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E. Bryan - Penetration of ICTs Within the Caribbean Region

E. Bryan - Penetration of ICTs Within the Caribbean Region

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Published by: Emerson O. St. G. Bryan on Apr 10, 2010
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Emerson O. Bryan
 As I begin this discourse on the subject at caption, I think it is usefulconsider just how much these new technologies, which, for thepurpose of this discussion I will describe collectively as informationand communications technologies (ICTs) must indicate thecontribution that ICTs have had on us as people, here in theCaribbean. Several years ago, if there was the threat of a hurricane,tropical storm, possible flooding etc, you would have to rely on radioand television broadcasting services. Now, you can get up-to-the minute information on your cellphone, or if you are fortunate to have Internet access, via the various websites. Most of us arequite dependent on our cell phones, as the distributions of landlines are oftentimes determined bythe topographical layout of these islands, which may be costly for providers to supply, and also for customers to pay. Most of the region’s newspapers are also online. Personally, this is how I keepin touch with what’s going on in my native Jamaica.
Electronic-Government (or e-Government) refers to the use by government agencies of informationtechnologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have theability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government. Thesetechnologies can serve a variety of different ends: better delivery of government services tocitizens, improved interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access toinformation, or more efficient government management. The resulting benefits can be lesscorruption, increased transparency, greater convenience, revenue growth, and/or cost reductions.
(The World Bank, 2005)
Basically, we are as a region exploring how we can maximize the use of ICTs to help governments,businesses, and communities to become more productive. We are quickly coming to therealization that these tools (ICTs) could reach out and touch many more persons and affect manymore lives than through the conventional methods.We are also moving collectively towards the establishment of an ‘Information Society’, which isbased on inclusiveness with the participation of the citizen in the decision making process. Thisaccording to CROSQ
(CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality) CamellaRhone is a society where the potential of ICTs is fully exploited for the common good, acrossborders, gender, and social distinction. It depends upon interoperable networks, generating,processing, transmitting and using information, supported by new technologies, and new services.She also emphasis that standards are required to support this vision. It is very interesting to notethat the countries of the region are a various stages in their uses of ICTs. Therefore, it is good thatthere is now a move towards harmonization of the various platforms, legislations, and policiestreating with ICTs and CROSQ has a significant role to play in this regard.I’d like to point out that according to a recent UNDESA research conducted, that the results haveshown that there is a prevailing scarcity of ICT-related competencies in the region’s publicadministration, and among the general population of the Caribbean region. However, at the sametime, there is a great interest among the (general) population, and public sector officers to raisetheir ICT-related qualifications (and competencies).
Public Sector Reform
Interestingly also, e-Government is also being tied to public sector reform, and especially pubicsector modernization, which is geared towards improving the efficiency and effectiveness of theservices provided by the government. Good governance is also assisted through e-Government asit makes government leaner, flatter, facilitates greater inter and intra governmental collaboration,and certainly, more transparent and accountable to the public.
It was generally found in the fact-finding missions conducted in nine (9) of our states: Barbados,Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, andTrinidad and Tobago, that e-Government was not equally pronounced. Each was at a differentstate in their eReadiness, i.e.; their ability to get connected online. Usually it was found that someof the common problems that these states faced were:I.
E-Government was a costly endeavor (Usually there is a very limited pool of funds withinwhich these projects operate, and hence their longevity and success rates are usuallylimited);II.
It was difficult to get people interested without a good marketing campaign or supportinglegislation/ regulations (Oftentimes e-Government projects were revenue-geared projects,and the people would not be very enthused to use these services);III.
Reliable Infrastructural Support (Generally, along with getting the proper computer equipment with the capability to access the Internet, there are oftentimes issuessurrounding the accessing reliable electricity supply, as well as a good Internet ServiceProvider (ISP). In most of these countries, the topography/ relief of the country in questionpresents challenges in the way of providing low-cost spectrum arrangements, which wouldrequire less towers);IV.
Threats (Most of these islands also exist within the Hurricane Corridor, which makes it avery expensive venture for an ISP to provide both low cost access or any access at all.Utility companies would assess the feasibility of installing utility poles to carry both theelectricity, as well as the telephone lines, in relation to the demand for these services.V.
Divide issues (Most citizens within these states who were computer literate, and wereusually able to access online services one way or another, were within the higher incomebrackets. That means that the average citizens within these countries would not be able tobenefit from this kind of access.)

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