Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Caricom places focus on ICT development

Article from the Jamaica Observer re Jennifer Britton's speech at the UWI campus in Mona - she's talking about CARICOM's moves towards greater implementation of ICT in the region. She's very passionate - hope that the lack of funding and general lack of interest in the corridors of power in the Caribbean don't hold back this very very important activity!
Also - it was very cool that she acknowledged the efforts of the civil society in the region and expressed support for the multistakeholder appproach that was successfully implemented in the WGIG and moderately successful in the WSIS


Caricom places focus on ICT development

Observer Reporter

Monday, January 02, 2006

CARICOM is placing increased focus on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) as a critical part of human and social development in the region, and as such, has placed the ICT development agenda and its myriad of activities, directly under the portfolio of the deputy secretary-general. DUNN... second follow-up meeting will be held in February or March

According to senior project officer for ICT Development at Caricom, Jennifer Britton this move "of course gives the ICT for Development movement the profile and positioning it needs in the region to get all the work that is necessary done".

Britton was speaking at a recent post- Tunis public policy seminar on the outcomes and follow-up to the second World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Britton, in presenting a synopsis of the Secretariat's efforts towards ICT for development and the implementation of the plan of action coming out of the WSIS Summit, which was held in the North African state of Tunisia from November 16 to 18, informed further, that an ICT for Development Unit had been established in the Secretariat.

"We formed the Caricom ICT steering committee in January, which is supposed to act as an advisory guiding body for all the activities in the region. The first meeting will be May 2006," she said.

She also noted that because of the cross-cutting nature of ICT for Development, it had been placed more comprehensively on the work programmes of the major units in the Secretariat, which include: Human and Social Development, Regional Trade and Economic Intelligence, and the Office of the Secretary-General.

"We are in the process of creating a Caricom ICT for Development website, which we hope will help us do a lot of the coordinating that we need to do at the Secretariat level, in terms of contacts and getting feed-back from stakeholders. We have started work with regard to the development of a regional ICT strategic plan," Britton told the gathering.

She pointed out that the seminar gave the Caricom Secretariat some guidelines to assist the other member states in jump-starting their own activities towards the implementation of the WSIS Plan of Action.

In October 2004, the Secretariat was mandated by the ICT ministers to coordinate all the ICT activities in the region and to implement, at the Secretariat level, the WSIS Plan of Action across the region.

"This is new ground for the Secretariat. We have spent the last year devising ways and means as to how we would go about implementing the plan of action in conjunction with the member states," the senior project officer said.
Pointing to challenges that faced the region's communications sector and which needed to be given immediate focus, she mentioned human capacity development, legal issues surrounding ICT for development, the telecoms regime, broadband access, e-government and e-governance, disaster management, Internet governance, financing, and the maintenance of the region's cultural identity.
"increasing coordination to reduce duplication of effort across the region.

"That is a tremendous challenge, and we hope that continuous meetings and feedback and reporting will assist with regard to coordination of effort across the region," she said.

Britton further pointed to the need to mobilise the private sector and civil society. "We need to pay particular attention to civil society
involvement. Civil society has taken on a life of its own and it is in fact driving a lot of the issues that have to deal with the World Summit and the Information Society and ICT for Development, so we need to find creative, all encompassing methods and mechanisms for embracing and utilising the skills resident in civil society," she said.
"If we don't bring those people on board, (education, social workers, etc), we will perhaps miss the boat with regard to both the development and implementation of the WSIS plan of action and the Millennium Development Goals," she added.

She urged all stakeholders to work together to meet the challenges presented by the WSIS plan of action and the Millennium Development Goals. "I'd therefore like to renew the challenge to all of us to commit to continue the work started here today," she said.

The objective of the forum was to identify specific policy initiatives locally and regionally that could be pursued to the benefit of national and regional institutions.

Director, Telecommunications Policy and Management Programme, Dr Hopeton Dunn who chaired the event, indicated that a second follow-up meeting would be held in February or March, following consultations with the Central Information Technology Office.

The WSIS was a two-part United Nations (UN) conference managed by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) aimed at developing a global framework to tackle the challenges presented by the Information Society. The first world summit took place in Geneva, from December 10 to 12, 2003.
The objectives of the WSIS Plan of Action are to build an inclusive Information Society; to put the potential of knowledge and ICTs at the service of development; to promote the use of information and knowledge for the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration; and to address new challenges of the information society, at the national, regional and international levels.

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