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Three-day regional workshop seeks to improve and strengthen telecoms sector

Three-day regional workshop seeks to improve and strengthen telecoms sector

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Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the bedrock of an emerging Caribbean society and it is as critical as other supporting infrastructure, such as roads and electricity.

Without an adequate ICT infrastructure, it would not be possible for people in the region to take advantage of the many opportunities that an information society may generate.{{more}}

Project coordinator for the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) Junior McIntyre made these points yesterday, January 19, while delivering remarks at the opening ceremony of a three-day training workshop dubbed “Broadband Regulatory Safeguards in the Era of Convergence.”

The workshop, which is being held at the Beachcombers Hotel in Villa, attracted ICT stakeholders from throughout the region and according to McIntyre, is part of the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme’s (CARCIP) efforts to better position the Caribbean to make decisions to address our own critical technology challenges and to collaboratively derive relevant solutions.

McIntyre, who described the three-day event as a capacity building workshop, stressed that the knowledge shared at the workshop should help to develop the ICT sector as a viable industry in our region and to change the technology landscape, as we seek to employ the potential of technology as an enabler and driving force for the development of our economies.

The workshop, which ends tomorrow, has as facilitator Calvin Monson of Castalia Strategic Advisors.

“The world is rapidly shifting towards an information based economy, where convergence of networks and networks infrastructure is playing a significant role in transforming economies,” said McIntyre, who added that for the small island states of the Caribbean to meet the challenges presented, “it is vital to ensure that our private sector organizations and state institutions and citizens can affordably access a modern and reliable information communication infrastructure over which a rich and diverse range of traditional and new multimedia services can be afforded.”

He stressed that the hosting of the workshop demonstrates that we are on the right track as we seek to realize sustainable development and support for ICT infrastructure in the Caribbean.

The workshop, which is centred on improving and strengthening the telecoms sector, has attracted a number of regional telecommunications stakeholders from Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

McIntyre says that it involves training, while the basic objective is to provide information and build awareness of stakeholders to minimize their knowledge gap and build a modern regulatory framework.

The workshop is expected to explain electronic communications convergence and its implication for regulation and consumer protection.

The workshop is being attended by members of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRC) from the participating countries and Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (ECTEL) representatives.

Giving opening remarks, project officer at ECTEL Winston George said that the workshop is one of the components of the CARCIP, which is funded by the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank.

George said the project is intended to extend broadband infrastructure within and among countries (Grenada, St Lucia and SVG).

He said discussions will include the creation and development of ICT businesses and ICT enabled services, among many other things.

He also noted that the CTU received a regional grant to support the overall implementation of the project and part of that includes an enabling environment, “and the enabling environment includes the support to the regulatory framework and it is in this regard that ECTEL, which is responsible for the harmonized regulatory framework, along with the NTRCs in the sector in our countries, has responsibility for overseeing this specific aspect.”

He added that under this component of the programme, ECTEL is responsible for providing technical assistance to improve the enabling environment to maximize benefits of the broadband infrastructure and to strengthen the competitiveness of the telecommunications market in the medium term and knowledge transfer and capacity building to support effective sector regulation and development.

He added that the areas of focus include, but are not limited to, infrastructure sharing and cost base access roles, retail pricing including roaming, interconnection, number portability, competition rules, consumer protection, quality of service, information gathering, monitoring and enforcement.

“Generally, given the objectives set forth, it was incumbent upon us to bring together some of the main players in the telecoms sector. Specifically, the regulators, the ICT facilitators, the consumer affairs division of the governments and also consumer associations in the specific countries,” said the ECTEL representative.

He added that to govern the changes that are occurring in the market, “it is incumbent upon us to modernize our regulatory framework.”

The workshop opening also heard an address from Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

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