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Monday, June 26, 2006 

Caribbean and African countries should share ICT
experiences,suggests CTO

26 July 2006

Caribbean countries that are seeking to develop a regional broadband backbone could benefit from learning about the experiences of Eastern and Southern African countries that have recently agreed to promote a public-private ownership of a common fibre-optic infrastructure for that region. This was the view of Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, CEO of the CTO in making a keynote presentation to delegates who attended the just- concluded three-day 22nd Conference and Exhibition of the Caribbean Association of National Telecom Organisations (CANTO), held in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic.

Dr. Spio-Garbrah was responding partly to sentiments expressed earlier by Ministers and government representatives from the region who bemoaned the region’s inadequate broadband infrastructure, and the absence of a home-grown plan to implement the vision of a fibre-optic cable that would connect all the islands. According to Dr. Spio-Garbrah, while it is understandable that operating companies would take the lead around the world in developing ICT infrastructure, this is often done with the interests of shareholders primarily in view and sometimes inadequate attention to the priorities of governments. It was therefore often useful for policy makers and regulators to first develop their policy and regulatory game-plan for the region and to invite the private sector to help harness the fullest potential of the region. It was in this context that he felt that the recent commitment by some 15 Ministers of telecoms in the Eastern and Southern African region to declare their support in principle to the creation of a Single Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to develop, install, own and operate a jointly owned fibre-optic cable was significant. The proposed Eastern and Southern African cable involving some 23 countries, will connect landlocked countries to the submarine cable known as the EASSy project. The early June meeting of the African ministers was convened under the umbrella of the NEPAD E-Africa Commission, which has been receiving policy and regulatory advice from the CTO, under a World Bank consultancy contract.

The conference was attended by some 600 speakers, delegates, and exhibitors, including government ministers, regulators, executives of operating companies and equipment and service suppliers and consultants. Other keynote speakers included Roberto Blois, Deputy Secretary General of the ITU; Hon. Jerrol Thompson minister of St Vincent and Grenadines and President of the Caribbean Telecoms Union (CTU); Hon Alice Amafo, Minister from Suriname; Hon Kenneth Gijsbertha, Minister from Curacao; Nigel Carty, Minister of St Kitts; along with Leon Williams, Chairman of CANTO and Mrs Regenie Fraser, CANTO Secretary General. In attendance were most of the CEOs of telecom companies operating in the Caribbean.

In his presentation the CTO CEO recognised the Caribbean region as an area with great potential for transformation, using information and communications technologies as a key enabler. He noted that because of the region’s strategic location to North America, and its achievements and potential in the tourism, financial services and entertainment industries, it stood a good chance in obtaining further investments in business process outsourcing (BPOs) and the IT-enabled service industries (ITES) if affordable broadband infrastructure could become more pervasive in the region.

Among the topics discussed at the conference were new generation networks, VoIP, broadband solutions by satellite, regional submarine networks, disaster preparedness, new and emerging technologies, mobile roaming solutions, and mobile entertainment and music.

© Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation 2006. All rights reserved

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