On behalf of the Government and the people of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, I wish to commend the ITU on its decades of work in the development and coordination of global telecommunications networks and services, and more particularly on convening Connect 2020. I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Secretary General Elect, Mr. Houlin Zhao, on his unanimous election, and the Deputy Secretary General elect, Mr. Malcolm Johnson on his election, and to thank the Secretary General, Dr. Hamadoun Touré for his many years of tireless efforts on behalf of the ITU.
This meeting provides a unique opportunity for member states and industry experts with varying levels of ICT development to benefit from the exchange of ideas and best practices and to articulate a global vision for the development of information and communication technologies over the ensuing years of this decade The Bahamas, as a developing country whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism and financial services—both of which require strong ICT foundations—particularly welcomes this opportunity to participate in and contribute to the development of the overall vision, goals and targets of Connect 2020. On behalf of our Prime Minister, the Rt. Honourable Perry Christie, I wish to affirm The Bahamas' commitment to the development of ICTs, and our interest in working closely with the ITU and member states to achieve the Connect 2020 global goals and targets.
The recent electronic communications sector policy published for the Bahamas (in April 2014), outlined critical policies for the growth and development of ICTs within The Bahamas which are closely aligned with Connect 2020 initiatives. We intend to pursue these in partnership and synergy with the ITU.
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is an archipelagic Small Island Developing State. It consists of some 23 inhabited islands spread over nearly 100,000 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean. This poses unique technical and technological challenges. Nevertheless, we are committed to providing electronic communications services to all of our citizens and visitors.
A key thrust of our domestic policy is aimed at enabling and fostering greater access to world class electronic communications services throughout the islands of The Bahamas, based on targeted objectives which include the following:
The Government of The Bahamas has commenced a number of bold initiatives to achieve these goals, including taking steps to remove existing monopolies or exclusive access within the cellular mobile sector. It is recognized that competition is the most effective method to obtain world class service at affordable prices. The liberalization process is ongoing and the Government will imminently invite interested persons or entities to apply for the appropriate licences to operate cellular mobile networks in The Bahamas.
- Providing a specified basic level of electronic communications services to all populated areas at affordable prices, and free of charge to certain institutions of social and educational importance.
- Ensuring that key institutions in the public and private sector have access to domestic and international electronic communications, capable of withstanding natural disasters, and which support the essential governance, social and economic institutions.
- Ensuring the availability reliable, reasonably priced broadband internet access to residents and visitors
- Ensuring the use of ICT in the delivery of health, education and government services, which is essential in an archipelagic nation.
The current ICT environment of the Bahamas is now well poised to accommodate an open and competitive cellular market and to implement this development in an effective, expedited and transparent manner. All markets except the cellular mobile market have been open to competition since 2009, and those markets are overseen by an independent regulator, the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority, known as "URCA", which is fully empowered consistent with international best practices to regulate our electronic communications sector. The Government has also established administrative machinery to expedite the approvals process for new cellular mobile networks. It is intended that new providers should become operational in the shortest possible time. In addition to the cellular mobile market, we believe that there is room for further competition across the ICT sector, particularly in the markets for Pay TV and broadband. The Bahamas would welcome the entry of additional players in any of our electronic communications market, and would be particularly receptive to those willing to partner with Bahamians in bringing enhanced technologies and increased competition, which will translate into educational, employment, entrepreneurial and growth opportunities for our citizens.
We invite our partners here at the ITU to work with us, as we look forward to working with you, to achieve the Connect 2020 ICT targets and goals. We look forward to engaging in all the roundtables and discussions, particularly those which will address issues relating to developing enhanced ICTs access and capacity in developing states with vulnerable economies, fragile environments, and limited resource bases. We also encourage and support the inclusion of more initiatives related to Consumer Protection and are highly interested in matters pertaining to the ITU's work in relation to the Internet and International connectivity.
In conclusion, I thank the Secretary General and the ITU for affording this opportunity to address you today, and also extend thanks to the Government of the Republic of Korea for hosting this important conference and the very warm welcome extended to all delegates.