CARCIP

Grenada launches business grants for innovators and entrepreneurs

Government to host CARCIP Awareness Day

By Gerard Best

ST. GEORGES – Innovators and entrepreneurs in Grenada will soon benefit from a suite of new grant funding opportunities.

CARCIP Awareness Day is free to the public.
CARCIP Awareness Day is free to the public.

The Grenada Ministry of Communications, Works, Physical Development, Public Utilities, ICT and Community Development will launch the business grants and outline the application process at an event called CARCIP Awareness Day.

“Innovative firms and individual drive new products, processes and services that create growth and employment. Innovation boosts productivity, which is the key to faster economic growth and rising living standards,” said Alice Bain, who coordinates the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP) in Grenada.

The Grenada government, through CARCIP, has promoted collaboration between industry experts, the private sector and government to generate new opportunities for technology-enabled businesses. The CARCIP Awareness Day will reveal the various opportunities available under the program.

Held at the Grenada Trade Centre Annex on May 19, the event will start with an opening ceremony at 9.30 am, and continue with interactive sessions throughout the afternoon. A slate of technology experts will share perspectives on the potential of telecommunications technology to transform regional business, government and society.

“Technology is a cross-cutting sector and has implications for all individuals and businesses. The fact is that the Internet is growing rapidly and no one should be left behind,” Bain said.

The event is part of the wider ongoing effort by the Grenada government to support Internet-based economic growth, under the umbrella of CARCIP. The objective of CARCIP is to increase access to regional broadband networks and advance the development of an ICT-enabled services industry in the Caribbean Region.

Funded by the International Development Association of the World Bank and coordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, CARCIP seeks to help governments and private sector to harmonise the development of critical telecommunications infrastructure across three participating Eastern Caribbean countries—Grenada, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

CARCIP Awareness Day is free and open to the public.

CARCIP partners with College to Widen Internet Access in Saint Lucia

The Saint Lucia Ministry of Public Service, Information and Broadcasting is partnering with the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College to conduct a series of surveys, as part of an in-depth analysis of the nation’s urban and rural broadband Internet connectivity gaps.

The exercise is being rolled out in communities across the island, including Micoud, Soufriere, Vieux Fort and Castries. The surveys will reap insight into why some communities have little or no access to telephone, Internet and cable television networks. This kind of insight is needed to ensure that all Saint Lucians have the opportunity to benefit from the state’s ongoing investments in the modernisation of its telecommunications technologies.

Christopher Roberts, Coordinator, CARCIP Saint Lucia, with students from Sir Arthur Lewis Community College last week.
Christopher Roberts, Coordinator, CARCIP Saint Lucia, with students from Sir Arthur Lewis Community College last week.

The initiative forms part of the ministry’s ongoing Caribbean Regional Communication Infrastructure Program (CARCIP), which aims to widen citizens’ access to regional broadband networks, in order to encourage local technology-enabled service industries.

CARCIP Saint Lucia is part of a wider regional program funded by the International Development Association of the World Bank and coordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. At the regional level, CARCIP seeks to help governments and private sector to harmonise the development of critical telecommunications infrastructure across three participating Eastern Caribbean countries—Saint Lucia, Grenada, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The three countries recently signed a joint contract with US-based consultancy Decision Analysis to upgrade their broadband Internet networks. The broadband assessment surveys are part of the first phase of that consultancy.

On March 25, the process started in earnest when the CARCIP Saint Lucia team and the Decision Analysis consultants met with students and faculty members of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College to orient them on how to set up and conduct focus groups to gather qualitative, quantitative, and demographic data on connectivity gaps across the country.

The surveys will help the consultants to measure network capacity requirements in markets where there is no history of demand, and to determine market needs and preferences where there is no available market history. The process will continue into April 2015.

More information is available on the official CARCIP Saint Lucia website www.carcip.govt.lc.

Creating Caribbean futures: Why data infrastructure upgrades are the next step in regional evolution

Many Caribbean livelihoods are made and lost around seasonal fluctuations in foreigners’ travel. For much of the region, tourism, an all-too-inefficient form of intraregional human traffic, is economic lifeblood. But for one group of Caribbean islands, a different kind of traffic is generating a new model for intraregional economic partnership.

Internet traffic—data packets that move across telecommunications networks—is opening new economic possibilities to countries with a historical dependence on tourism. The governments of Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines are now working together to update their on-island Internet infrastructure, as part of a wider project to upgrade the data networks across the region.

