Paulwell: Caribbean’s Goal Should Be “Affordable and Ubiquitous” Broadband

Above: Minister Phillip Paulwell

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Digicel’s recent move to abolish regional roaming fees was “commendable,” but the Caribbean’s true goal should be “affordable and ubiquitous broadband Internet access,” according to Jamaican Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell.

The Minister was speaking in an address to the Caribbean ICT Ministers’ Forum last week.

“Although having those fees abolished will enable and encourage greater inter-regional communication, today I challenge Caribbean peoples, Governments and telecoms operators alike: let us begin to think beyond voice telephony,” he said. “Let us divest ourselves of this pre-occupation with voice and pursue what really should be our true goal: affordable and ubiquitous broadband Internet access.”

A 10 percent rise in market penetration of broadband services would correlate to an average GDP increase of 3.2 percent, he said, with a corresponding productivity boost of 2.6 percent.

“We also know that greater access to broadband offers greater public engagement in national decision making, reduced bureaucracy, improved transparency and accountability in government, increased social inclusion and the creation of a knowledge based society,” he said.

Paulwell said ICT, or information and communication technology, was a developmental tool “that should be widely accessible, affordable and utilized by our people.”

But in the Caribbean, fixed broadband penetration ranges from less than 2 percent in Guyana to 21 percent in Barbados. That is compared to a mobile penetration rate that is more than 100 percent in countries like Jamaica.

“We know that ICTs have the power to truly make the world “flat”; that in the very near future, access to broadband Internet will be the most important factor in whether and how much nations and people will be prepared to participate fully in the global knowledge-based digital society,” he said.