Information and Communication Technology (ICT) must be at the heart of the goals of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) instead of being viewed as peripheral or simply a subject to be added to the education curriculum.
This is according to Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, Lead Head of Government on Science and Technology in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet, a report from the CARICOM Secretariat said today.
At the opening of the Thirty-Ninth CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Wednesday, the Prime Minister warned that the Community could not ignore “this great enabler of our time”.
The Prime Minister based his presentation to the opening ceremony on the necessity for CARICOM to reposition itself to face what he characterised as a “new normal” environment in which there was political, economic and social inequality, climate change and vulnerability that were having deleterious impacts on Member States.
Twinning the importance of ICT with the need for renewed and continuous engagement with the young people of the Region, he told the audience that “one sure vehicle” to take the Region forward was STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. But he lamented that the Community was “woefully behind” in that regard.
“We, as Heads of Government have to ensure that we place STEM and ICT at the heart of what we want to accomplish in this Region”, Prime Minister Mitchell said.
He, however, lauded the bold steps that the Community was taking to establish a Single ICT Space. He announced that a multi-stakeholder partnership will be launched in a few months to fast-track specific elements of the Single ICT Space.
The Single ICT Space – a cross-sectoral and highly complex undertaking – is the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). The Single ICT Space will allow for harmonisation of the ICT and other legislative frameworks, the removal of roaming charges, the encouragement of digital entrepreneurship, equipping all citizens as digital citizens and looking at ICT financial solutions among other regional benefits. CARICOM Heads of Government approved the Road map for the Single ICT Space in February 2017.
“Technology impacts every aspect of our lives”, he emphasised at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.
Prime Minister Mitchell said that the Community had to ensure that all the steps that were being taken to implement the Single ICT Space were clear even “while we push the proverbial technological envelope” to connect other programmes and policies to transform the Community.
“Our people must be made to feel CARICOM”, he stressed.
He highlighted the strides that other countries were taking in innovation and technology such as those in artificial intelligence and Block Chain technology. He made reference also to the general data protection regulation that the European Union enforced earlier this year which had the potential to “cripple many of our industries if we do not pay keen attention and fix regulatory systems quickly”.
“In my view, CARICOM cannot continue to ignore this great enabler of this time. We do so at our own peril and the peril of our generations to come”, he said.