In our final post for our 3-part blog series on data protection for CARICOM and the public sector, our Director of Public Sector, Eamonn Sheehy, discusses how commercial cloud solutions is the key to unlocking ample opportunities for CARICOM within a single ICT space.
Caribbean governments play a very significant role in the regional ICT sector. Typically, they are the single biggest employer and are also one of the biggest purchasers of generic ICT equipment, such as desktop computers, servers, and printers. The government sector is also a major catalyst for the widespread implementation of e-services and provides strategic direction to the development and adoption of new services within the ICT domain. Therefore, they have a very important role to play in the development and growth of new sectors within ICT.
This approach is recognized in the CARICOM’s Building Technological Resilience - Strategic Priorities 2015-2019 report which has a stated goal “to engender innovative, technology-driven economies and societies in the Region”. The creation of a single ICT space is one strategy to be adopted to achieve this goal, but another strategy mentioned in the report is to “bring technology to the people and transform them to digital citizens and digital entrepreneurs” through e-government services, open data to foster innovation, and the development of applications for specific sectors, such as Health and Tourism.
The Strategic Priorities for Building Technological Resilience report further identifies the central role of government by calling on member states to:
“Mobilise Resources and Commitment of Member States to Invest in ICT – To ensure adequate resources for ICT development including commitment of the Region’s governments, other sources (national, regional and international), public-private-people partnerships”
The accelerated emergence of a new commercial cloud services industry within the CARICOM region is only possible if governments, and by extension the public sector, strategically embrace the use of commercial cloud services. Adoption of these state-of-the-art ICT environments will lead to growth in this sector and provide the foundation for a viable commercial cloud services industry.
With an estimated population of 15 million people living and working within the countries directly involved in the single ICT space project, there is ample room for the sustainability of a commercial cloud services sector. However, the region needs a few large national and/or regional organizations to adopt commercial cloud services to provide a significant kick-start to the sector. The Caribbean public sector, through strategic government policies that recognize the role of commercial cloud service providers, can be that much needed player.
Development of Legal Framework to Govern Single ICT Space
The development of an appropriate legal framework by and between CARICOM countries is also an essential component of achieving a single ICT space for the region. The framework provides CARICOM with an opportunity to address critical issues related to cloud computing, and to stand out amongst other regions by establishing clear guidelines related to information ownership and access rights within the regional cloud computing environment. It provides an opportunity for CARICOM to draft robust, transparent and forward-thinking legislation covering the potential “demands” of developed countries, ensuring there are clear rules and regulations in place related to cooperating with foreign governments and sharing information.
With the establishment of a legal framework to govern the region’s cloud computing and technology capabilities, and state-of-the-art infrastructure from local service providers, including those offering commercial cloud service portfolios, CARICOM would become a very attractive region to securely host data and applications.
Looking beyond the region, the CARIFORUM/EU economic partnership agreement (EPA) already enables EU markets to procure services, meaning CARICOM enterprises can compete for business in Europe on a level playing field with EU based enterprises. This provides a Caribbean commercial cloud services sector with an opportunity to tap into a major ICT market.
The European Commission (DG Connect) undertook an open web‐based public consultation on the research and innovation challenges in cloud computing for the Horizon 2020 work programme 2018‐2020. One of the central occlusions of the final report was that:
“A European Cloud Initiative based upon high‐capacity cloud solutions, world‐class high-performance computing capabilities and high‐speed connectivity will provide a trusted and open environment for scientists, industry, SMEs and the public sector.”
In the above quote, one can easily change the word “European” to “CARICOM” and the same can be said about the role cloud computing can play in the CARICOM single ICT space. There are many opportunities for the expansion of the Caribbean ICT sector through the comprehensive implementation of the CARICOM vision of a single ICT space. With a forward-looking, transparent and protective legal framework, as well as a vibrant local commercial cloud services provider community and highly-available infrastructure, CARICOM could become a player in the global cloud computing and technology sector. The emergence of a sustainable regional commercial cloud services sector will almost certainly be the launching pad for a broader range of ICT services for the region.
Questions about CARICOM and how Government agencies can accelerate digital transformation?
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