IXP Crucial To Building St Lucia’s Digital Economy

An Internet exchange point would play a crucial role in facilitating the growth of St. Lucia’s emerging digital economy, an international technology expert has said. Bevil Wooding, an Internet strategist with US-based Packet Clearing House (PCH), said the Caribbean island already has a wealth of human resource talent in the information and communications technology sector.

“St Lucia can accelerate its national development agenda by focusing attention on human resource development and by locating critical Internet infrastructure, such as IXPs, on the island,” Wooding stated.

The comments came at the launch of a digital content education agreement between the St Lucia National Youth Council and BrightPath Foundation, a non-profit organisation that provides technology education. Wooding was speaking on the role of IXPs in facilitating the development of local content.

Christopher Roberts, project coordinator for the Caribbean Regional Infrastructure Project with the government of St-Lucia, explained that an IXP works by keeping local Internet traffic routed locally and thus avoiding the costs, inefficiencies and delays incurred when local Internet traffic has to traverse expensive international routes.

Roberts explained that there is considerable demand for bandwidth intensive applications, cloud-based services and high-speed networks in St Lucia, particularly among the island's youth.

“An internet exchange point will play an important role in underpinning our digital economy.  Our country already has a pool of creative young persons, itching to take advantage of the opportunities the Internet presents.  But our longstanding infrastructure, bandwidth and cost of access issues have been a major stumbling block.

“A domestic IXP can provide new opportunities for technology-based innovation by our youth and our entrepreneurs.”

Wooding said IXPs would also help lower the cost of delivering services to end-users, speed up transmissions, strengthen the resilience of local networks, and decrease international Internet connectivity costs.

“Without the appropriate infrastructure, government, businesses and consumers will continue to be frustrated, and the promise benefits of the Internet age will continue to elude the country,” he said.

PCH will provide technical assistance and advice to the government of St. Lucia for the local Internet Exchange Point.

At present only the British Virgin Islands, Haiti, Grenada, St Maarten, Curacao and Dominica have IXPs. In conjunction with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, PCH is currently assisting several other Caribbean countries, including Barbados, Jamaica and St Kitts and Nevis in establishing local IXPs. PCH is a non-profit research organisation, and the world’s leading implementer of IXPs.