President Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday met with officials from the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) to discuss the development of the local Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector.
According to a press release from the Government Information Agency (GINA) he met with Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Public Administration Kennedy Swaratsingh and St Vincent and the Grenadines Minister of Telecommunication and Industry Dr Jerrol Thompson at the Office of the President. Swaratsingh is also president of the CTU while Thompson is its vice-president. CTU Secretary-General Bernadette Lewis also attended the meeting.
In an invited comment the ministers told GINA that they were impressed with the president’s plan for developing the sector. Thompson said that reducing the cost of bandwidth technology is an important objective and as such the CTU is encouraging governments to access the facilities that they are making available. He also underscored the need for countries to have more advanced technology.
Meanwhile, Swaratsingh said Jagdeo has demonstrated his commitment to developing the sector by taking up the portfolio and underscoring the importance of diversifying the economy and the creation of more competitive opportunities for the Region. The possibilities of ICT are limitless, and augurs well for development, Swaratsingh added.
The meeting also discussed how the CTU could assist Guyana to develop its ICT sector, not only in telecommunications but in the wider scope of ICT such as video conferencing, legislative assistance, electronic–transactions and governance. Jagdeo also discussed liberalizing the telecommunications sector. GINA said the CTU also briefed the president on its role and its contribution in the region. Swaratsingh explained that some countries in the Caribbean have been developing at a pace, liberalizing their telecommunications sector and using ICT as tools that enable governments to ensure a better quality of life for its citizens, including legislative issues and diversification of the economies.
Swaratsingh said currently the CTU has an international consultant who is working on a project to help them develop legislation across the Caribbean that will further develop the sector. The minister explained that this is necessary since many countries have the capacity but lack the supporting legislation. In Trinidad, he pointed out that two bills –one for data protection and the other for electronic transactions – have been laid in Parliament. “In some Islands, you can’t move to e-transactions because the legislation does not permit payment in a non-paper form,” he explained.
The development of the ICT will also enable the development of ministerial briefing sessions that will inform ministers about the new and emerging world of ICT and how it can bring governments closer to the people with the use of technology. Swaratsingh said in Trinidad and Tobago citizens can download birth certificates online and can even apply for housing electronically. Other Caribbean countries such as St Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and Jamaica have also been moving rapidly in this direction. “These are the things that we feel need to be developed, not island specific, but Caribbean wide,” he said.