By Gerard Best
BELIZE CITY, Belize—Regional Internet and technology experts remain upbeat on the future of the industry in the Caribbean.
A recent industry report showed that Internet connectivity in the Caribbean is growing at sluggish speeds, with high rates. However, shifting attitudes within the region’s technical community are triggering positive change in its technology landscape.
Among the challenges faced by the region in developing its technology sector are outdated legislation, limited access to capital, and an environment not always conducive to the development of indigenous technology businesses and services.
But some experts say that the region is well positioned to seize fresh opportunities to improve its Internet access penetration, to reduce Internet service costs and to increase network service quality.
“A highly creative, well-educated work force, stable democracies, sub-sea bandwidth capacity and relatively high device penetration rates set the stage for region-wide, Internet-enabled innovation,” said Bevil Wooding, an Internet Strategist at Packet Clearing House, which supports the global development of critical Internet infrastructure.
Wooding was among several high-profile presenters from the Caribbean, Latin and North America to take part in CaribNOG 10, the tenth gathering of the Caribbean Network Operators Group, which took place in Belize City from November 2 to 6.
CaribNOG is an independent, volunteer-based technical community that promotes development of the region’s computer network engineers and technology practitioners. Its semi-annual gatherings have become an influential forum for the development of regional cybersecurity strategies and in the support of critical internet infrastrcuture in the region.
“One main focus of CaribNOG is strengthening of the technical community—the individuals responsible for designing, implementing, maintaining and securing the computer networks that are now so vital to life in the digital age,” said Wooding, a founding member of CaribNOG.
“We are building the human network necessary to support the region’s computer networks,” he said.
He pointed to the recent, unprecedented agreement among competing ISPs to establish a local Internet exchange point in Belize, as a tangible example of the potential that is unleashed when industry actors—including competitors—work together for the greater good.
“CaribNOG is empowering new levels of collaboration and knowledge-exchange in the Caribbean,” he said.
CaribNOG 10 attracted more than 75 local, regional and international industry practitioners and experts from academia, government, the private sector, civil society and the global technical community.
“The work that we’re doing here at CaribNOG is very important for the Internet ecosystem,” said Albert Daniels, a Senior Manager for Global Stakeholder Engagement at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
“No one entity can singlehandedly solve our problems, or deal with our development. This is the value of meetings like CaribNOG, where all of the partners in the Internet ecosystem can share perspectives on relevant issues, and then return to their respective sectors with an elevated sight of how to address those issues,” Daniels said.
Robert Buckland, chief information officer at Tropic Air, the largest airline in Belize, said, “It’s nice to get everyone together, all the different IT people and all the different stakeholders, together in one room to look at global concepts and regional issues. The more we get together, the more we have a unified voice.”