Nov 23, 2017 Last Updated 1:07 AM, Oct 3, 2017

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ministers with responsibility for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on Friday, 19 May, 2017, approved the Integrated Work Plan for the Community’s Single ICT Space.

 

The approval came during discussions at the Sixty-Eighth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on ICT. The Virtual Meeting was anchored at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.

The Single ICT Space is conceptualised as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Region’s flagship programme. It encompasses the management of Regional information, human resources, legislation and infrastructure in the sector to elicit maximum benefit for the Region’s populace.

The Single ICT space and the Region’s Digital Agenda 2025 are premised on the Regional Digital Development Strategy (RDDS) which was approved in 2013, and will also have inputs from key regional Commissions and the Post-2015 Agenda.

 

Special COTED ICT 19 May 2017 from Caribbean Community on Vimeo.

CARICOM Heads of Government approved the Road map for the Single ICT Space in February 2017, and the Integrated Work Plan was developed and fine-tuned following several meetings of senior officials of ICT in the Region. The integrated approach allows for the coordination of activities which are geared towards the best solutions to meet the needs of the people, and to achieve economies of scale across the Region.

CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration, Mr. Joseph Cox, said that in the course of developing the workplan, several matters were brought to light, including the fact of the different stages of ICT development across CARICOM Member States.

“The Single ICT space workplan provides a guide for issues that the region can work on together- with those that have done some things before helping the ones now embarking on those projects”, he said.

Mr. Cox also reminded the Meeting that this week the world observed World Telecommunication and Information Society Day with the theme of ‘Big data for big impact’.

“Big data is just one of the issues on the front burner of the digital sector. Are we dealing with the issues of standards, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence at the national and regional levels?”

He cautioned that “our citizens are very aware of what is happening around them and possible resulted impact. We as servants of the citizens of this Region and the practitioners and decision-makers in the sector have to give them the assurance that we are aware too and are earnestly working to ensure that we do not retard their progress as digital citizens.”

Cohesiveness in national and regional ICT endeavours, and the indicative budget for the Single ICT Space elicited robust discussion at the Meeting on Friday. Ministers commended and gave their imprimatur to the Work Plan which will now be placed before the CARICOM Heads of Government in July in St. George’s, Grenada.

Before the Ministers got down to business Friday morning, Chairman, Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism, the Hon. Ferdinand Welzijn thanked the senior officials from CARICOM Member States and regional organisations who worked on the draft Integrated Work Plan.

“I want to thank them for their dedicated efforts on this important regional initiative”, he said.

The Minister added that given the importance of the Single ICT space to both national and regional development, “Heads of Government expect ICT Ministers to play a pivotal role in the guidance and development of key regional documents and processes. It therefore means that you have to endeavour to prioritise areas which are not only on the national agenda, but are regional as well. Ultimately, one affects the other, especially since we are working towards a harmonised ICT Space.”

While he pointed to challenges which the Community may encounter, he issued a reminder that when used strategically, ICT was a solution provider. He said that ICT was becoming a main pivot in the four pillars of the Community – trade and economic development, human and social development, foreign policy coordination and security.

“Let us therefore focus on doing our part so that the big picture can be understood and appreciated by the citizens of the Region whom we serve. The work on the Single ICT space forces us to collaborate like never before as Ministers, policy-makers, officials and civil society, if we are going to succeed and advance as a Region”, he told his fellow Ministers.

The half-day Meeting also paid attention to the Community’s Digital Agenda, which encompasses the role ICT plays in the development of society such as in relation to the elderly, disabled and marginalised; in transportation, agriculture and energy; and in the green economy approach now being undertaken by Member States.

The Ministers also acknowledged the cyber security action plan which was recently approved by the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE) and agreed to forge ahead with a coordinated approach to keeping national assets secured. They agreed to meet before July to discuss digital broadcasting and switch-over issues.

The private sector's full, safe and unhindered access to the CARICOM Single Market was important for the promotion and  sustainability of economic growth, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry of Suriname, the Hon. Ferdinand Welzijn, said on Thursday.

Delivering remarks at the opening of the Forty-Fourth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in Georgetown, Guyana, Minister Welzijn, who is chairing the Meeting, said that development depended on public-private partnership.

 "After all it is the private sector that trades and does business," he pointed out.

His remarks were made in the context of one the main  item for discussion at the Meeting - the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).  The Minister said that his background in the private sector provided a full understanding of the concerns and frustration of entrepreneurs who were facing trade difficulties within CARICOM.

He told delegates at the Meeting that the ways in which business was being conducted in the Region, had a "big impact" on the achievement of sustainable development and growth.

"Abiding by the principles, set out by the CSME, as well as full implementation, shall pave the way for a sustainable growth, as well as establish reliability for our business community," he reasoned. "Therefore I wish to stress the need for full, safe and unhindered access for our business society to the CARICOM Single Market.

Member States, he added, needed to consider what they wanted from the CSME and how to maintain it.

"We must not hinder each other to trade by using non tariff barriers", he warned.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in his remarks to the opening session of the Meeting, also referred to the role of the private sector and the creation of the environment to facilitate its full involvement in the CSME.

"The private sector is asking us to do better. The people of the Region are asking us to do better. "You can send a clear signal of your determination to make that difference by reaching agreement on the Regional Policy for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. It is an opportunity to open the way for the small entrepreneur to benefit from our Single Market", the Secretary-General said, as he rallied the Council Meeting to "do better".

The COTED is responsible for the promotion of trade and economic development of our Community. In particular, it is required to oversee the development, operation and implementation of the CSME.

The Meeting concludes on Friday, 12 May, 2017.

 

While the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has significantly advanced the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), “we must do better”, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General said Thursday.

