Grenada’s ICT development lags behind the region

by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada

  • ICT Development Index of 73 for Grenada
  • Grenada’s IDI improvement  driven by improvement in the skills sub-index
  • Public Service yet to implement an integrated ICT system

Out of 176 countries, Grenada was given an ICT Development Index (IDI) of 73 by the United Nations International Telecommunication Union in 2017 for its innovations in Information and Communication Technologies development.

Countries receiving higher ICT Development Index were Trinidad and Tobago (68), Bahamas (57), St Kitts and Nevis (37), and Barbados (34).

According to Volume 1 of the report, the greatest improvements in value between IDI 2016 and IDI 2017 were made by the Bolivia, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Grenada. Grenada’s IDI improvement was driven by improvement in the skills sub-index.

ICT Development Index 2017 for Grenada

However, despite the ranking Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell believes that Grenada is lagging behind in the area of ICT innovation since becoming the first Caribbean island to implement a digital telecommunications system.

Speaking with young ICT professionals last Thursday during a “Let’s Talk ICT” session facilitated by Office of the Prime Minister, Dr Mitchell lamented that the Public Service is yet to implement an integrated ICT system throughout the entire public service, including statutory bodies. “We have come a long way in the region but there are some countries that have gone way ahead of us who initiated this because here we have the stubbornness in the system that we want to remain where we are. We have done some work, but we still have a long way to go. I have been having to pound my head against the wall with watching us operate every little institution in government have its own IT service and everybody trying to hire IT specialist in education and in health etc which is a waste of resources so, therefore, I see leveraging ICT in the public sector as crucial.”

Dr Mitchell is cognisant of the need to improve ICT development on the island and also of the need to update the country’s Electronic Crimes Act to keep abreast with those developments. “We are moving to an age where money is becoming less and less the way to do business. It is going to be technology but at the same time, we have to talk about the Electronic Crimes Act. Take the great United States for example where there was a big debate over election results due to manipulation. If we don’t get our act together, although we have not reached that stage as yet, in future someone can get into our system and manipulate the voters list.”

The Prime Minister’s stance on ICT development in Grenada and the region mirrors the sentiments expressed by Director General of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), His Excellency Dr Didacus Jules during his recent in March of this year.

Dr Jules pointed to the lack of application of Artificial Intelligence which is another giant step in ICT innovation. “There is a lot of work to be done by Caribbean states when it comes to bridging the gap because we are way behind. The Caribbean has a very low degree of tertiary education in terms of skills industry relevant certification. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has been running a programme on Artificial Intelligence, and the big debate now is that all the jobs will be transformed by Artificial Intelligence (AI). We are so far behind, so that’s why tertiary education must become a vital focus, plugging the gaps within the school system.”

At the 39th Caricom Heads of Government Meeting in Jamaica, Dr Mitchell highlighted the launch of a multi-stakeholder partnership to fast-track CARICOM Single ICT space for harmonisation of the ICT and other legislative frameworks, the removal of roaming charges, the encouragement of digital entrepreneurship, equipping all citizens as digital citizens and looking at ICT financial solutions among other regional benefits. The roadmap for such was given approval by Caricom Heads of Government in February 2017.

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