Fundamental questions on the Caribbean Internet Governance Policy Framework

A preliminary discussion on the draft revised Caribbean Internet Governance Policy Framework that has been published by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union.

Internet Concept by photostock (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)The Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) has published for review and comment, the proposed amendments to the Caribbean Internet Governance Policy Framework (CIGPF), which we highlighted a few weeks ago. (See: Have your say: shape the Caribbean Internet Governance Policy Framework). In this post we begin our discussion of the new CIGPF and continue to invite your comments, observations and concerns on same.

How is the CIGPF different from the Regional ICT for Development Strategy?

The CIGPF could be considered a subset of the Regional ICT for Development Strategy, which is also known as the Regional Digital Development Strategy (RDDS). As the name indicates, the CIGPF focuses on Internet Governance (IG), and not on all aspects that foster ICT for Development (ICT4D).

Having said this, there would still be considerable overlap, since the CIGPF does address Internet fundamentals, such as infrastructure and legal frameworks, which would underpin ICT4D-related initiatives. Moreover, in the RDDS the CTU is flagged as an important implementing agency for successful realisation of that strategy.

What has been the success of the CIGPF to date?

In the draft Issue 2.0 and as we also noted in our earlier post, the inaugural version (Issue 1.0) of the CIGPF has been in effect since 2009. Hence, to varying degrees, the new Issue 2.0 should be a development of the previous version, and thus should:

  • refine the policy framework to reflect current trends, best practice and priorities
  • edit or delete policies that have been accomplished or no longer relevant, and perhaps more importantly
  • effectively highlight the progress that has been made in IG over the years.

Although the edits to Issue 1.0 are evident in the draft Issue 2.0, what is not clear is the extent to which the policies recommended in 2009 have been adopted four years later.  In both the current and proposed CIGPFs, provision has been made for measurement and monitoring of “the goal of achieving a Caribbean Information Society” and periodic reviews of the framework have been undertaken at least annually. However, no insights have been shared on the success of the policies recommended, such as:

  • the extent to which countries, specifically governments and public authorities, have adopted them
  • the extent to which private sector stakeholders adopted or supported the policies
  • key strategies that might have been adopted to promote the policies recommended, and ultimately
  • how beneficial it has been to have a regional policy framework.

How committed are the countries, and even the region, to foster IG?

If the CTU had shared the progress achieved with the recommended policies, we would be able to appreciate the extent to which individual countries, and the region as a whole, are committed to realising Information Societies. However, it is also important to understand the construct under which the CIGPF operates.

Unlike other regional groupings, such as the European Union, where systems exist to effect mandatory adoption across its member states, such a framework is absent in the Caribbean. Hence, as the CIGPF clearly states it is making policy “recommendations” to stakeholders, which they may, or may not, choose to adopt.

Hence, agencies such as the CTU, which is an institution of CARICOM that has lead responsibility for coordinating policy matters related to ICT in the region, can only encourage CARICOM member countries to adopt certain policies. As a result, there are no guarantees about whether or not, or the extent to which, the policies adopted will be consistent across the region, or that they will be adopted in a timely manner.  Moreover, this lack of homogeneousness could thwart proposals to establish a region-wide ICT space, unless or until there is a clearer commitment by Caribbean countries to become better aligned and to maintain even closer collaboration to achieve common Information Society-related goals.

Is the CIGPF really necessary?

This might be the $64,000 question. Although we as a region of small, developing states have recognised through our history that there is strength and numbers, and that it is our benefit to pool our resources and enjoy the advantages of economies of scale and scope, we frequently falter in the execution. As was noted in earlier paragraphs, and even in our post, Is a single regional ICT space possible in the Caribbean?, countries’ individual self-interest often overshadow the regional good that can result. Hence with regard to the CIGPF, it might appear to be a waste of time, effort and money to prepare a policy that might be disregarded in part, even or not considered at all.

On the other hand, the CIGPF represents a concerted effort to recommend to Caribbean countries a path through which foster IG and move closer to an Information Society. However, as was noted earlier, the framework could benefit for better support structures, which may increase the likelihood that countries will adopt the recommended policies.

Do you have any questions or concerns? Let us know in the Comments section below.

 

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1 Comment

  • Michele, you have given a great overview of how the CIGPF is supposed to fit into the wider regional ICT agenda. I intend to go through version 2.0 but judging from your commentary, you have touched on some of the critical challenges to our cohesive ICT development, which have nothing to do with technology or its potential. I am glad you mentioned the EU’s integration mechanism and the concept of transposition where there is a mandatory domestication of directives coming out of the European Council and Parliament. The ITU-EC’s recent project in the region, HIPCAR, used the terminology “transposition” loosely, which no one has seemed to question at all, even now where at the end of Phase 2 of the project there has been a hodge-podge of partial implementations across the region but nothing really meeting the objective of harmonisation (harmonisation wouldn’t have been solely met by the project in any case). While CARICOM Heads may be reticent to approach supranationality of the European kind, the technical and policy officers in the ICT sector seem to be either unaware or unconcerned with how we achieve integration in ICT. At least for some, RDDS and CIGPF simply helps us discover new policy areas.

    The Single ICT Space will need to be predicated on a single CARICOM citizen identity and tackle some of those other non-technical issues we often by-pass in the ICT sector, including labour and mobility (think regional travel options and you’ll see exactly what I am alluding to!). A saving grace for all of this to happen is drumming up discussion and spreading information through blogs like ICT Pulse. I suspect other folks following these discussions through the blogs are all ICT sector types as well. Maybe we should all try to engage our trade and foreign affairs counterparts, and civil society, to try and tackle the elephants in the room that are set on becoming permanent fixtures. New age problems need new age solutions.

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