CTU Ministerial: key messages and takeaways (Day 1)

A summary of some of the talks given on day 1 of the 10th Ministerial Strategic Seminar, on 29 May 2012.

The Caribbean, and specifically the countries that comprise the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are unique. Twenty (20) sovereign countries have come together to establish regional organisations to address common issues. One of those organisations is the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), which was established in 1989, and has been charged by CARICOM with coordinating ICT-related policy matters across the region.

Consistent with that responsibility, yesterday, 29 May, was the first of two days for the 10th Ministerial Strategic Seminar organised by the CTU under the theme, “The International ICT Agenda: Partnering for Regional Action”. Over 75 persons were in attendance, which included Caribbean Ministers with responsibility for telecoms and/or ICT, public and private sector technocrats; telecoms companies; and sponsors.

The discussions on this first day seemed to be designed around the need for improved regionalism and support in order for the Caribbean to develop coherent positions on a broad range of ICT issues. Ten key sessions were scheduled through which that message was enforced, which made for a jam-packed session. Nevertheless, they generated some useful and thought provoking dialogue, which hopefully will lead to a revisit and recommitment by Member Countries of their efforts and approach towards ICT/Internet development in the region. This post, the first of two, highlights some of the main presentations and discussions points of the day.

What might the regional ICT Agenda comprise?

A considerable portion of the day was spent emphasising some of the key issues and important organisations with which the region should be aiming to developing stronger ties. It was continually stressed that we should be participating in those discussions, as there are a number of matters that will have a direct impact on national and regional development in the Caribbean of which we are not aware. The paragraphs below summarises some of the discussion points from those talks.

  • Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Rodrigo de la Parra, Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean, highlighted the fact that ICANN served as a model for the World Summit on the Internet Society (WSIS) with regard to adopting a framework that is multilateral, democratic and multi-stakeholder-oriented. He also indicated that there are a number of ways in which to participate in ICANN meetings, such as through stakeholder groups, fellowships and remote participation.
  • Governmental Advisory Council (GAC). Although a part of ICANN, GAC is an independent committee, which provides advice to the ICANN Board of Directors on a broad range of issues. The GAC Chair, Heather Dryden, noted that the outputs from the committee are developed by consensus and provides countries, especially developing countries, with an invaluable opportunity to communicate their interests, More importantly, the ICANN Board must consider the advice submitted by the GAC, and on a recent issue, generic Top Level Domains, around 90% if the GAC’s advice was adopted by the Board. Hence attending Ministers/countries were encouraged to join the GAC and to participate in its proceedings.
  • Internet Society (ISOC). Shernon Osepa, Manager, Regional Affairs for the Caribbean and Latin America, gave an overview of ISOC, which is a non-profit international organisation, with over 110 organisational members, over 60,000 individual members and over 90 local chapters. Similar to preceding presenters he encouraged participation noting that indifference (to the issues) is not an option.
  • International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The Caribbean Area Representative, Cleveland Thomas, highlighted the on-going work by the ITU towards revising the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), along with the importance of such an initiative. Mr. Thomas also stressed the importance of participating in ITU sessions and events in order to be apprised of issues that could have a direct effect on the region, and to have an opportunity to voice concerns or otherwise ensure that our interests are protected. He encouraged participants to get involved in the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) 2012, which will be held in Dubai in December, but also indicated that a Caribbean preparatory meeting will be held in the next month or two. Details will soon be announced.

In a similar vein, Hector Huerta, ITU’s Regional Director for the Americas, also made a passionate plea for the Caribbean region to participate in the Connect the Americas Summit, which will be held in Panama, 17—19 July. Mr. Thomas supported his call for participation by highlighted that the individual countries and the region collectively had submitted over 35 projects valued at over USD 1 billion for financing consideration.

What should be the regional imperative?

A common thread ran throughout most of yesterday’s sessions: the need for greater participation by the Caribbean, either individually or collectively, in the international fora and on Internet Governance issues. Although Dr. Jovan Kurbalija, Director of the DiploFoundation, gave the keynote address, which included a quick primer on Internet Governance, he also outlined some of the global issues to be tackled, which have arisen through the growth and development of the Internet:

Dr. Jovan Kurbalija (DiploFoundation)
  • anonymity, which has been seriously eroded by newer business models and geo-location software
  • sovereignty and jurisdiction, which are being affected to borderless nature of the Internet
  • privacy and data protection
  • surveillance and human rights
  • legal issues, which included matters related to jurisdiction, liability dispute resolution, intellectual property rights, privacy and data protection.

Admittedly, it is easy for countries to be overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of the issues that are being addressed, especially when they might not be as resourced as developed countries or large corporations that can consistently participate in international events. However, Dr. Kurbalija proposed approaches that can be adopted both nationally and regionally to build capacity, and to establish common positions on issues. Key points included:

  • developing a framework for consultation and representation
  • ensuring that non-state actors and non-IT entities are included in the consultation process
  • anchoring global discussions in local (and/or regional) needs
  • focussing one’s attention on select topics, and pursuing them
  • championing remote participation, so that local communities can becoming connected to the discussions.

Copies of the presentations are available at the CTU website.  The seminar continues today, 30 May, with an extensive discussion on cybersecurity, which will be streamed live at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ctu-seminar.

Should you have any thoughts or concerns on ICT issues that the region should be addressing, or ways we can work towards improved cooperation and participation, please leave them in the comment box below and they will be forwarded to the CTU for inclusion in the wider debate.

Logo courtesy of the CTU.