Where is Internet Governance going in the Caribbean region?

This post provides a synopsis of the 7th Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, which was held on 8 August 2011.

On Monday, 8 August, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) hosted the 7th Caribbean Internet Governance Forum in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The Forum had participants from throughout the Americas and even further afield, and comprised both in-person and remote participants. The event aimed to:

  • provide an update of the state of Internet Governance (IG) in the Caribbean
  • discuss some critical issues that should be considered in the region
  • chart the next steps for IG in the region.

State of IG in the Caribbean

From a regional perspective, the CTU coordinates IG matters. Its main goals are:

  • to identify and focus on Caribbean priority issues
  • to formulate and harmonise regional policy, and
  • to facilitate expedited development and use of the Internet in the region.

These goals have been captured in Caribbean Internet Governance Policy Framework, which sets out the priorities and scope for IG in the region. The current (2005) version of the Framework specifies five (5) strategic areas, as outlined in Table 1.

Table 1: Strategic areas of Caribbean IG Polcy Framework (Source: CTU)

Critical issues in the region

A considerable portion of the day was spent discussing cyber security, cyber crime and Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), which are matters that are still not being given the requisite attention within the region.

Cyber security & cyber crime. With regard to cyber security and cyber crime, the presenters sought to impress upon participants that since the Caribbean is lagging in establishment of the legal frameworks to address these issues, the region has become a haven for cyber criminals. For example, one of the presenters, Gregory Richardson, of 1337 Networks Inc., stated that:

  • hacktivists recently breached the websites of several Chambers of Commerce within the region
  • almost all banks in the region have been hacked, and many of them more than once
  • a major Caribbean airline has been hacked.

Additionally, we were reminded that hacking has become extremely sophisticated. We, in the region, have been so focussed on ensuring Internet access and improved connectivity, that we have not placed the same level of effort on implementing systems to protect our networks and our information. As a result, it is likely that a significant number of Caribbean organisations that have been breached, but are not yet aware of this.

DNSSEC. The discussion on DNSSEC was introductory in nature. DNSSEC aims to improve the security surrounding Internet addressing by adding a digital signature to all Domain Name System (DNS) requests. The specifications have been completed and can be implemented, but virtually none of the countries in the English-speaking Caribbean have mandated that DNSSEC be adopted.

Next steps for IG in the region

The focus of discussions the next steps for the region was on revising the Caribbean Internet Governance Policy Framework. Outlined below are the recommendations that were made during the session:

  • Protecting individual rights and liberties in the Internet space should be more clearly identified as a regional priority.
  • There is a role and room for advocacy groups, including civil society, to highlight issues of import to them and to share their perspective. There is also a role and room for the media, to keep important issues in the public domain.
  • Cyber security and cyber crime should be developed as its own strategic area.
  • The “research” strategic area should be broadened to include innovation.
  • Monitoring and evaluation should be included within the Framework. It is important that countries become more accountable for implementing agreed decisions.
  • Matters related to plagiarism and intellectual property need to be considered, or else innovation could be stifled.
  • From a policy maker’s perspective, implementing the appropriate legislative framework and institutional strengthening are critical activities that should be undertaken. Additional considerations are capacity building of the judiciary and the importance of the media.
  • The “Guiding Principles” of the Framework could be revised to be even more focused, and consideration should be given to recognising network neutrality and cost effectiveness within the Framework.
  • Implementation of legislation, i.e. policing, requires attention.

The CTU will be updating the Framework. Persons are invited to submit their views and suggestions to Nigel Cassimire at the CTU.