What were the main digital policy regional updates in the Caribbean? This space brings you the main updates month by month, summarised by the observatory's curators.
Follow the GIP's June 2019 briefing on Internet governance, which will include updates from the Caribbean region during June. Register to attend.
7 May 2019 |
In order to achieve greater accessibility and efficiency in the public’s everyday interaction with their government, in countries across the Caribbean, Bitt, the Barbados-based financial technology company, has signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the e-Governance Academy (eGA) in Estonia on 30 April 2019. eGA are the global e-governance and cybersecurity experts working with the governments of Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Haiti, and Guyana to digitally transform various divisions of their respective public sectors.
Bitt’s Chief Economist, Marla Dukharan, stated that ‘While some Caribbean countries are deriving efficiency by implementing e-government solutions, many people can’t access these services because they are excluded from the traditional financial space – so many people don’t have traditional bank accounts. Bitt‘s mobile payments app could securely and cost-effectively provide the “unbanked” with the financial access to these e-government platforms and provide the “banked” population with a cost-effective alternative to credit cards and other means, to pay on these platforms. Imagine being able to renew your driver’s permit, your passport, or access any other government service, by using an app on your smartphone – no lining up, no time wasted. This is what Bitt could deliver to the people of the Caribbean, by partnering with the eGA.’
Some other features of e-governance include secure digital archives of health and police records, land registry, and electoral processes. The potential benefits have led other Caribbean governments to commence discussions with the eGA to explore possible roll-outs.
9 May 2019 |
Jamaica and Haiti will take part in a project to conduct Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) Data Collection and Processing. The project is made possible thanks to a partnership between the West Indies University (UWI) and geo-data specialists Fugro Geoid SAS, who signed a $USD 1.9 million contract for this purpose.
The contract, funded through the Investment Plan for the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Programme of Climate Resilience (PPCR), will allow for the collection of LIDAR data and processing into bathymetric (underwater depth) and topographic (surface elevation) information or products.
The data will be used for assessing coastal vulnerability and to support climate analysis related to sea-level rise, storm surges, and flooding in the region.
At the end of the contract in October, government technocrats in six Caribbean countries are to receive capacity building in the use of the technology, thanks to the regional project.
17 May 2019 |
Three Caribbean countries: Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, will soon boast significant improvements in the quality of broadband access which will be facilitated under the World Bank’s Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP).
The World Bank funded project is being executed by Digicel on behalf of the governments of the three countries.
The Canadian based Company International Telecoms is in charge of this phase, which includes the installation of a submarine fibre optic cable, that will be laid on the seabed from Conference Bay, St. Andrew to the east of Kick ‘em Jenny, going on to Hillsborough, Carriacou. International Telecoms officials say installation of cables process will be eco friendly, minimising harm to the ecosystem.
The project will increase access to the regional broadband network by bringing true broadband connectivity to schools, community centres, and government offices. It will also advance the development of an ICT enabled service industry in the three beneficiary countries.
The entire process of installation and testing will take approximately five weeks.
1 Apr 2019 |
A blockchain project focused on streamlining the agriculture value chain has been launched in Haiti. The Ministry of Industry and Commerce of Haiti and the business and investment development project have selected Agriledger as the company to co-ordinate this pilot. As part of this world bank-funded project, the traceability of the value chain of fresh fruits coming from various provinces along with payments will be facilitated. Farmers are expected to sell directly gaining a price that more accurately reflects supply and demand.
3 Apr 2019 |
The Jamaica Stock Exchange(JSE) has partnered with a Canadian financial technology firm, Blockstation, to allow crypto and security token trading on the exchange. The organisations have been working over the past 12 months ensuring compliance of Blockstation’s platform with the necessary regulatory requirements and have successfully conducted a trading run. JSE’s Managing Director Marlene Street Forrest welcomes this advancement and invites local, regional and international investors to safely and efficiently trade digital assets using this new facility.
3 Apr 2019 |
Several Jamaican information and communications technology (ICT) experts are advocating for a tiered levy on enterprise Internet users moving away from net neutrality. With net neutrality, an ISP treats all broadband users equally. The Jamaica Computer Society's Immediate Past President Sheldon Powe and president Sean Thorpe are lobbying for smaller digital firms not to be charged the same as large ones, and to be allowed to pay based on actual consumption, as they utilise less of the available bandwidth than much larger companies that consume much greater portions.
16 Apr 2019 |
The Kanawa subsea cable was originally launched by Orange in January 2019 and links French Guiana with Martinique and Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean. This two pair fibre system is 1746km in length and has been upgraded to provide up to 10Tbps to users. This increased high-speed connectivity is expected to meet the rapid growth and demand for digital services in the Caribbean region.
6 Mar 2019 |
The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and the Barbados-based fintech company, Bitt Inc. (Bitt), have signed a contract to conduct a blockchain-issued Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) pilot within the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).
This ECCB-CBDC pilot is the first of its kind and will involve a securely minted and issued digital version of the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD) denominated DXCD (Digital Eastern Caribbean Dollar).
The DXCD will be distributed and used by licensed financial institutions and non-bank financial institutions in the ECCU, and will be used for financial transactions between consumers and merchants, including peer-to-peer transactions, all using smart devices.
Timothy N. J. Antoine, ECCB’s Governor, emphasised that, ‘Not only will the digital EC Dollar be the world’s first digital legal tender currency to be issued by a central bank on blockchain but this pilot is also a live CBDC deployment with a view to an eventual phased public rollout. The pilot is part of the ECCB’s Strategic Plan 2017-2021.’
