Bevil Wooding receives Caribbean American Heritage Award

By Gerard Best

Bevil M. Wooding

Long before Dr. Didacus Jules was Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, he’d already decided to get in touch with Bevil Wooding.

Jules, then the Registrar and CEO of the Caribbean Examinations Council, had read about Trinidad and Tobago-born Wooding’s appointment by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers as one of seven people entrusted with a special cryptographic smart card that holds part of a key used to generate the Domain Name Server Security Extensions (DNSSEC) protocol.

As head of the regional body that provides primary, secondary and post-secondary examination and education services, Jules was particularly interested in preparing Caribbean youth to make the most of emerging opportunities in the digital economy. He realised that Wooding was just the man for the job.

As it happened, their first meeting would be two months in the making. It was a chance encounter—they were seated side by side in business class on a five-hour Barbados-Denver flight—but they hit the ground running. Almost literally. Descending over Colorado, the two had already mapped out a full program of collaboration between CXC and Congress WBN, the Caribbean-birthed faith-based non-profit organisation with operations in more than 100 countries, of which Wooding serves as Chief Knowledge Officer.

Through Congress WBN, Wooding had already led computer skills training programs in the UK, US, Pacific Islands and throughout Africa. Within weeks, he was bringing a digital revolution to Caribbean education, planting the seeds for CXC’s Digital Media Syllabus and first digitally administered examination.

“Bevil’s contribution was invaluable in helping CXC move towards becoming what I call an IT Intelligent organisation, leveraging ICT for efficiency and cost effectiveness and changing the way in which we work,” Jules said.

“Three years later, when I left CXC to become the Director General of the OECS, one of my first appointments was to make him the Advisor for Strategic ICT to the Director General. It was and is a non-remunerated position, and Bevil has made an incalculable contribution to the elaboration of a strategic ICT masterplan to undergird the deepening of integration of the ten member-states of the OECS.”

A leading voice for the use of technology as a tool for economic growth and social change, Wooding works to bring change to many other regional governments and institutions, including CARICOM’s Human Resource Development Commission and the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Sir Dennis Byron, President of the Court, also described the “transformative” impact of Wooding’s work.

“I had been discussing various aspects of the development of indigenous technological solutions to improve aspects of justice delivery in the region, when Dr. Didacus Jules suggested that I contact Bevil Wooding. Bevil responded immediately to my request to meet him and from the first engagement was completely aligned to the vision and was full of ideas on how to achieve meaningful solutions,” Byron said.

In 2016, Wooding’s work with the CCJ led to the creation of APEX, the region’s first agency focused on technology solutions to strengthen the administration of justice in the Caribbean.

Dr. Noel Woodroffe, President and Founder of Congress WBN, said Wooding “is the quintessential Caribbean man.”

“He has travelled the Caribbean speaking with government ministers, leaders of society, leaders of religions, talking to educators and to young people all across our islands, touting the benefits of a connected Caribbean, of a world enjoying the benefits of Internet technology. For Bevil, it’s not just about the technology, it’s about the advancement of human life and the power of technology to cause benefit to human life in the region we call home,” Woodroffe said.

Wooding serves as Caribbean Outreach Manager for the American Registry for Internet Numbers, and as a Strategic Advisor for the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU, described her camaraderie with Wooding as a longstanding cooperative partnership between “committed collaborators.”

“I first met Bevil on October 21, 2008 at about 10.30 in the morning in the general conference of ministers of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union at the Hilton, Port of Spain. In all the time that I have known him, I have seen consistently that Bevil has a heart for people. He seeks to help people help themselves, and consequently at the professional level we have been firm supporters of each other’s work,” she said.

Ronald Hinds, who started Trinidad-based software development firm Teleios Systems Limited with Kevin Khelawan and Wooding in 1997, described his co-founder as “a champion of technologies that have the power to empower the voiceless and the invisible.”

He added, “Many hearing or reading of Bevil’s contribution in the field of technology might be tempted to think that it’s about the bits and bytes. But it has always been about providing opportunities to use the emerging and available technologies to open entirely new doors.”

Throughout the Caribbean, Wooding has harnessed the Internet as a catalyst for development, earning himself a reputation as a change-agent. Shernon Osepa, Manager of Regional Affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Internet Society, described him as “a visionary who believes that the Caribbean Economy can be enhanced through ICTs and Internet development.”

As an Internet Strategist for the US-based non-profit research firm Packet Clearing House, Wooding has also played an important role in establishing Internet exchanges in Barbados, Belize, BVI, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Bill Woodcock, Executive Director of Packet Clearing House and member of the ARIN Board of Trustees, said Wooding’s leadership is “inspirational” and that his work has “brought lasting benefits to the Caribbean.”

“Bevil has made Internet connectivity something that Caribbean people create locally in domestic Internet exchanges, rather than being entirely dependent on imported bandwidth, as they were before he began this work.  He organised the Caribbean Network Operators Group, the Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum and many subsequent ongoing fora for the Caribbean’s twenty-first century leaders to convene and discuss their strategies for the future,” he said.

Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro, member of the Multistakeholder Advisory Group to the United Nations Secretary General, was impressed with Wooding’s work in the Caribbean and invited him in 2011 to the Pacific to address a group of executive managers of Internet Exchanges, drawn from government and the private sector.

“While on that visit, Mr. Wooding also helped launch the first event for girls and women in ICT in the Pacific, and hosted the first mobile apps development workshop for youth in the Pacific,” she recalled.

Others have praised Wooding for his role in supporting cybersecurity and strengthening Internet governance in the region. Accolades like the University of the West Indies 50th Anniversary Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011 and the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 point to the impact of his work.

On November 17, Wooding will be honoured at the 24th annual Caribbean American Heritage Awards. The awards celebrate achievements of people of Caribbean descent who have made outstanding contributions to their fields of expertise.

“Mr. Bevil Wooding is a virtual technology ambassador, evangelist and pioneer and we are honoured to present him with this year’s Caribbean American Heritage Award,” said Dr. Claire Nelson, Founder and President of Institute of Caribbean Studies.

“Mr. Wooding demonstrates the region’s capacity to innovate and create world-class thought leaders in any arena, and we hope people throughout the Caribbean can be moved and inspired by his accomplishments and devotion to making technology accessible to all,” she added.

Wooding will receive the award at a formal ceremony in Washington DC. The ceremony will also honour Dr. Glendon Archer, Dr. Clive Callender, Jennifer Carroll, Nneka Norville, Dr. Henry Lowe and Karl Racine.

Part of the proceeds will go to victims affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean.

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.