Minister Benn Looks Forward To Action On ICT Strategy

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Minister of Commerce, Sen. Haynesley Benn, receives a copy of the Draft Regional Digital Development Strategy from Deputy Program Manager of the CARICOM Secretariat, Jennifer Britton, during a consultation at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Friday. (C. Pitt/BGIS)??

"Action and implementation!" These were the key words from Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn, during his feature address at the National Consultation on the Regional Digital Development Strategy, which was held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre today.

The Commerce Minister stated that national and regional progress were intrinsically tied to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and added that he hoped that the consultation signalled a step in that direction.

"Some may ask the question: why are ICTs important to us in the region??? What is clear is the fact that ICTs, or for that matter, digital technologies, will continue to play an increasingly significant role in the economic, social and political lives of people worldwide.?? Excluding a focus on digital technologies will reduce our competitiveness, as well as our quality of life…strategies both at the national and regional levels will provide a framework for us to effectively use technologies," he said.

Senator Benn acknowledged that ICTs could only be used to their full potential through efficient application.

"Effective use of digital technologies will depend on enabling legal, regulatory, financial, infrastructural, political and social environments and a facilitating culture for extracting from technologies the maximum benefits they are capable of providing…the challenge for Barbados and the region is clear.?? Digital technologies must be embraced, as they offer a compelling way forward for our further progress," the Minister noted.??????

Deputy Program Manager of the CARICOM Secretariat, Jennifer Britton, expressed similar sentiments as she addressed the participants.

"The need to find strategic, creative and innovative ways to use ICT has never been more pressing, for countries such as ours…[The internet and related services] are now considered part of the infrastructure of countries – the way our children learn and study, how we communicate with each other, how medical professionals keep us healthy, how we conduct research and how we conduct business across all sectors, all have been fundamentally transformed by digital technologies…," she observed, adding that the success of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy was dependent on ICTs as well.??

Senior Technical Officer with the National Council for Science & Technology (NCST), Charles Cyrus, reminded the audience that although technology was their focus, the human element could not be forgotten.

"We must be forever mindful that our ultimate objective is to improve the standard and quality of life of our people.?? Over 12 years ago, the international community recognised that countries were benefitting unevenly from ICTs, and so, in an effort to better ensure a fair sharing of benefits, and in particular, to avoid what is commonly referred to as the digital divide, whereby those countries which are less endowed with financial and other resources could be left behind, the international community accepted a proposal to convene a world summit on information society.?? It was felt that such a summit could provide an opportunity for sharing of knowledge and experiences, and for formulating programmes and projects which would assist disadvantaged countries in sharing the benefits of new technologies," he said.

This concept was one of the driving forces that led to the Draft Regional Digital Development Strategy. The document was created through cooperation between the CARICOM Secretariat, the Regional ICT Steering Committee and regional public and private sector contributors.??

The four areas of regional integration to be facilitated by ICTs are foreign policy coordination, economic integration, functional cooperation and security – in short, enriching the region’s resources through high speed ICT networks and trained human resources, for the development of social and economic benefits for the Caribbean.?? This mission summarises the broad-based goal of the document, which also hopes to fully establish modern, regional regulatory and open telecommunications infrastructures, create digital community culture and use of ICT by both government and businesses for sustainable growth and support.

The Consultation, which was facilitated by the NCST, will focus on the draft Strategy and related strategies to assist the region in formulated adoption and management of ICTs.

To access a copy of the Strategy, visit http://www.ncst.gov.bb/.

nekaelia.hutchinson@barbados.gov.bb

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