Gerard Best

Internet Week Guyana Advances Caribbean Tech Development Agenda

BY GERARD BEST

Organizers of Internet Week Guyana, representing the government of Guyana, regional and international Internet development bodies, take a photo call at the fifteenth meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), held at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana, on October 11, as part of the Internet Week Guyana. PHOTO COURTESY CaribNOG.
A cross-section of Guyanese secondary school students participate in the Caribbean Telecommunications Union’s Youth ICT Day, held at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown, Guyana, on October 13, as part of the Internet Week Guyana. PHOTO COURTESY CaribNOG.

Around the world, the growing sophistication of cyber criminals is challenging the capacity of governments, businesses and individuals to defend themselves.

Within the Caribbean, governments are forging strategic partnerships with regional actors like the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), the region’s largest volunteer-based community of network engineers, computer security experts and tech aficionados.

Recently, CaribNOG and the CTU collaborated with the Government of Guyana and other Internet organisations to host the inaugural Internet Week Guyana. International collaborators included the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC).

The five-day conference focused on building human resource capacity in cyber security and other key technology-related areas.

“The government of Guyana has been investing heavily in education and capacity building programs over the past two years. The idea of Internet Week Guyana came as a result of our collaborations with regional and international NGOs involved in the technology education space. And our collaboration bore fruit from the first day of Internet Week Guyana to the last,” said Catherine Hughes, Minister of Public Telecommunications, and host of the pioneering event.

The event attracted more than 400 participants, including public and private sector officials, telecommunications and computer networking specialists, entrepreneurs, and secondary school students.

“Private sector leaders, law enforcement and judicial offers, academia and civil society all have a collective responsibility to ensure that citizens, businesses and governments are safer and more secure in the digital age,” said Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Manager at ARIN, and one of the co-organisers of the event.

“We encourage Caribbean governments to develop legislative agendas and increase intra-regional cooperation, in order to strengthen the region’s overall cyber security capability,” said Kevon Swift, Head of Strategic Relations and Integration at LACNIC, another coordinator for the event.

Throughout the week, representatives from participating organisations demonstrated practical ways in which stakeholders could work together to strengthen and secure Caribbean networks.

Stephen Lee, a CaribNOG co-founder, translated global cybersecurity issues into Caribbean priorities, outlining some of the challenges and opportunities of special relevance to the region.

Albert Daniels, Senior Manager for Stakeholder Engagement in the Caribbean at ICANN, outlined that organisation’s work in supporting secure network deployments around the world.

Shernon Osepa, Manager, Regional Affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society, took the occasion to formally launch the Internet Society Guyana Chapter, with Nancy Quiros, Manager of Chapter Development in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society. Lance Hinds, Special Advisor to the Minister of Public Telecommunications, is serving as the chapter’s Interim President.

But the exclamation mark on the weeklong event was undoubtedly a gathering of young people, hosted by the CTU, on the conference’s closing day. About 300 students representing secondary schools from across the country took part in the all-day agenda. Educational videos, interactive presentations and lively Q&A sessions all helped bring new awareness to cyber-safety and cyber security for youth.

“The CTU continues to support the development of the Information and Communication Technologies sector in the region, including an emphasis on harnessing the potential of the youth,” said Michelle Garcia, Communications Specialist at the CTU.

Following the meeting there were several calls for Internet Week Guyana to be made a fixture on the country’s event calendar. Now the real work continues, to convert the high interest in the meeting into tangible national benefit.

Building the Caribbean Internet Economy

By Gerard Best

Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, Packet Clearing House, delivers a presentation on developing the Caribbean Internet economy at Internet Week Sint Maarten, held at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten on October 27, 2016. PHOTO: LACNIC
Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist, Packet Clearing House, delivers a presentation on developing the Caribbean Internet economy at Internet Week Sint Maarten, held at Sonesta Great Bay Resort, Philipsburg, Sint Maarten on October 27, 2016. PHOTO: LACNIC

PHILIPSBURG, St Maarten—In the Caribbean, change is in the air. In fact, it’s in the cloud.

There’s a new conversation among the community of technology experts who spearhead Caribbean Internet development, and the buzz is no longer just about physical infrastructure. The architects of the region’s digital future are actively taking steps to strengthen the region’s economy by developing the Caribbean cloud.

“We have to look beyond basic infrastructure deployment, to developing the local content, services and business models that can truly benefit the region,” said Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist with US-based non-profit Packet Clearing House (PCH).

“Twelve Internet exchange points are already established in the Caribbean, and several others are being considered. While we continue to push for strengthening of critical Internet infrastructure in the region, our focus must also expand to development of the Caribbean Internet-based economy. We need to build out the Caribbean cloud,” he said.

