Snapshot: 2015 update on the state of broadband Internet in the Caribbean

An update on the performance of select Caribbean countries against the broadband Internet targets set by the Broadband Commission for Digital Development.

Last week, we summarised the latest findings of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development on the global state of broadband Internet, based on the State of Broadband 2015 report published. Today, we highlight the extent to which the Caribbean countries included in the Commission’s review have achieved the broadband targets set.

Target 1: Making broadband policy universal

By 2015, the Broadband Commission had set the goal that all countries should have a national broadband plan or strategy or include broadband in their Universal Access/Service Definitions. In adopting a national broadband plan or strategy, countries would not only have had to establish a framework for its continued development and use, but would also have to demonstrate leadership and vision to improve the availability of broadband facilities and services in keeping with demand.

As reflected in Table 1, with the exception of Dominica, Haiti, Saint Lucia and Suriname, all of the other countries included in the Broadband Commission’s latest review have a national broadband plan or strategy. Dominica and Saint Lucia are reportedly in the process of preparing policies, which it is hoped would be finalized soon.

 

Table 1: Status of national broadband policies in select Caribbean countries as at 2015 (Source: Broadband Commission)
Table 1: Status of national broadband policies in select Caribbean countries as at 2015 (Source: Broadband Commission)

It is also interesting to note that for some countries, such as Grenada, the effective period of their plans or strategy has elapsed. Though its strategy and action plan may still be still in use, from a policy perspective, the country may not be fully benefitting from all of the developments that have occurred in the broadband Internet space. A similar argument could be made in the case of Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, both of which have plans are also over seven years old.

Target 2: Making broadband affordable

By 2015, the Broadband Commission had set the goal that entry-level broadband services should be made affordable in developing countries through adequate regulation and market forces. Further, the price for a basic fixed-broadband service should amount to less than 5% of an individual’s average monthly income.

When 18 Caribbean countries was examine earlier this year, as part of our Snapshot: 2015 update on Internet affordability, only 14 countries had an fixed-broadband Internet plan that would cost for no more than 5% of a person’s  average monthly income (see Figure 1).  The exceptions were Dominica; Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Figure 1: Best Internet plans by download speed in select Caribbean countries for no more than 5% of average monthly income (Source: ICT Pulse)
Figure 1: Best Internet plans by download speed in select Caribbean countries for no more than 5% of average monthly income (Source: ICT Pulse)

Target 3: Connecting homes to broadband

Cognisant that increased broadband penetration in households has a direct effect on a country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product), especially developing countries, the Broadband Commission had set the gaol that by 2015, 40% of households in developing countries should have Internet access.

In the Caribbean, most countries have fallen short of that target, as reflected in Figure 2. The exceptions were Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.

Figure 2: Percentage of households in the select Caribbean countries with Internet access as at 2014 (Source: Broadband Commission)
Figure 2: Percentage of households in the select Caribbean countries with Internet access as at 2014 (Source: Broadband Commission)

Target 4: Getting people online

Fostering Internet access to and use by citizens is critical to stimulate improved productivity, efficiency, innovation and competitiveness. By 2015, the Broadband Commission had established the goal that Internet user penetration should reach 60% worldwide, 50% in developing countries and 15% in LDCs.

In the Caribbean, and as at the end of 2014, more than half of the countries examined (nine out of 15) reportedly had achieved that developing world target of 50% Internet user penetration. However, only six, have achieved the 60% threshold.

Figure 3: Percentage of Individuals using the Internet in select Caribbean countries as at 2014 (Source: Broadband Commission)
Figure 3: Percentage of Individuals using the Internet in select Caribbean countries as at 2014 (Source: Broadband Commission)

In summary, most of the results used by the Broadband Commission in compiling its report was based on data from 2014. Accordingly, we would need to revisit this exercise in 2016 in order to capture the final performance of each country at the end of 2015 against the goals established However, where there is a large gap between the 2014 result and the goal, it is unlikely that the countries will be able to close it within a year.