The Internet Society has published a study titled “Unleashing the Internet in the Caribbean: Removing Barriers to Connectivity and Stimulating Better Access in the Region” which identifies solutions that promote continued development of the Internet in the Caribbean, specifically with respect to infrastructure and access services, and provides recommendations to help address the region’s unique challenges.
The 71 Page Report can be directly downloaded at https://www.internetsociety.org/sites/default/files/ISOC_Unleashing_Internet_in_Caribbean_20170217.pdf (PDF ; 6.3MB).
The launch of the report was done by the Internet Society Barbados Chapter which can be viewed at https://livestream.com/internetsociety/carib
An excerpt from the Executive Summary :
…With some exceptions, such as Haiti and the Bahamas, the coverage of Internet infrastructure is relatively good, but there is still room for improvement. There are a number of challenges, however, that constrain most countries in the region from becoming digital societies.
- Caribbean governments have been largely responsive rather than proactive in nurturing the development of the Internet to meet their countries’ needs. As a result, the policy environment required to enable the development and use of Internet infrastructure—particularly legal frameworks that promote affordable services via properly managed competition—are underdeveloped in most countries and still oriented toward the promotion of basic voice communications.
- Government support structures, such as investment incentives to improve coverage, are limited. The development of relevant content, services and applications (particularly e-government) would drive demand.
- Even if Internet access costs were to drop significantly, low-income populations might still find Internet services and access equipment unaffordable or of limited value relative to their income levels.
- Although some countries report relatively high numbers of Internet subscribers among their populations, these numbers do not necessarily correspond to proficient or extensive use of the medium to harness its development potential.
We recommend the following to address these challenges:
- Develop clear and forward-looking policy and regulatory frameworks that focus on developing the Internet and information and communications technology (ICT) both in individual countries and across the region as a whole.
- Encourage greater private-sector participation and innovation by improving the enabling environment and the support ecosystem in general, paying particular attention to fostering increased competition in the Internet access market and promoting open access to shared facilities, such as telecentres and innovation hubs (iHubs).
- Implement initiatives that foster greater participation by the public, including initiatives that improve digital literacy and increase the availability of free access to public institutions.
- Ensure that the ICT projects implemented are properly aligned with the country’s needs and development priorities.
Adopt a regional approach and system of collaboration on common problems and goals, taking advantage of the benefits that emerge—especially with regard to implementation costs—due to the economies scale and scope that can be realised.