World Bank approves US$25M for Caribbean ICT infrastructure
– Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent in first phase
The World Bank yesterday approved a US$25 million financial package for the first phase of a Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme that will provide 27 million people with access to better and affordable broadband services.
According to a World Bank press release, this first phase of its 10-year Information and Communi-cations Technology (ICT) programme will focus on Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, with other Caribbean countries joining at a later stage.
The package includes a US$3 million grant to the Caribbean Telecommunica-tions Union (CTU) to coordinate the regional programme; a US$10 million credit to Grenada; a US$6 million credit to St Lucia; and a US$6 million credit to St Vincent and the Grenadines, the release said. These credits from the International Development Association (IDA) have a final maturity of 40 years, including a grace period of 10 years for Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean, Françoise Clottes, noted that sound regional connectivity and ICT-led innovation system is vital for the region’s growth. She described the programme as a “unique opportunity to put in place critical infrastructure and skills to capitalize on the transformative power of Information and Communi-cation Technologies to promote growth and open new job opportunities to Caribbean citizens,” the release said. She added that she hoped other countries in the region will take advantage of the opportunity to join the programme.
By improving the communications infrastructure, the programme aims at fostering regional economic development and growth, the release said.
It was noted that the Caribbean is serviced by an extensive, complex, and robust submarine network, but that significant gaps remain and connectivity disruptions are hindering economic growth.
There is little investment in broadband networks venturing beyond the main urban centres and many rural areas remain largely unserved, the release said.
Furthermore, the lack of emergency communications networks leaves the countries exposed to major disruptions in communications services in the face of emergencies.
According to the World Bank, this first phase will include technical assistance and funding to: improve the regional connectivity infrastructure by expanding broadband connectivity; promote ICT-led innovation and related activities that will leverage the regional broadband infrastructure to foster employment, as well as growth of a robust regional Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled services industry and build capacity of the governments to implement, coordinate and monitor the programme at the national level.