A review of the five ICT/tech trends we anticipated would be evident in the Caribbean in 2015.
At the beginning of 2015, we published five trends we believed would become more evident in the Caribbean during the year. Whilst we are still coming to grips with 2016, we are reviewing our predictions. Do let us know how well we did.
1. Changing competition/regulation dynamic in the region
What a difference a year makes! Though there may have been some early indications that some change would occur in telecoms and ICT environments across the Caribbean, all of the events and corresponding consequences could not have fully foreseen. A few are outlined below.
First, at the end of 2014, the then proposed sale of Columbus International and Cable and Wireless Communications plc (CWC) was being widely debated across the Caribbean. The deal was completed in March 2015, and the merger of the two operations got underway. In countries where both Flow and LIME operated (the primary brands for Columbus International and CWC in the region), the competitive landscape has changed, and regulators have been grappling with the implications.
Second, over the past year, Digicel has been aggressively positioning itself to be multi-service carrier, including a subscriber television provider. Its earlier acquisitions of submarine cable networks, sports content channels, plus the roll-out of fibre-optic networks in come countries, to name a few, all point to a broadening of scope from just mobile/cellular service. In many countries, the firm has already been offering wireless Internet – its “4G Broadband” (WiMax) service – and so could now be seen as a triple-play provider (mobile/cellular, Internet and subscription television).
Third, this past November, it was announced that subscriber television giant, Liberty Global, intended to acquire CWC and consequently all of the latter’s operations in the Caribbean. At the time of writing, the deal has not yet been completed; hence the changes to the environment, along with the posture of this new owner going forward, are yet to be seen.
On a separate note and as previously indicated, Caribbean regulators and policymakers have all become acutely aware of how deficient the current laws and regulations are – especially when they cannot support a position that they inherently might wish to adopt. However, going forward, the challenge appears to be that the resources and effort to adjust the framework – to help them be better aligned and to better support the current state of telecoms and ICT in the region – are not readily evident.
2. Computing everywhere
The adoption and incorporation of computing/electronic solutions has been continuing across the region. Over the past year, public organisations, in particular, have been updating their systems and modifying their processes, to make them more efficient and to help them provide better service to the public. However, there is still considerable scope for improvement in the use of ICT, and how systems and services are integrated and developed to facilitate a broad range of transactions and more meaningful engagement between service providers and their customers.
3. Mobile computing goes to greater heights
Over the last two years or so, Caribbean mobile/cellular providers have been more aggressive in trying to increase mobile/cellular data subscriptions. Many have augmented the data plans available to meet customers at a broad range of price points, and as highlighted in our news roundups throughout 2015, they have been establishing preferred arrangements with some major content providers, such as Wikipedia, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Hence although official data is not readily available, through more attractive plans and prices, the continued availability of budget-friendly yet powerful smartphones, mobile computing has grown, and is likely to continue to grow, across the region.
4. Network security is not ignored
Throughout 2015, and not surprisingly, both government and private commercial networks across the Caribbean continued to be breached by threats within and outside of the region. However, unlike previous years, the stiff denial of incidents, especially by governments, was not as rife as it used to be, though to varying degrees, they were still tight-lipped about the extent of the damage incurred.
Having said this, policy-makers seem to be more open and accepting of the fact that Caribbean countries are quite vulnerable to cyber threats and incidents. Over the past year, some countries, such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana, to name a few, have been paying attention to their legislation, with either new laws being enacted or existing ones being amended. Jamaica also published a cyber security strategy, which may become come a model for that adopted throughout the region.
However, ultimately, there is still a lot of work to be done in all countries. A concerted national effort still appears to be lacking, although admittedly some –albeit minor – strides have been made.
5. Internet of Things begins to get a foothold
While in 2015 some “smart” appliances and other devices with some Internet-ready capability were being sold across the Caribbean, it still appears to be ad hoc at best. Relatively few individuals may own a handful of smart devices, such as a smart phone, watch or television, but the number of people and range of devices are still limited. Further, most smart devices are being priced as luxury products, and so may still be beyond the budget of middle-income, and even upper middle-income, shoppers.
Image credit: digitalart (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)