Late last November, the government of Antigua gave notice to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Disputes Settlement Body (DSB) that, if the United States did not reach “an appropriate and beneficial settlement” in relation to a legal adjudication made previously in its favour, it would act to recover the revenue it has lost.
At the root was a decision by the US government to invoke US federal laws namely, the Wire Act, the Travel Act, and Illegal Gambling Business Act to halt gaming companies incorporated in Antigua, and others, from providing such services on a cross border basis into the US.
In response, Antigua brought a WTO case against the US for the economic damage caused, and for violating its international obligations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The WTO’s arbitration panel found in Antigua’s favour and found that the US action had deprived Antigua of trade revenues.
In doing so, the arbitrator agreed to allow it to lift US intellectual property protection on up to US$21 million annually on, for example, copyrighted music, movies or books, in a manner that would enable the Antigua government to retain the royalties that would have otherwise gone to their US creators.
However, when it became apparent that the US was not prepared to reach a reasonable financial settlement, it informed the Disputes Settlement Body at its November 2016 meeting that it was prepared legally to enforce the suspension of copyright on the sale of US intellectual property, as allowed for by the WTO’s dispute settlement ruling of January 2013.
Grace Kennedy Brings Mobile Payments To Jamaica
Grace Kennedy Payment Services recently received a license and approval from the Bank of Jamaica to bring a mobile money solution to the island.
The service in question, Grace Kennedy Money Services (GKMS), is set to be offered at multiple locations around the island. It underwent a fairly wide-scale pilot project, with over 250 internal customers taking part over the course of nine months, and the early results were sufficiently positive to allow for expansions and official licensing.
GKMS operations will allow users to not only pay bills via the service, but also buy goods and services at retail outlets, add credit to mobile devices, and even engage in peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers among other services, which should allow it to fit nicely into several different industries on the island itself.
Those interested will be able to put the service to use starting this month, with GraceKennedy chief executive Don Wehby noting that the service would put Jamaica ahead of several other countries in the region.
Wehby further commented “GK MPay is a world-class service which makes use of the best technology in order to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for a range of transactions. This innovative product will help increase financial inclusion, while giving the financially savvy another safe, convenient way to transact business.”
Mobile payments have a great potential to add to a country’s ability to attract business interests and bolster internal customer experiences as well. It’s good news to see a new mobile payment option arrive on the scene, though it may not be all that helpful in the end.
C-Safe App by Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT) Being Utilised
C-SAFE; the free anti- crime app from the group, Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT), has already been downloaded more than 3,000 times and is used on a regular basis daily.
“C-SAFE has been downloaded about 3,500 times since it’s December 22 (2016) launch. The app is being accessed at least two to eight times a day, which means it’s being frequently utilised. So the usage is probably close to 30,000 in terms of the amount of times individuals are going on.” said co-founder, Gillian Wall.
They’re looking at tips, police alerts on theft, missing persons etc. People are also utilising the app to submit reports on electricity issues, water shortages, representation type issues, because there’s also that element,” Wall shared.
Users have the option to submit reports without including their personal information, such as gender, age and location. Regarding what the app is most frequently used to do, Ms. Wall told Newsday “the majority of the reports so far have been crime-related (as well as) water and electricity related. Those reports are all going to the relevant bodies.”
In October, we reported that Jamaican start-up BookFusion won the Inter-American Development Bank’s award for “Start-up with the Most Growth Potential”. Since then the company has set out to realise that potential and the having Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Information as a customer can only be a boost!
The Ministry has launched their digital library on BookFusion, enabling Schools, students, teachers & parents island wide access to the entire content of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) free of cost. The Digital Library consists of over 70 educational and reading resources at no cost to readers.
Together, BookFusion and the Ministry aim to increase students’ access to content in and out of school, while providing sustainable digital solutions for the distribution of eBooks and digital content to students, teachers and educational institutions throughout the country.
Google Signs A Deal With Cuba's Telecommunications Monopoly
Google signed an agreement with the Cuban government on Monday granting Internet users there quicker access to its branded content.
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, signed the deal with Mayra Arevich Marin, president of state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. It grants Cubans speedy access to the Google Global Cache network, which stores content from sites like Gmail and YouTube on servers located closer to end users.
Currently, Internet access is limited to slow and expensive Wi-Fi hot spots, so it was not clear how the deal would actually impact service in the short term.
“This deal allows ETECSA to use our technology to reduce latency by caching some of our most popular high bandwidth content like YouTube videos at a local level,” a Google statement said.
“This may improve reception of cached materials, but not for example email which depends on local bandwidth,” a local telecommunications technician said, requesting anonymity for fear of losing his job.
Yahoo Breaks Its Own Record Data Breach
In late September, Yahoo disclosed that back in 2014 they suffered what was then the biggest data loss in history when 500M customer records were accessed. This week, they informed the world that that number has bettered by a 2013 breach in which 1 Billion records were stolen.
