St Vincent Strengthens its Cyber Borders

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent. December 13, 2017—The Caribbean Internet is among the fastest growing in the world, and the region’s rapidly evolving landscape is surfacing fresh possibilities but also new problems, not least the challenge of cyber security.

This month, St Vincent and the Grenadines became the latest Caribbean country to host a national cyber security symposium, the first of its kind for the territory. The meeting, which took place at Frenches House, Sally Spring, Kingstown on December 7 and 8, drew participants from across the Eastern Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, and St Kitts and Nevis. Organisers described it as the start of a new national dialogue about cyber crime issues, and an important step towards framing a regional approach to cyber security.

“We have passed a suite of legislation dealing with cyber security issues, and I am hoping that we will soon have the Telecommunications Bill being presented to Parliament. It’s important that everyone understand the importance of cyber security issues, so that all can participate meaningfully in the public policy development process,” said Dr Jerrol Thompson, Director of Special Projects in the Office of the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Thompson was delivering remarks on behalf of Camillo Gonsalves, Minister with responsibility for ICT. He credited Roxanne John, president of the local chapter of the Internet Society, for her efforts to convene and coordinate the event.

The Internet Society staged the meeting in collaboration with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) and the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG). ARIN is one of five registries worldwide coordinating Internet number resources.

“ARIN is continuing to work with stakeholders in the Caribbean generally and with the community in St Vincent and the Grenadines specifically. We are committed to strengthening that the region’s infrastructure, our numbering policy and the capacity of our technical community to design, build, deploy, maintain and manage computer networks,” said Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Liaison of ARIN and one of the founders of CaribNOG.

CaribNOG is a volunteer-based community of computer network operators and cyber security experts. They were the organisers of Belize’s first-ever national cybersecurity symposium, which took place in Belize City from April 24 to 28.

“Cyber security has been very high on CaribNOG’s agenda, in particular over the last few years as the frequency and magnitude of cyber incidents globally has continued to rise,” said Stephen Lee, Program Director of CaribNOG. “I trust that this symposium here in St Vincent will be the first of several initiatives to strengthen the cyber security readiness of the nation and the region, and in that vein I look forward to continuing to work alongside our colleagues here and across the Caribbean in the weeks and months ahead.”

The two-day symposium highlighted the need to widen the cyber security conversation beyond the technical community, and to include stakeholders such as law makers, law enforcers, Courts, educators, academics, parents and young people in a coordinated, structured, multi-stakeholder approach to Internet development. Shernon Osepa, Manager of Regional Affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society, highlighted the impact of cyber crime on Caribbean businesses.

“It’s very important that we don’t just think of the Internet as a platform for social apps like Facebook. We need to see the Internet as a global platform for e-commerce. That is why cyber security is so important. We need to protect our assets and our data,” Osepa said.