Internet exchange points, or IXPs, are pieces of critical infrastructure that provide points of physical interconnection between the networks that make up the global Internet. PCH has played an active role in setting up more than two-thirds of the world’s IXPs and almost all of the exchange points in the Caribbean. The non-profit firm has worked closely with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, an inter-governmental CARICOM organisation that focuses on regional technology policy. Together, they have actively supported the proliferation of Internet exchanges in the Caribbean.

While establishing physical exchange points is necessary, it is not sufficient to advance the regional Internet economy, Wooding said. Another crucial step is needed.

“Getting the exchange points up and running is a start. But there has to be a shift in the conversation, from local traffic exchange to local content production, local application development and local innovation. What we want to see is not just more people on the Internet but more people actually taking advantage of the social and economic opportunities the Internet offers,” Wooding said.

“The private sector, academia and governments all have to work in sync to create opportunities for digital innovators and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the Internet and build on the local IXPs that now exist. We have to actively build the Caribbean cloud.”

Wooding was speaking as part of a panel discussion on developing the Caribbean Internet economy, held on the first day of Sint Maarten on the Move, a regional technology development conference jointly hosted by the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry and the Internet Society (ISOC) in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten from October 27 to 28.

He co-presented with Eldert Louisa, chairman of the Open Caribbean Internet Exchange and Chief Technical Officer of Sint Maarten telecom operator TelEm Group. Karen Rose, Senior Director of Strategy and Analysis at ISOC, moderated the panel.

Sint Maarten on the Move was part of Internet Week Sint Maarten, a five-day conference coordinated by the St Maarten telecommunications regulator, BTP, and focused on developing the Caribbean Internet.

The week started with the twelfth regional meeting of the Caribbean Network Operators Group, which was jointly held with the LAC-I-Roadshow of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, from October 24 to 26. A broad range of technical, social and policy issues related to Caribbean technology development were covered in the three-day event, held with the support of the CTU, the American Registry of Internet Numbers and ArkiTechs.

Bright Future for Dominica Mobile Apps

Written by Gerard BestBrightPath Founder Bevil Wooding Addresses Dominica Mobile App Workshop Participants

More than 60 young people from Dominica launched software applications delivering local content for government services, community news and agriculture alerts, as part of a historic Mobile App Development workshop in the island’s capital city, Roseau.

The Dominica National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) sponsored the one-week event, which closed on August 24. It was facilitated by the international non-profit organization BrightPath Foundation, and hosted by the Dominica State College.

Local organizer for the weeklong event and Executive Director of the NTRC, Craig Nesty, said the workshop exceed his expectations.

“This was a truly inspirational and rewarding experience for everyone. The resounding success of this initiative presents a world of opportunities for youth in Dominica and, I believe, throughout the Caribbean.”

The NTRC, which is responsible for the regulation and development of the telecommunications market in Dominica, views the development of local applications for local mobile users as vital to the development of the local telecommunications sector.

“The expert presenters from BrightPath Foundation and the team at the Dominica State College had laid a solid platform for us to build on. We are already in talks with both organizations to continue this program and to extend its reach,” Nesty said.

Workshop participants interacted with industry practitioners and real-world innovators. The BrightPath approach deemphasized the technical aspects of mobile app creation and instead blended technical learning with a heavy emphasis on life skills and essential values of social responsibility.

One attendee, Hallie Bruney, a student at the State College, described the experience as life changing.

“I never really saw myself as a software developer. But now I know that I definitely contributed to creating local content and building the local mobile ecosystem,” adding with a grin, “I only just learned those terms, but I understand what they mean to me!”

BrightPath uses the appeal of mobile apps to draw out participants’ talent and creativity. Participants, most of whom had little or no development experience, formed mock companies, pitched their app ideas, and then broke into small groups comprised of content teams, developers and designers to develop their apps.

Veronne Nicholas, a lecturer at the Dominica State College, was appointed CEO of one of the mock companies, DTrips. Nicholas’ team pitched a mobile app that would capture news and events from around the island.

“I was very impressed with the emphasis that was placed on the value of local content, and the importance of teamwork to create solutions with local and global appeal. The enthusiasm and engagement of the participants was sustained from start to finish. We definitely need more programs like this in Dominica,” she said.

Bevil Wooding, founder and Executive Director of BrightPath Foundation, was responsible for the program design. His organization has run similar programs across the Caribbean but he described the Dominica workshop as “particularly special”.

“I was very impressed with the high levels of collaboration on display throughout this event. In particular, I was pleased to see the determination and perseverance of the young men and women to complete the challenge to produce local apps in such a short timeframe,” he said.

Participants developed three mobile apps from initial concept to software coding and launch. The mobile apps, Crop Circles, Ask Me and DTrips, were designed to address specific local needs. The apps were launched at the end of the workshop and will be made freely available on Android devices via the Google Play store.

The Dominica NTRC has committed to following up on the success of the BrightPath Mobile App Development Workshop by providing support for the participants to continue building their app ideas.