Regional technology experts will share their insights on global Internet Governance issues, from a Caribbean perspective, at an upcoming forum hosted by The University of the West Indies (UWI). Internet governance deals with the development of shared principles, policies and programmes that shape the use and evolution of the Internet.
“In the global, multi-stakeholder Internet Governance model, the Internet is seen as a borderless resource belonging to no single entity. Instead, it is managed by a global community of governments, corporations, technologists, academics, civil society and individual end users,” said Patrick Hosein, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computing and Information Technology at UWI, St Augustine.
This multi-stakeholder model is used by the Trinidad and Tobago Network Information Centre (TTNIC), the Registry for the .tt ccTLD, of which Hosein is the CEO. He also chairs the Computer and Communications Society (CCS) of the Trinidad and Tobago Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEETT), which is sponsoring the forum in association with the Trinidad and Tobago chapter of the Internet Society (ISOCTT) and the TTNIC.
Speakers at the forum will deliver interactive presentations and answer participants’ questions about Internet Governance. The ultimate aim is to strengthen the Caribbean presence in international fora where the future of the Internet is being determined.
Speakers at the forum include Tracy Hackshaw, ICANN GAC vice chair; Cintra Sooknanan ISOCTT president; Jacqueline Morris, member of the multi-stakeholder advisory group of the TTNIC; and Albert Daniels, ICANN Global Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Caribbean. This forum is being held during the same week as the South School on Internet Governance which will provide more intense training on Internet Governance to a select number of fellows.
The forum starts at 6.30 pm on May 1st and will be held in Room 101 of the Faculty of Engineering at the UWI, St Augustine. Registration is free and open to the public.
IEEETT CCS plans to hold a second seminar on 5G networks later this year.
More information is available from the IEEETT CCS Society secretary.
A mobile SMS-based survey service from a Caribbean-based company could change the way data is collected and analysed in the region.
If Kenfield Griffith has anything to say about it, his company will soon be adding potent fuel to the digital revolution smouldering quietly throughout the islands of the Caribbean.
Born in Montserrat and of Barbadian extract, Griffith is the CEO of mSurvey, a mobile surveys company based in Kenya. Kristal Peters, Director of Business Development and Strategy, runs the company’s Trinidad and Tobago office.
"It's Friday morning. Let's create a survey together," Griffith says to a group of relative strangers gathered in a small room in the Max Richards Building at the Faculty of Engineering of The University of the West Indies, St Augustine for mSurvey’s workshop on data collection and surveying using mobile technology.
His confidence seems well placed. Within minutes, the demo survey is set up and sent to a pool of prospective participants located in Kenya and Trinidad and Tobago, who immediately start returning their responses via SMS technology. Soon, their data start streaming in to a dynamic web page, which aggregates and visualises the survey results in real-time. In no time at all, the roomful of workshop participants, about fifty in all, are analysing the fresh data.
The audience is an interesting mix of academics, researchers, policy makers, mobile carrier representatives, students and software developers, and many seem eager to learn more.
“Do you sell data to third parties?” asks one man seated toward the middle of the room.
"We have the technology that folks use to get other people's data. But we don't sell anyone's data to third parties," Griffith replied.
Moments later, he clarified his business model. The primary service that mSurvey provides is to help people, businesses and organisations to use mobile technology to get the precise data they need to make high-impact decisions quickly.
"We're trying to solve a problem here and that problem is getting data.”
To have some idea of what Griffith means, you need only to have tried to get survey data quickly and reliably in the Caribbean context. For many organisations trying to use survey data to harvest meaningful insights and increase their ROI, the biggest stumbling block is the inability to gather data in the first place. Door-to-door surveys are costly and painfully slow. Open data sources like the World Bank are always just a click away but don't necessarily give the specific insights required for contextual decision-making. And commissioned online surveys are challenged by the limits of the local population's access and connectivity to the Internet. By some estimates, residential broadband Internet penetration in Trinidad and Tobago, for example, remains as low as 45%.
“Getting information in emerging markets is a pain point for most of us,” Griffith said.
But for every problem, a solution. Mobile penetration in Caribbean islands like Trinidad and Tobago can be as high as 140%. Everyone, statistically speaking, has a phone...or two. So the mSurvey platform allows the entire survey process to be completed over a regular mobile SMS plan at no cost to participants. Respondents don’t need mobile or Wi-Fi broadband Internet connection, nor even a smartphone.
For mSurvey, the ubiquity of the mobile phone has become the answer to one of the region's biggest obstacles to data collection.
Eastern Caribbean small-island developing states face the threats of rising crime, porous borders, climate change, the flight of intellectual capital and the dismantling of preferential trade arrangements for agricultural products, spurred by the contagion of the global financial crisis.
But if necessity is the mother of invention, then adversity seeds an abundance of human resourcefulness. Significant challenges have not prevented the sub-region’s governments from working together to equip their citizens to discover, create and exploit opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation.
OECS leaders, seeking to identify new sustainable models for development, have recognised that telecommunications technologies present new opportunities for fostering social and economic development. The governments of St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia and Grenada are finding new ways to harness the sub-region’s innate creativity and stimulate a culture of innovation through the application of appropriate technology to real-world problems.
On February 26th, stakeholders from various sectors of St Vincent and the Grenadines will gather for a national technology innovation workshop, as part of the ongoing Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme (CARCIP), coordinated regionally by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). Roxanne John, based in the Ministry of Telecommunications, Science and Technology, is coordinating CARCIP in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“We are very proud to host this Innovation Workshop and look forward to discovering new ways to apply technology to everyday challenges,” John said.
The workshop is the second in a regional series. On February 10th, St Lucia held the first workshop, coordinated by its Ministry of the Public Service, Information and Broadcasting. The inaugural event brought together some of the region’s leading minds in the fields of entrepreneurship, information and communications technology, leadership development and innovation.
Through CARCIP, the governments of the three countries have been working toward harmonising the development of their telecommunications infrastructure to maximise synergies and avoid inefficiencies. CARCIP addresses gaps in submarine cable infrastructure and landing stations, domestic backbone networks and national Internet exchange points (IXPs).
CTU Project Coordinator Junior McIntyre described the scope of the overall CARCIP project as “comprehensive”.
"The ultimate aim of CARCIP is to improve the efficiency of telecommunications infrastructure development not just in St Vincent but across the whole Caribbean. The lessons we learn in St Vincent will benefit the entire region,” McIntyre said.
The World bank-funded programme was allocated a total disbursement of US$25 million, including loans to the three countries and a grant to the CTU. In recognition of the critical requirement to promote innovation in Caribbean societies, the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank is working along with the CTU and other stakeholders within the Caribbean region to support a regional approach towards technology-driven innovation.