25th Anniversaryof the Caribbean Telecommunications Union & ICT Week- February 3 2015

FEATURE ADDRESS

DR. THE HONOURABLE RUPERT T.GRIFFITH

MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Date:    Tuesday February 03, 2015

Venue:   Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain, Trinidad

Time:    5.00 pm

  • The Honourable Phillip Paulwell, Minister of Science and Technology in Jamaica and President of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union
  • Your Excellency Ambassador Irwin La Rocque, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM)
  • His Excellency Fidelia Graand Galon, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of the Republic of Suriname
  • Honourable Ministers of Government
  • Your Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps
  • Ms. Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union
  • Ms. Ingrid Seerattan, Permanent Secretary and Ms. Lisa Phillip Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology
  • Professor Tim Unwin, Secretary General Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation
  • Mr. Brahima Sanou, Director Telecommunication Development Bureau of the International Telecommunication Union
  • Senior Government Officials
  • Captains of the ICT Industry
  • Representatives from Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Societies
  • Members of the Media
  • Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Before proceeding further I must apologise for the absence of the Honourable Kamla Persad Bissessar, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and Dr. the Honourable Rupert T. Griffith, the Minister of Science and Technology, who both unfortunately could not be here today because of other pressing matters of state.

As you may be aware, today Minister Griffith hands over the Sports Portfolio to a new Minister. I think I must mention that over the last six (6) months Minister Griffith has had quite substantial responsibilities. However, his attention to Science and Technology never waned and for that we must give him a special round of applause.

It is a distinct honour to officiate at this week of celebrations organised by the Caribbean Telecommunications Authority (CTU) in observance of its 25th anniversary. This is an excellent opportunity not only to discuss interesting ICT trends and opportunities that are shaping the dynamics of the science and technology industries but also to collectively formulate action plans for forging the path forward for the Caribbean telecommunications industry.

Thus far, we have seen vibrant and constructive debate on the issue of a single Caribbean ICT space and the priorities for Caribbean ICT-enabled development.

There is no doubt that ICTs have enormous power to transform economies and greatly contribute to economic prosperity and a better quality of life. ICT can also enrich people's lives through providing greater choice and supporting social, welfare and cultural activities.

According to the International Telecommunications Union or ITU's latest ICT Facts and Figures Report, there is almost 3 billion Internet users, two-thirds of them coming from the developing world, and the number of mobile-broadband subscriptions has reached 2.3 billion globally. Fifty-five (55%) per cent of these subscriptions in the developing world.

Globally, mobile-broadband penetration was projected to reach 32% by end 2014 - almost double the penetration rate just three years earlier (2011) and four times as high as five years earlier (2009). In Trinidad and Tobago, mobile penetration in 2013 stood at 146%, up from 142% the previous year. This is one of the highest in the world, and exceeds the developed world average of 128% - and far exceeds that of the developing world which averages 89%.

Indeed, the 2014 World Economic Forum Global IT Report ranks Trinidad and Tobago #1 for Mobile Network Coverage from among 148 countries. Trinidad and Tobago has moved up 3 spots in the International Telecommunications Union ICT Development Index country rankings and we have advanced in the global rankings from 70 to 67 among the 166 countries covered by the report. This was one of the largest positive movements in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

It is fitting therefore, that the theme for this CTU 25th anniversary celebrations, is "Celebrating Our Past, Committing to Our Future". This underscores the important role that ICT plays in a highly connected world and in promoting socio-economic development and innovation.

The modernisation of ICT's infrastructure and the restructuring of service delivery are essential to Trinidad and Tobago’s economic development and prosperity. It is against this background that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago has positioned science and technology as one of the seven (7) interconnected pillars at the heart of its development plan to build a new economy.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is fully cognisant of the fact that we cannot just create and develop ICT innovation on our own. It is for this reason that we are collaborating with the international research institutes, universities and others that are leaders to identify and develop the best concepts and ideas.

Additionally, the Ministry of Science is, at this point in time, rolling out its 2012-2016 National ICT Plan, themed SmarTT, which is a virtual road map, the ultimate objective of which is to make the ICT sector a major contributor to GDP, in the shortest possible time. SmarTT focuses on enhancing the quality of life, improving service delivery, increasing national competitiveness and creating new opportunities for citizens and businesses.

