Following our look back at our most widely read posts in 2013, we are now looking ahead: what might be some of the big tech/ICT stories in the Caribbean in 2014?
The tech/ICT issues that made the headlines or had us talking in 2013 were diverse and interesting: from tablets in schools, to the implications of covert spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States (US). As we all get poised to take 2014 by storm, and our first post for 2014, here are six trends we believe will be evident in the Caribbean in 2014.
1. Online privacy is taken even more seriously
Generally, discussions on online privacy have revolved around consumers, or website visitors, and the protection of their personal data. Although organisations definitely have their part to play in ensuring that their customers’ personal data is safeguarded, the on going revelations of surreptitious US spying and surveillance by the NSA is precipitating a continually revisit of this issue, and whether boundaries have been crossed.
To varying degrees, the Caribbean would have been somewhat removed from the scandal that erupted last year following the leaks by Edward Snowden, and emphasised the fact that personal communication is no longer private. However, for organisations (and even governments) that value confidentially, and have made concerted efforts to protect the data under their care, last week’s allegations that the NSA has hacked end-user devices and created back doors, is likely to prompt discussion on number of fronts. Issues that might merit discussion include: the extent to which national sovereignty and diplomacy have been eroded by those revelations; the integrity (or lack thereof) tech equipment, particularly those by US manufacturers; and whether it is still possible to create a secure space.
2. Clearer direction on addressing cybercrime and cybersecurity
Over the past year, Caribbean policymakers have begun to appreciate the breadth of cyber crime, and some of the challenges of cybersecurity in the region. In 2014, it is expected that efforts will be focused on tackling this issue. Actions or activities likely to occur include:
- more concerted efforts towards establishing CERTs (Computer/Cyber Emergency Response Teams) and Internet Exchange Points
- new policies drafted (or adopted) on cybercrime and cybersecurity
- greater collaborations and coordination across the region.
3. Greater emphasis on broadband, especially mobile broadband
Throughout the region and as at 2013, voice communication delivered by mobile/cellular networks still predominated. However, a number of reports published over the past year, including those by ICT Pulse, highlighted how poorly the Caribbean performed with regard to broadband subscriptions penetration, along with the cost and affordability of broadband services. By the end of 2013, we were beginning to hear policymakers across the region call for increase broadband Internet use.
Among Caribbean mobile/cellular companies, there appears to be a trend to introduce prepaid pricing models for Internet services – a space traditionally dominated by post-paid pricing plans. The creation of prepaid broadband Internet plans, especially mobile broadband plans, could have a similar effect to that experienced in mobile/cellular voice market, where high penetration rates are now the norm across the Caribbean. Stay tuned to instalments in our Snapshot series in 2014, where we will be tracking and comparing the progress (or lack thereof) that has been made in this area.
4. More aggressive and innovative use of social media
Although most Caribbean businesses might appreciate the importance of social media and have sought to establish a presence on popular social networks, the extent to which they are being used, or being used effectively, might be lacking. Over the past year, at least two events have, perhaps more than others, highlighted the impact of social media, and specifically Twitter, on Caribbean audiences:
- #Scandal – the US drama series that airs on Thursday nights, for which Twitter has become a game changer and a virtual water cooler. The surge in Scandal tweets during an episode typically results in the show having five or more trending topics on Twitter, thus increasing the popularity of the show, and the brand to advertisers.
- #TeamTessanne – the hashtag used by supporters of Tessanne Chin, the winner of The Voice. Twitter was used to share a running commentary of the competition, and to rally the troops to vote and galvanise support for that much loved contestant.
In the coming year, we expect Caribbean businesses to explore ways of better harnessing social media. Depending on the desired demographics, Twitter, Facebook, and perhaps to a lesser degree YouTube and Instagram, are likely to feature prominently or be at the heart of innovative campaigns.
5. Increased use on cloud services and data centres
This prediction is a continuation of one made for 2013, but it emphasises the continuing importance of cloud services in the global business landscape, which the Caribbean cannot escape. More importantly, thanks to the growing demand for efficiency and cost savings, many organisations are taking advantage of third party services for which they are charged based on actual consumption, and do not have to own upfront all of the resources they might ever need.
As austerity continues in the Caribbean, matters related to business continuity, redundancy, remote participation, along with the previously mentioned efficiency and cost savings, become more critical. Hence we expect organisations across the region will be ever more prepared to incorporate the broad range services and opportunities that the cloud, and data centres, especially those located in the Caribbean, can offer.
6. Wider use and application of mobile/portable devices
Finally, without a doubt, the greatest mode of communication in the Caribbean is via the mobile/cellular phone. As the simple handset, which only allowed voice and SMS services, is eclipsed by smartphones, and by extension tablet computers, an expanding range of opportunities and applications for which those devices can be used, is emerging.
Although this trend might have been evident in developed countries over the past few years, the Caribbean is just developing the critical mass, thanks to among other things,
- more affordable smartphone and tablet offerings
- increased access to the Internet
- more affordable broadband Internet plans
- the wealth of applications that are either free, or available for a nominal fee, and
- policy makers driving access to devices through initiatives such as tablets in schools, One Laptop per Child and One Laptop per Household.
Hence in 2014, we anticipate an even greater emphasis on mobile and portable devices, smartphone and tablets in particular, in the Caribbean. Moreover, with the growing proliferation of those devices, they are likely to see them being used in new and interesting ways which had not been possible before in the region.
Is there anything we missed? What topics or issues do you think will be big in 2014?
Image credit: digitalart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)