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CTU Ministerial Strategic Seminar: Forging Ahead to a Connected Caribbean – The Caribbean Through Global lens
Hamilton, Bermuda
28 February 2008

Remarks by ITU Secretary General Dr Hamadoun I. Touré

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I can say in all sincerity that I am pleased to have the honour of sharing my perspectives on ICT and Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean. This is not merely because it is being held in this beautiful Island well known for its spectacular 140 offshore coral islands – although I certainly appreciate it. But the thing that makes it more pleasurable a task is simply that you, who are all assembled here, share with me one great thing – the desire to leverage ICT for the sustainable development of SIDS.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In discussing SIDS: some see isolation; others see vulnerability to economic shocks, while others see a host of other impediments that lead to a natural marginalization of this group of countries. What do I see? I see potential and opportunity. The Caribbean region has demonstrated that small size needs not be a handicap. For instance, out of the world’s 35 SIDS, 16 of them are in the Caribbean but only one of them is a least developed country. The average teledensity and Internet penetration of most of the SIDS in the Caribbean are enviably high. Yet, a lot more could still be achieved.

Information and Communication Technologies serve as a bloodstream to socio-economic development as they permeate into every facet of human life and play a pivotal role in poverty reduction thus contributing to sustainable development through a bouquet of services and applications such as healthcare delivery, trade facilitation, environmental sensing and monitoring for disaster mitigation and relief,
E-governance, E-agriculture, distance education delivery, and knowledge dissemination.

If appropriate technologies are identified, and the right policies and strategies adopted, the deployment of technologies is in fact easier and faster in SIDS than elsewhere because of their small sizes and high demand for ICT services boosted in part by their attractiveness to foreign tourists who spend many hours making long distance calls and surfing the net. Leaving this region a bit, one is even more encouraged by the impressive Internet penetration rate and teledensities of SIDS in other regions such as the Maldives, Cape Verde, Tuvalu and others. They even surpass most non- small -Island States and non-LDCs.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For us to make progress, it is important that governments play a facilitative role by putting in place an appropriate policy and regulatory framework to stimulate competition in the ICT sector. This would be a good development because; it is often out of competition that the spirit to innovate is born.

Economic planners often argue that there are just not enough resources for financing ICT initiatives as there are more pressing needs. It must be recognized that development of the ICT Sector does not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive to the budgeting for other pressing needs. If anything, ICTs can play a catalytic role in attaining most of the important development targets.

How do we then proceed?
Countries should ordinarily initiate programmes and own them then invite partners to come and provide support for these initiatives. Following this, networking by partners is critical for these initiatives to succeed and should happen at various levels. First, it is required between those organizations that are involved in providing funding for ICT related projects so that resources can be pooled in order to maximize both resource allocation and utilization. Second, entities involved in implementing projects should ideally work together so as to ensure the interoperability of networks, services, and applications, avoidance of duplication of efforts, and establishment of some kind of synergy. This is important especially in this era of convergence where information technology meets telecommunications and broadcasting. Third, networking is essential among policy-making bodies that are essentially governments so as to attain policy harmonization at sub-regional, regional and international levels. I am glad to say that this seems to be the thinking in the Caribbean region. Our aim is to focus and develop differentiated solutions for countries and sub regions as one size fit all solutions will just not go far enough.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

ITU is active in making sure that ICT applications and services play a facilitating role towards:

  • the full attainment of the goals of the United Nations International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Progamme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States that was held in Port Louis, Mauritius from 10 to 14 January 2005 and adopted the Mauritius Declaration and Mauritius Strategy for the further implementation of the Programme of Action for the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States.
  • Attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
  • Meeting the targets drawn up by the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). Although the world leaders set 2015 as the target date for achieving the goals of the WSIS, among my colleagues, I have underscored the need for these targets to be met by 2012 so that all the other sectors of society are in a position to use ICT as a catalyst for meeting the MDGs.

The International Telecommunication Union, within the framework of carrying out its dual responsibility as a United Nations specialized agency and as an executing agency for implementing projects under the United Nations development system or other funding arrangements is fully committed to overcoming barriers to equitable universal access in SIDS and the rest of the world. The last World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-06) recognizing the specific needs of SIDS, adopted a dedicated Programme with the Telecommunication Development Bureau which will for the first time provided concentrated assistance to SIDS. Also, a new ITU-D Study Group 2 Questions on the Unique Needs of Small Island Developing States was recently adopted by the Telecommunication Development Advisory Group (TDAG). The Study Question will identify cost-effective telecommunication/ICT technologies, assist SIDS in there ongoing needs for development and maintenance of skills in the enabling telecommunication/ICT policy, regulatory, legal and operational environment to migrate to and manage new telecommunication/ICT technologies, networks and services through sub-regional, regional and international cooperation.

Excellencies,

I have always known that there is a strong political will in the Caribbean for the creation of cyber-small states that fully embrace globalization to their advantage. Your presence today, has re-affirmed your commitment. It is therefore, my fervent hope that the subject and role of Information and Communication Technologies continues to be given the prominence that is befitting of its importance. As we meet here, what is important is a genuine exchange of ideas that can be translated into ACTION. Action - based on national and sub-regional priorities, which are pragmatic and attainable. This should be critical for us all as we are drawing up concrete strategies to result in fully networked Caribbean small states. For us in the ITU, there is added urgency in that we are on a drive to develop infrastructure everywhere, and it is working. Last year, ITU successfully held a Connect Africa Summit which was a great success. Later this year, we will hold a Connect Asia Summit to be followed later on by the Connect Americas Summit. Let us use this Ministerial Strategic Seminar as part of the preparation.

Distinguished Guests,

Speaking for ITU, I assure you of our determination to play our part not only to fulfill the needs, and expectations of the people of the world in this century, but also to work with every stakeholder to produce and deploy even smarter technologies that can readily provide solutions to our shared world. I hope you will help us to do that.

I thank you.

 

 

 

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