More and more, Caribbean businesses are using digital technologies to cut costs, boost efficiency and reach new customers. But even as enterprises edge closer to the promise of greater competitiveness, some of the region’s leading technology experts are issuing a timely warning.
“For Caribbean businesses and societies to realise the full promise of the digital economy, greater priority needs to be placed on the development of underlying domestic infrastructure. The security and resilience of the networks that underpin the digital economy are fundamental to the establishment of successful, sustainable digital enterprises and economic activity,” said Bevil Wooding, Director of Caribbean Affairs at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and co-founder of CaribNOG, the Caribbean Network Operators Group.
The critical need for Internet infrastructure development was among several development priorities identified at a March 1 Public Policy Forum held at the Grenada Trade Centre, St. George’s, where Wooding was a feature presenter.
He underscored that infrastructure was not limited to technical facilities but included enabling policy frameworks and human resource development programs.
“The establishment of internet exchange points across the region is one of the practical ways that the Caribbean can take significant steps towards boosting its digital infrastructure,” said Brent Mc Intosh, chief technology officer of MCNet Solutions and coordinator of the Grenada Internet Exchange (GREX), in a post-event interview.
Internet exchange points, or IXPs, are physical locations where internet service providers connect their networks to exchange traffic. There are hundreds of IXPs in the world, with more than a dozen already in the Caribbean.
Continued IXP proliferation and development are expected to have a significant impact on the Caribbean’s digital economy because IXPs provide several benefits, including improved local internet connectivity, better data speeds, and reduced costs for businesses and consumers.
“GREX is one example of the positive impact of improved infrastructure of local business development. By improving local internet connectivity and reducing the cost of internet services, GREX has helped position several local businesses to take better advantage of Internet technologies and compete in the global digital economy. Caribbean companies who care about getting their networks connected to critical infrastructure should connect to IXPs,” Mc Intosh said.
The Public Policy Forum was part of Grenada ICT Week, held from February 27 to March 3, organized by the Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce in collaboration with ARIN, CaribNOG and the Grenada National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission. The meeting brought together business leaders, government officials, ICT professionals, academics, and members of civil society, alongside local, regional, and international experts to discuss the role of technology in business, government and society.