A short-term plan to fast-track responses to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Region’s digital sphere is to be ready for the approval of CARICOM Ministers of ICT by the end of July.
Ministers agreed to the plan during a special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Information and Communication Technology, which was held virtually on 19 June 2020, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Hon. Keith Mitchell. Prime Minister Mitchell is Grenada’s Minister with responsibility for ICT, and Lead Head of Government with responsibility for Science and Technology, including ICT, in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet.
CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque led the CARICOM Secretariat team to the meeting which focused on Crafting an Effective Policy Response for CARICOM Digital Transformation Post the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The CARICOM Single ICT Space working groups will hammer out the details of the short-term plan which will encompass broad areas such as growing government ecosystems; placing citizens/people at the centre; public sector data; and embedding resilience.
Deputy Programme Manager, ICT4D at the CARICOM Secretariat, Ms. Jennifer Britton, said the plan aligns with the initiatives envisaged in the CARICOM Single ICT Space, and will include e-commerce/ e-payments, indigenous ( local to the region) application development, identifying jobs which could be created in the public sector and interfacing with strategic investment partners, local and in the diaspora for resourcing the regional ICT programme.
The Meeting of Ministers explored matters including the impact and opportunities of the pandemic, and the Region’s overall recovery plan. They took into consideration what was occurring in key regional sectors including education, tourism, transportation and agriculture that require a firm technological base. The Ministers also discussed co-partnering with the telecommunications companies, particularly with respect to the logical and strategic development of the Single ICT Space., as quickly as possible.
The Special COTED on ICT comes on the heels of a meeting of ICT Ministers in November last year, which dealt comprehensively with the digital transformation of the Region.
Ms. Britton opined that since the approval of the Single ICT Space in July 2017, the Region has always been on the march towards digital transformation, but the pandemic was providing good impetus to re-think and fast-track some of those initiatives, and to bridge the gaps that were exposed within the past three months, particularly in areas of digital inclusion related to e-payments and online learning.