So what does this tell us beyond the fact that Yahoo’s security seems to have more holes than a tea bag? Well it underscores the value of the data being held by internet companies, and the lengths criminals are prepared to go to get the goldmine of data users are sometimes not only required to give, but willing give up.
The key take away that you should hold onto is you and your data are a very valuable commodity so guard it closely. You should therefore be very circumspect when it comes to giving over personal information, and be very careful what real information you give. For security tips follow the link in the show notes.
Free and Open Source Software, or FOSS allows for the free use and modification of software developed by the Open Source Community. Such software drives much of the internet through applications and operating systems such as Apache, Linux, Mozilla’s FireFox and others. More recently the software behemoth Microsoft joined the Linux Foundation.
The Government of Guyana through the eGovernment Agency in the Ministry of Public Telecommunications has initiated a process to develop a policy on the use of Free and Open Source Software within the public sector.
To that end the eGovernment Agency has published the draft policy document for interested persons and stakeholders to submit comments. The deadline for feedback is Friday 9th December, 2016. A link to the draft policy is available in the show notes.
The document is available on GitHub at https://github.com/Vidyaratha/RFC_draftFOSSpolicy
Jamaica Moves Ahead With Plans To Create Single ICT Regulator
The Government of Jamaica is moving ahead with plans to establish a single regulator for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
Jamaica’s Science, Energy and Technology Minister, Dr. the Hon. Andrew Wheatley, said the legislative and regulatory changes necessary to facilitate the move are expected to be brought to Parliament in 2017.
He noted that the objective is to ensure cohesion across the sector “thereby creating a more modern fit-for-purpose framework”. The Minister was speaking at the Spectrum Management Authority’s (SMA) 15th Anniversary Awards Dinner in New Kingston.
Meanwhile, he noted the urgency for Jamaica to make the transition from analogue to digital transmission. He pointed out that a number of countries have already made the switch, enabling them to deliver more high-quality content in order to meet market demand.
“In the case of the United States, this switch has helped to free up valuable broadcast spectrum for public-safety communications by groups such as the police, fire departments and rescue squads,” he pointed out.
ECTEL Reviewing Universal Service Fund Regulations
All around the world governments levy a small tax on the revenues of telecommunications companies, which are credited to a “Universal Service Fund”. The purpose of this fund is to finance projects to make telecommunications service available to underserved communities and parts of the country where, for commercial reasons the telecom’s companies might not ordinarily serve.
The Eastern Caribbean is no exception, however there has been growing concern not surprisingly mainly from among the service providers themselves, but also other stakeholders that these funds are accumulating but seldom used.
During a break at ECTEL’s 77th Board Meeting in Basseterre St. Kitts, ECTEL Managing Director Mr. Embert Charles was asked for an overview of the changes to USF regulations.
“ECTEL is obligated under the treaty to provide continues advice and guidance on the use of the Universal Service Funds, these are essentially national funds set up by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) so they are responsible for the management of the fund. But what we do is get involved in the process of setting rules and policies that are harmonised across the ECTEL member states.” Mr. Charles said.
He explained that ECTEL had begun a consultation on proposed changes to the regulations governing the USF.
“In essence some of the work, speaks to adjusting the framework and parameters for who can contribute to the fund and defining what is Universal Service as well as who can contribute and actually access the funds. We had challenges in the past that because of the limited interpretation of the rules by some of the NTRCs there was a very slow roll-out of programmes and projects under the fund. That was criticised from the point of view that there were a lot of projects that could be done, but only the service providers could access the funds.”
The Managing Director was aware that there was criticism of the fund, but pointed out that they had to observe the regulations.
“We had challenges in the past that because of the limited interpretation of the rules by some of the NTRCs there was a very slow roll-out of programmes and projects under the fund. That was criticised from the point of view that there were a lot of projects that could be done, but only the service providers could access the funds.”
“But those were rules at the time, we could not break the rules, unless the rules change we have to go by the rules. But there can be some latitude and some NTRCs have done that and we advice others to follow cautiously.”
The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, through its Cyber Incident Response Team (CIRT), trained 80 Government Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts. Senior Advisor to the Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Trevor Forrest, speaking at the opening of the workshop in Kingston, said that one of the imperatives of the Government is to create a knowledge-based society, which involves the increased use of technology.
Sponsored by the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO) and the
Ministry, the training workshop is aimed at enhancing the education of these ICT professionals in basic cyber standards that should be adopted.
Mr. Forrest, said as the use of technology increased, that with “This increased use of technology not only brings increased opportunities for economic development and growth, but also increased opportunities for cyber crime,” he noted.
Mr. Forrest said that as criminals get greater exposure to technology, there will be a rise in cases, including identity and credit card information theft. “This is the reason cyber security and cyber standards are of such great importance, and also the reason for the workshop,” he explained.
