BY GERARD BEST
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.