“Yes, we have done a lot, but we must do better.

“The private sector is asking us to do better.

“The people of the Region are asking us to do better”, the Secretary-General said.

He was at the time delivering remarks at the opening of the Forty-Fourth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana. The COTED is responsible for the promotion of trade and economic development of CARICOM. In particular, it is required to oversee the development, operation and implementation of the CSME.

The two-day Meeting is focusing on the establishment of timelines for the implementation of aspects of the regional flagship programme,

#CARICOMOrg Trade Ministers begin two-day meeting in Guyana on Thursday https://t.co/58KDYXw04mpic.twitter.com/MXFDzUQX8M

— CARICOM (@CARICOMorg) May 10, 2017

 

The Secretary-General reminded Ministers of Trade and Heads of Delegation at the Meeting that CARICOM Heads of Government had committed to deepening regional economic integration through the CSME. Heads of government, in July 2016, had mandated a comprehensive review of the CSME. The review was done and was considered at the Intersessional Meeting of the Heads of Government held in Georgetown in February, 2017.

“The CSME is the foundation for spurring vibrant regional growth and development”, Ambassador LaRocque said, as he pointed to the emphasis that was being placed on the need for consolidation and further development of the CSME.

The Heads of Government have noted the significant programmes on implementation of legal and institutional measures and mechanisms to support the free movement of goods, services, skills and cross-border establishment of businesses, the Secretary-General highlighted in his remarks, but pointed out that they had concerns about non-compliance with their decisions.

Our leaders, however, expressed concern that some of their decisions had not been complied with. They lamented the fact that some of our Organs and Bodies have failed to meet, to consider critical aspects of the CSME. And items remain much too long on the agenda of the Councils. They also recognised the need for effective consultative mechanisms and addressing capacity constraints at the national level.

Their observations come against the backdrop of the slow pace in addressing some of the elements of the CSME. We have been discussing issues such as Government Procurement and basic contingent rights for a decade or more without concluding on the matter. And there are aspects of the free movement of skills regime and market access for specific products that require urgent decision”, Ambassador LaRocque said.

The Secretary-General that the Council itself is also hampered by non-compliance with its decisions, and warned that the failure to adhere to the rules of the integration movement poses a threat to the credibility of the Community.

The COTED Meeting will also discuss the Community’s external trade policy and strategy, and its preparation for Britain’s departure from the European Union.

44th COTED Officials 9 May 2017 from Caribbean Community on Vimeo.

The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) will be one of the main areas of focus when Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Ministers with responsibility for Trade meet in Georgetown, Guyana, Thursday and Friday. In preparation for the two-day Ministerial Meeting, officials met on Monday and on Tuesday at the CARICOM Secretariat. The Ministers will consider the regional flagship programme during the 44th Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) which will be held at the Pegasus Hotel. The implementation of the CSME is a key agenda item of the Council which is moving to advance it based on the mandate of the CARICOM Heads of Government. In July, 2016, the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM mandated a comprehensive review of the CSME. The review was done and was considered at the Intersessional Meeting of the Heads of Government held in Georgetown in February, 2017.

The Ministerial Meeting will look at timelines for the implementation of aspects of the CSME, including the facilitation of travel, movement of skills, private sector facilitation and the movement of goods and services. The future of the Community's external trade policy and strategy, and its preparation for Britain's departure from the European Union are also on the agenda.    

CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque will be the first guest when Chatting CARICOM,  a series of live regional television talk shows, is launched on Tuesday 25 April 2017, at 8:00 pm.

Chatting CARICOM, produced by the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) with support from the European Union, will be broadcast monthly on CMC’s regional cable TV channel, Carib Vision, and on a number of national television stations in CARICOM Member States, affiliated to CMC.  The programmes will also be Live Streamed on the CARICOM Face Book page - https://www.facebook.com/caricom.org and on the CARICOM Secretariat’s News Blog CARICOM Today –  http://today.caricom.org/2017/04/25/chatting-caricom-live-800-p-m/ 

 

See Recording below:

 

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Assistant Secretary-General Trade and Economic Integration, Mr Joseph Cox, has warned the Community not to sit on the sidelines of the digital era.

“There is almost no option to sit on the sidelines in this new digital era.  Whatever is happening in the developed world will also happen in the developing world.  Our tourists for the most part come from developed countries and our current and potential investors as well.  Their expectations with regard to ICT, its usage for efficiency in business and leisure are not far-fetched”, Mr. Cox said.

He was at the time making brief remarks before the meeting of officials of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The meeting was held on 20 April, 2017, via videoconferencing that was anchored at the CARICOM Secretariat.

The main agenda item was the integrated draft work plan for the Single ICT Space which will be placed before the Ministerial Meeting of the COTED. During their two-day Intersessional Meeting in Georgetown 16-17 February, 2017, CARICOM Heads of Government approved the Roadmap for the Single ICT Space.

The Single ICT Space is conceptualised as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Region’s flagship programme. It encompasses the management of Regional information, human resources, legislation and infrastructure in the sector to elicit maximum benefit for the Region’s populace.

The Single ICT space and the Region’s Digital Agenda 2025 will be constructed on the foundation of the Regional Digital Development Strategy (RDDS) which was approved in 2013, and will also have inputs from the Commission on the Economy and the Post-2015 Agenda.

“The development of the CARICOM Single ICT space provides an opportunity to be on par with other developing countries and hopefully begin to compete through innovation in some of our indigenous sectors”, Mr. Cox told the officials on Thursday.

The Single ICT Space, Mr. Cox said, presented another window of opportunity for the Region to work together as it continued to do for the CSME.

“We cannot take this opportunity lightly,” he cautioned.

The Ministerial Meeting is scheduled for 19 May, 2017.

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