Caribbean Telecommunications Union To Establish A Caribbean Collaboration Committee
In an effort to define and align the strategic ICT agenda in the region, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) brought several regional ICT stakeholders to meet in Trinidad and Tobago earlier this week.
With representation from across the sector including regulatory, Government and the technology industry operators. The forum’s highlight was the establishment of a new Caribbean ICT Collaboration Committee with a mandate to make recommendations to Caribbean Governments on key ICT issues affecting the region, which seems to have the approval of the telecom’s operators.
The Chairman of the newly formed Committee, Mr Lucien Blackmoore, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Science and Technology, Dominica, gave his commitment to this collaborative approach and looked forward to working with all the stakeholders to enable ICT development in the region.
Vice Chairman of the Caribbean ICT Collaboration Committee and CANTO Chairman, Mr Julian Wilkins commended the CTU on the establishment of this initiative. He added that CANTO was delighted to be part of this historic event and he looks forward to collaborating and cooperating with ICT stakeholders. He concluded that this is a great opportunity to make progress on a number of key ICT issues affecting the Caribbean.
More Interesting were Digicel’s comments. “With the ongoing ICT revolution, combined with the forces of globalization, there is no doubt that a collective approach is needed for advancing ICT-enabled development in the Caribbean—a long-standing and key area of focus for Digicel,” said Kieran Meskell, group head of Regulatory Affairs for Digicel, Caribbean and Central America.
Bahamas Hosts Regional Infrastructure Forum
Finance and media leaders met in the Bahamas on this week to discuss and launch a new infrastructure forum for the Caribbean.
There are significant challenges across the region to improving infrastructures. As Dr Warren Smith, then incoming President of the Caribbean Development Bank stated more than two years ago, “Over the next 10 years, some US$30 billion will be required to modernize and enhance the efficiency of the power, transportation, telecommunications, and water and waste-water sectors”.
This need will only increase as current infrastructures continue to age, but the challenges to address these problems are significant. Issues include viability, project risk and financing.
To help address this widespread concern, CIBC FirstCaribbean has joined forces with IJGlobal, the infrastructure arm of Euromoney Institutional Investor, and New Energy Events, the host of the annual Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum (CREF).
They launched the Caribbean Infrastructure Finance Forum (CARIF) in Nassau, The Bahamas earlier this week to begin addressing these concern.
According to Jon Whiteaker, Editor-In-Chief of IJGlobal, “Governments in the region are showing that they are willing but they need to ramp up dialogue with the private sector in order to achieve the efficient delivery of projects and good value for their investments. CARIF is the ideal forum for those discussions to take place.”
With online room booking service AirBnB coming under fire in the physical space in states like New York and some countries in Europe, it’s not surprising that the company is seeking more “friendly” markets.
Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett met with Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb’s executive with responsibility for Public Policy – Latin America and the Caribbean; and Carlos Muñoz, Head of Public Policy and Government Affairs, Airbnb. The Ministry of Tourism is set to sign a major agreement with Airbnb to augment and drive growth within the tourism industry.
The minister, who made the announcement during a meeting with Airbnb executives at the ministry’s New Kingston offices, is optimistic about the potential impact the agreement will have on community tourism and is eager to finalise a memorandum of understanding to concretise the partnership.
“We are very happy to be partnering with Airbnb and know that it will be mutually beneficial to both entities involved. Once drafted, I know that the agreement will take into account our goal of destination assurance, which ensures our credibility in the marketplace. It will also allow us to utilise analytics across their social platforms. This will be a great tool for us to build a better collective resource management platform for our destination,” said Bartlett.
According to Airbnb’s executive with responsibility for public policy in Latin America and the Caribbean, Shawn Sullivan, the market for Airbnb in Jamaica is rapidly growing and is extremely lucrative. The site currently accounts for 2,300 active hosts and 4,000 active listings in the past year from Jamaica.
Social Media Identified As A Factor In Teenage Suicide
Life Coach Janice Huff is implicating social media as a factor in the increasing rate of suicide among youth in Antigua & Barbuda and the wider world. Huff said the advent of social media has seemingly forced young people to try to fit in despite the challenges they are facing.
“Our lives are like goldfish bowls where everybody is looking on us, and I think that clearly adds immense pressure that some of us have never had before,” she said. According to Huff, young people are being forced, because of social media, to portray an image of themselves that doesn’t exist.
“They are showing off the world as one person, and literally they feel something else completely different inside,” she argued. “The whole point is that there is so much other stress coming into their lives as well now. Yet, they are still hiding behind the Internet, claiming that they are doing okay because that’s how they want to be seen by their friends, peers and parents.”
Huff said young people must be encouraged by adults to “come out of that and say it’s okay to not be okay”.