Junior Mc Intyre, head of Caribbean Telecommunications Union's Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program coordination unit, addresses regional tech experts during CaribNOG 8, Hilton Curacao, Willemstad, October 1. PHOTO: GERARD BEST
Junior Mc Intyre, head of Caribbean Telecommunications Union’s Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program coordination unit, addresses regional tech experts during CaribNOG 8, Hilton Curacao, Willemstad, October 1. PHOTO: GERARD BEST

The Caribbean Telecommunications Union has been tasked with stewardship of the project, called CARCIP, the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program. Funded by a US$25 million-dollar allocation from the World Bank, the project has had some success in reducing the gaps in regional broadband connectivity, in order to fostering technology-based innovation.

“We have reached a considerable way towards identifying the countries’ infrastructure gaps and providing technical recommendations to address them,” said Junior Mc Intyre, head of the CTU project team.

“And we have already started the development of business incubators, skills development and certification programmes.”

Mc Intyre was addressing an audience of 100-plus regional technology experts participating in the eighth regional gathering of the Caribbean Network Operators Group, known as CaribNOG. The weeklong conference dedicated an entire day, aptly called CARCIP Day, to technical talks on strengthening and improving regional Internet infrastructure.

Christopher Roberts, CARCIP country coordinator in St Lucia, delivered the day’s opening presentation, explaining the benefits of one of the main infrastructure upgrades being implemented across the region—the Internet exchange point, known more commonly as an IXP.

The primary role of an IXP is to keep local Internet traffic local and to reduce costs associated with traffic exchanged between ISPs, Roberts said. He explained that an IXP is a facility where networks interconnect, facilitating the exchange of Internet traffic between Internet service providers.

St Lucia is the latest of eight countries to establish an IXP in the region. CARCIP coordinators Roxanne John (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and Alice Bain (Grenada) confirmed that their countries were also actively working on fully realising the benefits of IXP deployment at the national level.

Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist with Packet Clearing House, said, “Globally, IXPs have been shown to improve quality of service to Internet subscribers by improving bandwidth, keeping local content local, reducing the operational cost for local data, building local economy by generating local content, encouraging entrepreneurship activity, and supporting other services such as e-government, e-learning, tax filing, multi-purpose identification cards, procurement.”

Simon Alexander, information technology manager of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), said, “The CARCIP Day forum has allowed us to have targeted discussions focusing on both the strengths and the weaknesses of sub-regional infrastructure development. The interactions are already having significant impact which could only redound to the region’s benefit.”

In a post-session interview, Claire Craig, doctoral researcher at The University of the West Indies, said, “Issues of access and connectivity are already dominating the Caribbean conversation about development. There will be a growing demand for access and connectivity caused by the increase in the percentage of Caribbean people using the Internet. This trend is already well documented in ITU Statistics 2014. The implementation of IXPs will address this problem and drive regional development.”
The theme of infrastructure development ran through the entire day. In a subsequent session, Nico Scheper, manager of Curacao-based Internet exchange AMS-IX Caribbean, walked participants through the range of services and business opportunities that it offered.

Arturo Servin, Google, gave an insider’s perspective on how Internet service providers in the Caribbean could use peering agreements to give their subscribers faster access to content from popular sites like Facebook or bandwidth-intensive services like Youtube or Netflix.

Carlos Martinez, chief technology officer of the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC), demonstrated how Caribbean Internet service providers and other network operators could use palm-sized devices distributed by European Internet registry RIPE-NCC to monitor and report on the efficiency of their Internet traffic routes.

Over five days, conference sessions cover a range of technology topics including cyber security, cloud computing and mobile broadband.
Co-sponsored by “LACNIC in the Caribbean 6”, an outreach initiative of the South America-based region Internet registry, the meeting brought together representatives from several international multi-stakeholder organisations such as ICANN, ARIN, ISOC, which facilitate collaborative decision-making in the public interest.
More information on CaribNOG 8-LACNIC Caribbean 6 is available at caribnog.org and lacnic.net/web/eventos/caribbean6.

CARCIP calls for greater Caribbean Innovation

Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist (left) and Dr Farid Youssef, neuroscience expert based at The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, facilitate an open session at the Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme innovation workshop, Bay Gardens Resort, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia on February 4th. PHOTO: GERARD BEST
Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist (left) and Dr Farid Youssef, neuroscience expert based at The University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, facilitate an open session at the Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme innovation workshop, Bay Gardens Resort, Gros Islet, Saint Lucia on February 4th. PHOTO: GERARD BEST

Three Eastern Caribbean countries are benefitting from an infrastructure development thrust that could usher in a new era of technology-based innovation and entrepreneurship for the region.

