviation Authority of St. Maarten would be critical, as would be the full cooperation of government.
“St. Maarten’s Civil Aviation Authority are completely on board with regards to this plan,” LaBega said.
ITDI, in its vision of becoming the global aviation-training provider of choice, offers top quality training solutions to aviation and travel professionals worldwide. Its approach is to offer practical and relevant training for professional development in areas such as Air Navigation Services, Ground Operations, Airport Planning, Management and Operations, Cargo, Safety, Dangerous Goods Regulations, and Aviation Law amongst others.
With over 430 Global Training Partners in over 90 countries, ITDI has trained more than 95,000 students through its highly sought after Classroom, Distance Learning, Virtual Classroom and Online training courses.

Photo caption:
L-R: Regina LaBega, SXM Managing Director, Suzy Kartokromo, SXM Acting Manager, Customer Service Department, Gurjit Gill, Manager, Training Partners and Business Development, Theresa Light, Manager, Regional Training Center The Americas (both of ITDI), and Lionel van der Walt, IATA Area Manager for the Caribbean. (SXM photo)