Statement
30 September 2015 - 4:00pm

MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND WORKS
HON. MARK VANTERPOOL

Opening Ceremony
CTU Conference/Information and Communication Technologies Week
September 29, 2015 – 7:00 p.m.
Maria’s by the Sea

The Virgin Islands is in a reset mode and certainly telecommunications plays one of the most crucial roles, in ensuring, that we can achieve a higher standard of living for our people.

The size of a country and its population is irrelevant, in terms of being on the cutting edge of technology and indeed, the BVI intends to keep pace, with the rapid advancement, in the delivery of goods and services, through technology.

As Minister with responsibility for ICT, I want to assure everyone, that our telecommunications regulatory agency, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), is putting the mechanism in place, to enable the launch of real broadband in the Virgin Islands, using all mediums available.

For the technologically savvy among us, this means, we will soon be able to have download speeds in excess of 20 megabits per second, which is more than 5-10 times of what currently exists here in the Virgin Islands.

My expectations are, that we would have speeds of up to 50 megs, in the very near future.

To put this in layman's terms, this will allow the download of large data files in a matter of seconds, without having high latency in the network, or what we more commonly know as long waiting time or buffering.

And as I have learnt from colleagues in other countries, such as Aruba who came to visit me here, this 15 megabits speed is standard and achievable.

I strongly believe that consumers should not have to pay prohibitive prices for this, because the technology already exists and is in use elsewhere in the world.

As a Government, we are encouraging all of the operators to ensure that consumers, large and small, can benefit from real broadband service, very shortly.

In 2010, when the Virgin Islands hosted the Caribbean ICT Roadshow, in partnership with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, the CTU pointed to the need to establish National Internet Exchange Points, generally known as IXPs.

Here in the Virgin Islands, we understood the importance of establishing a local IXP and today, we are happy to say, that we have benefited from having one of the very first IXPs established in the region.

This was implemented with significant support from the CTU, to whom we remain grateful.

We recognize though, that more has to be done to realize the full benefits of this development.

Accordingly, I would like to see more emphasis toward adding value to our IXP, by exploring opportunities for data centres, data storage and local content.

And the CTU heard from our Premier yesterday and the rest of the caucus, our urgent need to advance in this direction and they have offered to help us as best they can.

I urge my fellow Member States in the CTU, to also implement a National IXP, which, when joined with the other IXPs in the region, will be a powerful catalyst for regional growth and development.

The CTU advocates that Governments should be the early adopters of ICTs, to improve governance and efficiently deliver services to our citizens.

It is for this reason, with the push to put in place a Single ICT Space, that for ICT Week, BVI has the theme “Kick starting the CARICOM Single ICT Space by Accelerating e-Government Services”.

I am convinced that we are on the right path, in the CTU.

I therefore urge the Member States of the CTU to accelerate e-Government Services, in order to enable us all, to move quickly, to establish a Single ICT Space in the Caribbean.

To do this, the Governments of the Caribbean must lead the way and by doing so, we will assist in the development of a dynamic Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) something that we all know will greatly benefit us all.

Importantly, in addition, we must embrace “Open Data”, so as to encourage enterprise growth and innovation among our Caribbean nations.

Many experts in the industry have confirmed that Open Data has the ability to generate jobs and economic returns, as well as to transform existing industries, through new services.

Currently, there is an Open Data Initiative, financed by the World Bank and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), of which the CTU is very supportive.

The initiative will facilitate Caribbean countries in opening non-sensitive Government data, particularly public finance data, with the aim of increasing transparency, creating economic value and facilitating data-driven policy-making.

This, too, is an important initiative for our region.

Ladies and gentlemen the 13th Caribbean Ministerial Strategic ICT Seminar, which takes place tomorrow, will focus on these two important areas.

At the end of the day, these technological advances will facilitate the growth and development of the main sectors of the economies throughout the region and result in a better standard of living for our people.

So, I welcome this conference here in our British Virgin Islands and hope that we will have fruitful networking sessions over the next few days.

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