We are creating a national digital culture and providing ICT access for many; regardless of gender and locality through our ICT for Seniors, ICT for Girls and Community Based Star.tt Access programs. We are striving to give every citizen access to ICT tools so that the benefits from ICT can be shared by all individuals. We are continuing to build our innovation capabilities and entrepreneurship ecosystem through our science popularisation outreach programs and awards schemes.

The Government's policy framework for the ICT sector is driven by an understanding that expanded connectivity will stimulate domestic growth and will provide the scope for greater participation by our local populace in the global information economy.

In order to achieve and provide support to this objective, the Government has adopted a set of underlying policy principles, which include:-

  • Nurturing a sustainable and financially viable communications sector.

Developing a robust policy and regulatory framework that ensures competition encourages growth that is distributed across the total sector (and to underserved segments of the market in particular).

Ladies and gentlemen,

Whilst we have achieved much, we are not complacent about our current position. Going forward, we have several new initiatives including that of improvements in the ICT legislative environment encompassing the areas of e-commerce, e- banking, and other online services. The Ministry of Science and Technology has placed great priority on spearheading e-legislative initiatives such as Amendments to the Telecommunications Act as well as the Electronic Transactions Act. Trinidad and Tobago is also currently working on developing its cybercrime legislation to properly regulate and safeguard cyber-activities.

We are now going further in e-Government, so as to transform how we create and deliver public services. In recognition that we have a more educated and technologically-savvy citizenry that has higher expectations and wants to play a more active role in national affairs, the Ministry of Science and Technology, through its agency IGOVTT, has been bringing on stream an increasing amount of government services online.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has recognised that our education system must keep pace with the rapid growth of technology of the 21st century. In addition to our highly successful laptop initiative for every child within the secondary school system and the innovative Smart Classroom project, this Government has incorporated ICT within its education curricular at myriad levels. Thus far Government has distributed over 70,000 laptops and the aim is to have a laptop in every school bag; including those of primary school children.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our goal is to cultivate an innovative society in which our citizens are empowered and human imagination drives social transformation and economic growth. We are seeking to create a meaningful partnership involving state and private sector as well as academia and civil society to develop innovative solutions to enhance our competitiveness.

Before closing, please allow me on behalf of my Government of Trinidad and Tobago, to convey our most sincere and heartfelt gratitude to the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. I trust that what is being shared during this conference will shed some light on our common efforts to develop practical solutions to address our ICT challenges within the Caribbean.

Moreover, I want to assure you that the details I have shared with you on what Trinidad and Tobago is aggressively implemented, is not meant to be insensitive to my many friends from the region.

It is humbly meant to “clue” you in to what we are doing in this country and the lessons that can be extracted for you on national development. If there is one thing that is abundantly clear to me is that just as we share a common past our future is inextricably bound up with one another. The complex discussions thus far borne this out abundantly well.

Once again, I offer my warmest congratulations to the Caribbean Telecommunications Union as you celebrate a remarkable twenty-five years of service to the regional telecommunications industry.I wish you continued success as you celebrate this important milestone.

For all those who have played a part in CTU’s development, you must be immensely proud of this historic milestone. I commend CTU’s achievements in facilitating the formulation of Caribbean ICT policy and best practices, providing sound technical advice and providing platforms such as this one for sharing of ideas and building institutional capacity.

It is my understanding that the Caribbean Telecommunications Union is the first country in the world to establish an Internet Governance Forum. This is a feat that really must be applauded.

I would also like to express my gratitude to Secretary General of the CTU Bernadette Lewis for her significant contribution to the organisation. Your leadership, vision, passion and professionalism have been obvious to me in the years that I have known you and worked with you. Through your enlightened and compassionate leadership, love for the industry, and dedication you were able to build the Caribbean Telecommunications Union into a great service organisation and we are all proud of you.

We have long valued our relationship with CTU and with you, Bernadette. Rest assured that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will continue to support the initiatives of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. Our commitment is quite evident as Trinidad and Tobago has held the position of Chair of the CTU’s Executive Council for two consecutive two-year terms from 2002 to 2006 and, from 2008 to 2012, has held the Presidency of the CTU’s General Conference of Ministers.

Congratulations on the inauguration of the new headquarters of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. Enjoy your new headquarters.

May the Almighty God bless all of you.