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Minister tells region learn from ‘ship’ decision

Mark Vanterpool. File photo

Minister responsible for telecommunication Mark Vanterpool yesterday told persons attending a regional conference on internet-related issues that there are lessons for them to learn from a decision the British Virgin Islands (BVI) took recently to turn down assistance offered by a Royal Navy ship.

He urged persons at the regional conference not to wait for external forces to address issues regarding internet in the Caribbean – the same the BVI did not wait for the Royal Navy to come in and clean up the territory after a devastating tropical wave on August 7.

“In our case, we had a controversial issue for a British ship to come and help us to clean up; we got out there and we started cleaning up ourselves,” Vanterpool noted before he made reference to another scenario that unfolded in St Croix, US Virgin Islands.

“I think it was 1989 when Hurricane Hugo struck St Croix, I went there to look for my uncle and everyone was sitting, waiting for FEMA to clean up the streets. That is not how we as Caribbean people think and work.”

Vanterpool further stated that governments across the region have a role to play in pulling the forces together to address internet-related issues.

“[The way the BVI approached its cleanup efforts] is the same way I want to see us approach this subject that we’re dealing with today – Caribbean Internet Governance, where we all work together and not depend on someone else from somewhere to help us resolve our problems…”

“I invite the [internet] providers, I invite governments, I invite those public servants who put all their effort into it, to get down to it and not wait until America solves its internet problems – or Europe. We can work together to help to solve our own problems,” Vanterpool further said.

He suggested that some of the internet-related issues relate to freedom of expression, trade, privacy, as well as cyber security and sovereignty.

More ‘internet’ businesses needed

Vanterpool, in the meantime, stated that the BVI government is pushing for better quality internet at an affordable rate, and for more people to venture into internet-inspired businesses.

“Here in the Virgin Islands, our government continues to work with local internet service providers to ensure that everyone can have better quality access to the internet and at an affordable rate, and we hope that users will be accountable…” he said.

“At the end of the day, as minister responsible for telecommunications, I really would like to urge internet users to become more socially responsible.”

“I would like to see more young and budding internet entrepreneurs; I would like to see more internet-inspired businesses; I would like to see increased awareness of security of critical assets; and I would like to see greater participation in the digital economy.”

Vanterpool also disclosed that, later this week, he will sign an agreement for consultancy services to prepare a National ICT Policy Strategy and Implementation Plan between the BVI government and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). “This was approved by the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands last week,” he further said.

Sorry for any inconvenience

Premier Dr D Orlando Smith, who also addressed the conference yesterday, said he too wants the issues regarding the internet resolved, especially considering the importance of internet to business development.

“My government, our business community and our students rely heavily on the internet to manage their businesses, conduct research, and more. If we are to encourage and support the emergence of new, unique and innovative business ideas, then we must ensure policies are in place and current issues resolved.”

Premier Smith, in the meantime, told persons at the regional conference that his government apologizes for any inconvenience caused by the tropical wave that affected the territory this month.

“We are in the recovery process, so we apologise for any remaining debris,” he said. “I am however pleased that we are hosting this forum which will benefit our local businesses, taxi operators and hotels – and will further promote and brand this territory as a favourable destination for similar future events.”

The Caribbean Internet Governance Forum, which was started in 2005, is spearheaded by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and CARICOM.

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