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
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
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
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.
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.
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.