The ECCB is now poised to embark on the DXCD pilot from March 2019. The pilot will be executed in two phases over twelve months: development and testing, followed by the roll out and implementation phase in pilot countries, spanning about six months. As part of the pilot implementation, the ECCB will ramp up its sensitisation and education initiatives to facilitate active public engagement throughout all member countries.
11 Mar 2019 |
The Minister of the Presidency, Gustavo Montalvo, in his capacity as president of the National Cybersecurity Council presented the solutions and lines of action to protect local cyberspace in the Dominican Republic.
In the meeting held in the Dominican presidential palace, The National Cybersecurity Council approved the plans to implement the National Cybersecurity Strategy 2018-2021.
The strategy is based on four pillars, and for each of them, an action plan was elaborated:
Strengthening of the legal and institutional framework.
Protection of the national critical infrastructure and information technology of the state.
Promotion of education on security issues by using information and communications technologies.
To establish and consolidate national and international alliances, since cybersecurity protection is impossible without global concert.
18 Mar 2019 |
On 18 March, 2019, CARICOM shared the Integrated Work Plan for the CARICOM Single ICT Space, a plan that was agreed upon at the 38th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on 4-6 July 2017, in St. George’s Bay, Grenada.
This approved plan is possible thanks to the joint efforts of the members of the ICT cluster, conformed by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU), Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD), CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat.
The plan was developed with inputs from the Member States and other ICT lead agencies and is currently in motion, expecting to conclude in 2022 with a total investment of USD$ 26.5 million.
1 Feb 2019 |
The FLOW Foundation hosted capacity building workshops on 1 February for over 250 elementary school children and seniors, educating them about safe online practices. The capacity building workshops are expected to equip these at risk groups within society to become online safety monitors for their peers.The foundation has also partnered with UNICEF to increase awareness among adolescents and young adults about dangers that exist online.
10 Feb 2019 |
British Virgin Islands legislators passed a law, the Elections (Amendment) Act 2019, in January that will allow electronic voting with e-tabulating machines, removing the requirement for ballots to be counted by hand. The hope is that with the proclamation of the law, and the introduction of the machines which count ballots will lead to greater efficiency in general elections. The Office of the Supervisor of Elections has made the machines available for public testing to ensure voters are comfortable with the process ahead of the elections. The upcoming 25 February elections are the first time the e-tabulating machines will be used.
17 Feb 2019 |
Jamaica’s Universal Service Fund will focus on establishing more community access points (CAP) across the island. The establishment of the CAP will increase the number of free wi-fi zones available in rural areas and is intended to provide greater Internet access to Jamaican citizens. Over the years, the fund has established over 300 CAP providing citizens with low cost access for research, to process transactions, as well as education and social networking.
19 Feb 2019 |
An agreement has been signed on 19 February between the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and the Santo Domingo Cybernetic Park, that will see drones used to supervise public construction projects. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are encouraged to leverage robotics and advances in communication technologies within these infrastructure projects. The expectation is that this agreement will lead to a shift in the process where public works are supervised better, leading to a reduction in supervising costs, an optimisation in the analysis and tracking of civil works, a reduction in project execution errors and the development of workers within the construction industry. The programme will simultaneously run in Panama and Bolivia, and will see capacity building for staff in data capture and data processing of the drone data.
16 Jan 2019 |
In partnership with Digicel, three small island states from the Caribbean: Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent, started the development of a future-proofed broadband infrastructure that will connect homes, schools, government offices, and businesses to each other and the rest of the world by 2020. This project received technical and financial assistance from the World Bank.
In July 2018, through the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP) with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) as coordinator, the three countries signed contracts with Digicel in order to build up government and educational networks, and a new submarine cable.
The innovative contracting process and resulting public private partnership (PPP) structure is a first for digital infrastructure in the region. It is also the first project of this magnitude, requiring approximately USD$45 million from governments and private partners. This allowed all three governments to obtain substantial economies of scale, allowing lower pricing and better quality of service than if they had purchased the networks separately.
28 Jan 2019 |
Pursuing the acceleration of agriculture’s digital transformation in the Americas and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and Microsoft have outlined actions to be jointly implemented as part of their Digital Educational Partnership. To achieve this transformation, they will support the dissemination of knowledge as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, and artificial intelligence in the agricultural sector.
The partnership between Microsoft and the IICA will provide technology to transform agriculture in the Americas through innovation, various tools for collecting and disseminating data related to crops, production, the use and availability of water resources, as well as climatic conditions, for improved decision making.
Pilot programmes will be executed in Brazil and Argentina, based on the priorities established within the framework of the agreement that both organisations signed in October 2018 for the benefit of rural areas in Latin American and Caribbean countries.
28 Jan 2019 |
In 2017, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) launched the InvestmentMap, an information management tool that supports transparency and efficiency of Latin American and Caribbean public investments. At the time of the launch, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay were the first Latin-American’s countries scheduled to launch InvestmentMap.
Expansion was a key component of the action plan announced in 2017, and now, new platforms are being developed in Argentina, the Bahamas, and Jamaica, while additional countries are being considered.
The InvestmentMap includes information on the funding and progress of individual projects at national, subnational, and local levels. These platforms are created by the IDB in collaboration with Microsoft, which provides cloud, and design support. In the next round, InvestmentMap will feature new artificial intelligence and data analytics capabilities to gather insights and improve decision making among policymakers.