Caribbean sends strong message to ict investors
Minister of Public Administration Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan recently disclosed details of the results of the country's participation in the Connect the Americas Summit in Panama City, Panama, what it meant for Trinidad and Tobago as well as the way foreign investors perceive Caricom. Here is an interview with the Minister on the Summit:
Q: Minister Seepersad-Bachan, you recently attended the Connect the Americas Summit as the representative of the Prime Minister. What was that about?
A: The Connect the World is an initiative of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to Connect the Unconnected by 2015. It highlights the importance of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in achieving the Millenium Development goals. The Connect the Americas Summit was the Latin America and Caribbean Region's contribution to Connect the World. The Summit sought to mobilise human, financial and technical resources to connect the Americas Region through ICTs. There were 36 countries represented and about 200 international organisations and private sector agencies.
Q: It sounds like another talk-shop. What makes this one different, if anything?
A: In all, more than 80 projects with a combined value of US$53.4 billion were proposed at the Summit. Approximately 50 of these projects were Caribbean-specific, with a combined value of around US$600 million. Trinidad and Tobago submitted projects with a total value of more than US$411 million.
Q: Were there any concrete and specific benefits to Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region?
A: I am convinced that the Caribbean sent a strong message to potential investors that Caricom is ready for business. The Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), with technical support from Trinidad and Tobago, prepared a document that summarised the projects within Caricom. This document was well received in Panama, and helped to position Caricom within the wider Americas Region. Some large private sector multinationals contacted several Caribbean delegations to discuss working together in Telecoms and ICT development projects,
From a national perspective, several development agencies are interested in investing in projects that we submitted. These include Emergency Communications, Broadband Access and Uptake, ICT Capacity Building, and Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting and Spectrum Management. Trinidad and Tobago was also able to leave Panama with a commitment from the ITU for assistance and technical support with implementing our National ICT Plan 2012-2016.
Q: Now that you have returned, what is the next step regionally and nationally?
A: It is now up to Caricom member states, working with the CTU and the ITU's Caribbean Office, to capitalise on the interest we generated in Panama. We need to get in touch with those organisations, both private sector and international agencies, that showed an interest in working with us, and at the same time work together to identify opportunities for economies of scale andcreate a sustainable Caribbean ICT development agenda.
Q: Minister, now that the Telecommunications Portfolio is no longer in your hands, what are you passing on to the new Ministry responsible for that portfolio.
A: The World Bank had always recommended, and I had always advocated, for putting all elements of our ICT development in one ministry. We have a number of initiatives in place that I am sure will be followed up by the Minister and his team. We have been working closely with the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TTATT) and policy documents for Regulations in six key areas were approved by Cabinet, are now being drafted. Our Draft Broadband plan will provide our citizens with affordable high-speed Internet. This needs to be finalised and implemented A new inter-link fiber-optic cable is being laid to connect Tobago with Trinidad and our national Internet Exchange Point (IXP) and DNS Root Server will be ready before the end of 2012. To make the market-place more competitive we have developed a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Third Mobile Provider which should be sent out within the next three months.
The key to promoting greater competition in the sector is fostering an enabling environment in an open and transparent manner. Secondlyall of us, Ministers and Ministries need to work together to create the demand for the new infrastructure we are putting in place. This will provide our citizens with greater access to government services through our ttconnect and other programmes.
Q: Any final thoughts, Minister?
A: Yes. I want to wish (Science and Technology Minister) Dr (Rupert) Griffith well. It is a challenging portfolio, but one that is exciting as new technologies and prospects emerge for taking the Caribbean forward on the information super-highway while bringing us all closer together. We at the MPA (Ministry of Public Administration), particularly in our major task of Public Service Transformation, need to work closer with him and his Ministry. At the same time we have a lot of resident expertise and experience which we are willing to share with him and his technical staff. The journey from gold to diamond, or the achievement of a citizen-centric society, requires our making maximum use of broadband and other ICTs. I look forward to the highest levels of collaboration and communication among all the Ministries of Government that will bring the Government, as a service, within the homes of all our citizens.