The Current Landscape
Many of us would know that the "Nature Isle", of Dominica has 365 rivers and is regularly exposed to natural disasters, which make disaster management and climate change action essential to the development of this Caribbean island state. Every school in Dominica receives Internet connectivity and most schools have an Internet lab. However, very little technological development results from the use of the labs and most school programmes are focused on learning basic digital skills.
Changing the Landscape
The National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) in Dominica, has sought to feed two birds with one cherry, by changing the modus operandi of the school based IT education and addressing the challenges of Climate Change. The NTRC entered the Regional Fund for Digital Innovation in Latin America and the Caribbean, (FRIDA) grant competition and won the US$18,000 prize in the programme's most technical category – Innovation for Internet Development.
Their project aims to reduce the barriers for the adoption of technology in a small island developing state and to expose students and teachers to the benefits of the Internet on a national level.
Open Source Technology
The hardware required will include Rasberry Pi boards, Arduino, and a host of climatic sensors and cameras. The software will be developed by leveraging open source solutions already available and would require students to develop skills and knowledge in Python, PHP, web server technologies and Internet protocols.
Community Engagement and Empowerment
The software will allow the locally captured weather data to be posted on the school's website and other national websites, therefore making this valuable data available to communities. This will enable local stakeholders to be better informed about their prevailing weather conditions and act accordingly.
The system will be built by students and teachers, with the support of local technical volunteers. The process should also inspire and motivate them to continue the building process and seek out other IoT projects to work on.
Social Media and Technology Communications Are Taking Over
That opinion was shared by Guyana's Hon. Cathy Humes, Minister of Public Telecommunications, as she discussed matters concerning digital developments in Caribbean Media at the 48th Annual General Assembly of the Caribbean Broadcasting Union.
The focus of Ms. Humes's discussion was the way in which "social media and technology have taken over communication."
She also said that "broadcasting is becoming dead and content is no longer exclusively delivered through broadcasting". She drew parallels with the way, applications such as Uber and Airbnb have respectively taken over the taxi industry and the hotel industry.
On a grand scale it is safe to say that modern technology has indeed taken over communication, as Ms. Humes explained: "content is now being delivered at all times and over 60 billion messages are being relayed a day via Facebook and Whatsapp." This is enough to show why the broadcasting industry must learn to use technology to its advantage to "get it out there and get it right."
Ms. Humes ended by stressing that "if we do not move, we will be pushed" because although highly competitive, creativity and innovation in technology should be appreciated and taken advantage of. Her solution is to retrain, retool and redeploy workers.
Concerns Are Surfacing With The Region's IXPs
BVI's Ideal Scenario
Some six years after the commissioning of the IXP in the BVI, it appears that all is not as it should be. According to Bevil Wooding, "It is actually not true to say the internet is up and running in the BVI; it is not up and running."
Effectively, the IXP allows networks to interconnect and exchange information without first having to go through one or more third-party networks in other jurisdictions.
When Plans Meet Reality!
Telecommunication providers in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) have refused to use interconnection arrangements in the territory that could make the internet cheaper and faster for their customers, said Internet Strategist and Advisor to the Caribbean Telecommunications Union Bevil Wooding.
Ahead of the launch of an upgraded version of the IXP technology locally, telecom providers are being told to connect, stay connected, and stop depriving customers of better internet services, Wooding said. "When I say they are stopping pairing, it means that, instead of sending the traffic to the exchange point [in the BVI], they continue to send it back up to Miami."
That results in local customers being charged double to use the internet, Wooding said. "You are paying twice. You're going to send it out to be exchanged in Miami or some other place only to be brought back in to be consumed by a user. That is the issue that the local IXP is designed to solve." By launching a local exchange point in the BVI, you are giving local [internet] traffic a local option for being exchanged to get to a local consumer.
Wooding said that local telecommunication providers should get on board, especially with the impending upgrade to the IXP in the territory. "We are saying enough is enough. It is time for better, faster, cheaper, local internet. The citizens deserve it; the internet users deserve it."
BVI is Not Alone
At news time reports coming out of Jamaica suggest that there are similar issues with local ISPs in Jamaica by-passing the local exchange point. This is something we will watch and report on as it develops.