The initiative is part of the World Bank-funded Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP), coordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). A series of workshops rolling out in Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenada are intended to ensure that citizens can take full advantage of the telecommunications infrastructure upgrades. The series aims to encourage greater innovation in the public and private sector across the region.

The inaugural workshop, which took place on February 10th and 11th at Gros Islet, Saint Lucia, brought together some of the region’s leading minds in the fields of entrepreneurship, information and communications technology, leadership development and innovation.

Hosted by the Saint Lucian Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting, the workshop set out to stimulate new approaches to national through the application of modern technology and new ways of thinking.

Bevil Wooding, one of the leading technology experts in the region and an Internet Strategist with US-based Packet Clearing House, delivered the keynote. In his wide-ranging address, Wooding highlighted the challenges behind the region’s chronic lack of innovation. But his emphasis was on solutions and opportunities.

“In reality, the potential exists today to overcome the many challenges in the region. What we face is more a challenge of leadership paradigm than of technical possibility.”

He added, “The opportunity before us is to define and articulate a clear set of actionable priorities. These must be based on our native strengths and shaped to match a properly
resourced vision for development.”

Building on Wooding’s address was Dr. Farid Youssef, a neuroscience expert from The University of the West Indies, St Augustine. His presentation focused on the brain science and psychology behind innovative thinking.

Citing a blend of recent academic research and familiar examples of great innovators, Dr. Youssef showed that meaningful change was not produced by spasms of creative genius, but came as the result of consistently applied effort. He called on educators and policy makers to change the common approaches to education development in the region. He described current practices as “outmoded”, “obsolete” and “damaging to creativity and innovation.”

“We’re talking about innovation, but are we prepared to put in the hard work required to produce meaningful change?” he asked.

Other workshop presenters included Shearvon Devenish, Information Systems Manager at Sugar Beach Resorts, Saint Lucia; Norman Gibson, an expert in science and technology
for rural development and environmental management in the Caribbean region; Dr. Cletus Bertin, Director of Public Sector Modernisation, Saint Lucia; and Ramesh Lalla, Director of National Entrepreneurship Development Company Ltd (NEDCO) in Trinidad and Tobago.

The CARCIP Innovation series rolls into Saint Vincent on February 26th and 27th, with a third installment scheduled for Grenada at the end of March 2014.

Saint Lucia to launch Internet Exchange Point

CASTRIES, St Lucia – Saint Lucia is planning to become the next Caribbean country to establish an Internet exchange point (IXP).
That timing seems appropriate. The launch of the Saint Lucia IXP, called SLiX, is being timed as part of Saint Lucia’s celebration of 35 years of independence. Internet traffic originating from one Saint Lucian Internet service providers (ISP) will now terminate on another local ISP’s network without having to go through lengthy, expensive, international routes.
“We are very proud as part of the CARCIP program to be the latest country in the English-speaking Caribbean to implement an exchange point,” said Christopher Roberts, CARCIP Coordinator in Saint Lucia.
The IXP is a critical component of telecommunications infrastructure that allows local Internet service providers to exchange locally-destined Internet traffic between their networks without cost, Roberts explained.

Bevil Wooding
Bevil Wooding

Bevil Wooding, an Internet Strategist and Caribbean Outreach Manager for US-based Packet Clearing House, is the key technical advisor for the initiative. He described Saint Lucia’s new IXP as “a significant step away from unnecessary dependence on foreign infrastructure and a movement toward new levels of technical independence.”
The net effect, he said, will be reduction in the time it takes for data to move between customers of the island’s various Internet service providers. This brings potentially higher connectivity speeds for local traffic and, ultimately, a better quality of service for Internet subscribers.
PCH is a globally recognised expert in the field of IXP implementation, having built or supported more than one third of the world’s 300-plus exchange points.
The establishment of Saint Lucia IXP is also expected to stimulate locally driven, Internet-based enterprise and innovation.
“The ultimate aim of CARCIP is to improve the efficiency of telecommunications infrastructure development not just in St Lucia but across the whole Caribbean. The lessons we learn in Saint Lucia will benefit the entire region,” said CTU Project Coordinator Junior McIntyre.
CARCIP addresses gaps in submarine cable infrastructure and landing stations, domestic backbone networks and national Internet exchange points (IXPs). The programme was allocated a total disbursement of US$25 million, including loans to the three countries and a grant to the CTU. Through CARCIP, the governments of the three countries have been working toward harmonising the development of their telecommunications infrastructure to maximise synergies and avoid inefficiencies.
Last September, PCH collaborated with the Saint Lucia-based CARCIP team, hosting workshops for stakeholders in Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Attending the workshops were representatives from Internet service providers, local content providers, academics, business leaders and government officials.