Ministers’ absence at conference upsets Tillman

ST. GEORGE’S, Grenada: Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Grenada Prime Minister Tillman Thomas has expressed dissatisfaction with the absence of several ministers with responsibility for information and communications technology (ICT) at the 36th special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which was held in St. George’s last week.

The meeting, which was convened to discuss and approve both the draft regional digital development strategy (RDDS) and its attendant implementation plan, as well as other ICT related issues, was not able to field a quorum of eight member states, with only four ministers attending, despite confirmations received by the CARICOM Secretariat.

Thomas, who has lead responsibility for science and technology, including ICT in the quasi Cabinet of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM, stressed his displeasure last Friday that the meeting took place without the benefit of the full participation of all member states.

“Our people cannot afford leadership that is tentative and unstable. We have been talking long enough. It’s now time to act,” he said.

Thomas noted that while developments in ICT were rapidly progressing in some countries, the Caribbean region was still pursuing the adoption of a digital developmental strategy.

He added that the region’s dependence on traditional business models and focus on the tried and tested continued to be challenged by a generation who had embraced the opportunities of ICT and technological advancement.

“And while we wait on a quorum for the adoption and adaption of this strategy some of our nationals are finding international success in their homes via their computers,” said Thomas.

He sounded a word of caution that “we stand to lose our best minds to the developed world unless we embrace ICT with commitment and urgency.”

“Our countries have yet to engage ICT as a development tool that should be integrated into our culture and psyche,” said Thomas.

Noting that significant work was done to formulate what was regarded as a robust strategy on ICT, Thomas told the 36th Special COTED that it was imperative that the process continue and that there was commitment to bring it to “full term and safe delivery”.

He called on all member states to recommit to driving the regional digital development strategy forward, noting that “the future of our people hinges on it”.

“Our credibility as a region will be questioned, not just by the rest of the world but by our own people. We must seize the opportunity that is available to us now to take the lead in this sector.

“We are years overdue. ICT is here to stay, we must embrace it and make a paradigm shift or we will be left struggling to catch up,” Thomas said.

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