Minister Phillip attends CANTO 28th annual conference in Miami

Minister of Information Technology, Hon. Glen Phillip (Photo Erasmus Williams)

BASSETERRE,ST. KITTS, JULY 25TH 2012 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Information Technology, the Hon. Glen Phillip is among Caribbean telecommunication officials attending a three-day meeting in Miami, Florida who have underscored the need to develop the information, communication and technology (ICT) sector to be able to meet the goals of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

During the opening ceremony the Bahamas Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie also challenged delegates attending the 28thCaribbean Telecommunication Organisation (CANTO) annual conference and trade exhibition to provide regional policymakers with information on how to make ICT more affordable and equitable.

“It is for me to challenge you in these meetings that you are in, to tell us the policymakers, what laws we must enact, what policies and rules we must enforce; one, to make broadband ubiquitous; two, to make broadband affordable for the everyday citizen; three, to make broadband reliable to all of our citizens,” he said.

Christie, quoting a report from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), said the challenges of developing broadband are so formidable that the private sector alone will not be able to face them alone.

“Indeed, governments will have to join with the private sector and provide leadership to reduce not only the digital divide, but also to use digital means to narrow the social divide that is so pressing and important in our countries,” he said.

Christie said he believed regional governments would have to join with the private sector to “provide leadership initiatives to reduce not only the digital divide but also to use digital means to narrow the social divide.”

Christie also said that in some countries in the Caribbean, citizens are paying more for slower Internet service than what people are paying in developed countries for a faster service.

“While cellular penetration in most Caribbean countries is well over one hundred percent penetration and some markets are approaching saturation, broadband penetration according to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is below thirty percent penetration.”

He said it is difficult for small countries to keep up with countries like Australia, which invested a US$33 billion to keep pace with the technological market, noting that in June 2012, Apple had $110billion in the bank, according to a report.

Christie said he challenged the attendees at the conference to inform policy makers of what must be done to make broadband more accessible and affordable to citizens.

“Tell us policy makers what we need to do to protect our national, sovereign borders and I mean our virtual borders from industrial sabotage and cyber terrorism and while I am at it, tell us what we need to do to ensure that there is equity in compensation and that compensation is attached to the office and not the person,” he said. “In that way a Caribbean national upon being promoted to executive management receives the same compensation and perks as that of his expat colleagues. The responsibility of running the company doesn’t change. The challenges do not change.”

Christie noted that the telephone infrastructure in most of the CANTO member countries are in private hands and in some countries like The Bahamas the government has partial ownership.

“As you have come to realize by changing your name from the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organizations to just CANTO, that there are few national government owned telecommunications organizations today in the region,” he said.

Christie said although a majority share in the former state owned Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) was sold to Cable& Wireless communications under the previous administration, he hopes to regain majority ownership.

“My government, however, was elected with a mandate to take all lawful means to re-capture majority ownership of BTC and I expect that discussions towards that objective will soon begin,” the Prime Minister said.

Christie noted that according to a May 2012, IDB report, the challenges of developing broadband are formidable and the private sector alone would not be able to take them on, but would need government assistance with initiatives to reduce the digital and social divide.

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