Google, Netflix to join Caribbean Internet providers for CarPIF

By Gerard Best

If you live in the Caribbean, you don’t need to be a computer expert to know that the region’s Internet services need to improve.
If your connection falters so often that you’ve long since stopped calling customer service for redress, then you’ve got a pretty good idea about the challenges of regional connectivity.
Or if you’ve ever tried to launch a web-based startup, but have found yourself at a competitive disadvantage simply because download or upload speeds aren’t cutting it, then you have already have a decent understanding of why the region needs more robust Internet infrastructure.
No further expertise needed.
Of course, fixing the underlying issues that cause those problems is another matter, requiring technical expertise, commerce negotiations and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned collaboration.
That’s precisely the mission of the Bevil Wooding, Shernon Osepa and a volunteer group of Caribbean Internet experts going by the name CaribNOG. They are behind the upcoming Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum (CarPIF) to be held in Barbados from May 27 to 28.
The event is being organised by the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), with support from Packet Clearing House (PCH), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). It will bring together high-level Internet industry players from across the region and around the world.
It marks the first time that Caribbean Internet service providers and major international content providers such as Google, Akamai and Netflix, will be gathering in the Caribbean for this kind of interaction, said Wooding, Internet Strategist with PCH.
“Internet Peering fora are commonplace in other regions of the world. They are used to bring Internet service providers and content providers from across the spectrum of the Internet ecosystem into one space to build relationships, broker agreements and discuss matters related to the development and strengthening of the peering relationships that underpin the Internet,” Wooding told the Guardian.
As an outcome of the upcoming CarPIF, regional consumers can look forward to a more stable, resilient, efficient Caribbean Internet, he said.

Growing Caribbean Internet economy
Shernon Osepa, Manager, Regional Affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean at ISOC, said “the forum is a testament to the growth and maturity that has taken place in the Caribbean Internet landscape over the past few years.”
He explained that the meeting will address “strategies for encouraging and increasing local digital content development, and opportunities for content delivery network operators in the Caribbean.”
Internet exchange point (IXP) operators, infrastructure providers, Internet service providers (ISPs), policymakers and regulators make up the list of registered attendees for the event. The wide range of participants will gain valuable insight into “how the Caribbean can maximise the opportunities that can be derived for greater interconnection and peering,” said Bernadette Lewis, secretary general of the CTU.
That organisation has been playing a major role in bringing regional governments into a greater appreciation of the value of creating a healthy regional Internet ecosystem. Strengthening the region’s critical Internet infrastructure is now widely understood to be a necessary first step to strengthening its Internet economy, as online commerce remains a largely underexploited way for local businesses to deliver local services for local Internet users.

St Lucia leads off Caribbean innovation workshops

Boosting regional resourcefulness
By Gerard Best

Christopher Roberts, St Lucia coordinator of the Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme (CARCIP), delivers a presentation at the first ICT-Led Innovation Workshop in Castries, St Lucia on February 10, 2014. Photo courtesy: Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting, St Lucia.
Christopher Roberts, St Lucia coordinator of the Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme (CARCIP), delivers a presentation at the first ICT-Led Innovation Workshop in Castries, St Lucia on February 10, 2014. Photo courtesy: Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting, St Lucia.

CASTRIES, St Lucia – Caribbean history is the picture of a region lacking in physical and financial resources, but constantly finding ways to confront those realities through human resourcefulness and ingenuity.

St Lucia, like many Caribbean islands, does not have a history of economic reliance on extractive industries based on the abundance of indigenous minerals. Instead, the country has relied on tourism-related service industries as a main pillar of its national economy.

But a new project from the Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting is encouraging non-traditional enterprise through sustainable innovation that incorporates new technology-driven approaches to business.

“Entrepreneurs need to eliminate the fear of failure and instead think of failure as a lesson in what not to do. Failure is not the end; it’s just another node on the learning curve,” said Christopher Roberts, St Lucia Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme (CARCIP) project coordinator, based in the Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting.

Roberts was delivering remarks at a workshop on technology-driven innovation, held in Bay Gardens Resort, Castries on February 10th and 11th. Like several other speakers, he underscored the difference between systemic, sustainable innovation and personal spasms of creativity.

“Innovation represents a change in thinking, not just the creation or development of a new goods or products,” he said.

The workshop brought together some of the region’s leading minds in the fields of entrepreneurship, information and communications technology, leadership

development and innovation. Keynotes were delivered by Bevil Wooding, an Internet Strategist with decades of experience bringing technology-driven approaches to Caribbean development, and Dr Farid Youssef, expert in neuroscience based in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago.

The two-day workshop will include presentations from: Norman Gibson, Innovation Specialist, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI); Ramesh Lalla, Director of the National Enterprise Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (NEDCO); Shearvon Devenish, Information Systems Manager, Sugar Beach Resorts; eMagine Solutions;  and Dr Cletus Bertin, Director of Public Service Modernisation, St Lucia.

The workshop is part of St Lucia’s deployment of CARCIP, which aims to harness the country’s innate creativity and stimulate a nationwide culture of innovation through the application of appropriate technology to real-world problems.

Funded by the World Bank, the US$25 million project includes loans to the three countries and a grant to the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), the Trinidad and Tobago-based organisation coordinating the project across the region.

The CTU met with government officials from the three countries and representatives from the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) in early February to share insights into how each country is tackling the region-wide challenge of developing its telecommunications infrastructure.

The ongoing series of workshops on technology-driven innovation bridges the gap between establishing critical Internet infrastructure and creating social impact in the countries of the region. The workshops will continue in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines over the next two months. Governments of the three countries have been working toward harmonising the development of their telecommunications infrastructure to maximise synergies and avoid inefficiencies.

Delivering opening remarks at the workshop, Junior McIntyre, CTU CARCIP Project Coordinator, recognised the efforts of Ministry officials behind the St Lucia project, including Minister James Fletcher, Permanent Secretary Phillip Dalsou and Dr Cletus Bertin.

CARCIP’s scope is comprehensive. The first phase focuses on gaps in submarine cable infrastructure and landing stations, domestic backbone networks and national Internet exchange points (IXPs). The project is now in its second phase, which focuses on building regional awareness among governments, private sector and civil society of the potential for innovative and effective use of technology.

CARCIP also seeks to identify opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship through the development of business incubators and technology centers in the Eastern Caribbean. But its ultimate aim is the whole sub-region.

“CARCIP will improve the efficiency of telecommunications infrastructure development across the entire Caribbean. The lessons we learn here in St Lucia will benefit the whole region,” said Junior McIntyre, CARCIP project coordinator for the CTU.