Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago – 28th March 2023 – The 47th Executive Council meeting of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) took place on 27th March 2023. The EC, which comprises Permanent Secretaries and Technical Officers from CTU Member States, meets bi-annually to guide the affairs of the CTU, to approve its Work Programme and to discuss and agree recommendations on regional ICT matters to be made to the General Conference of Ministers.
Mr. Wendell Mitchell, National Chief Digital Officer, Ministry of Digital Transformation Trinidad and Tobago, representing Sen. the Hon. Hassel Bacchus, Minister of Digital Transformation, Trinidad and Tobago and President, General Conference of Ministers CTU, delivered the Welcome Remarks.
Mr. Mitchell stated, “Every stakeholder in the CTU must act as part of a cohesive collective that brings greater value than the sum of its individual constituents. Further, collaboration and partnerships must be among the key principles that serve as the foundation for the successful pursuit of our common regional ICT goals.”
Mr. Clifford Bostic, Director, Digital Infrastructure, Ministry of Industry, Innovation, Science and Technology, Barbados and Chairman of the Executive Council, chaired the meeting.
Secretary-General Rodney Taylor presented the Report of the Secretariat, which highlighted the work of the Secretariat Team, and provided updates on the work of the organisation to representatives from CTU Member States.
Rationalisation of regulations in the region as part of a move to a future Single ICT Regulator and the issue of OTTs and the impact that they are having on regional operators were important agenda items. As a result, the EC received a presentation from the CANTO C6 Committee on its views on the Regulation of OTTs. The presentation was delivered by Ms. Lisa Agard, Chief Executive Officer, TSTT and Chair, CANTO C6 Committee, accompanied by Ms. Desha Clifford, Group Head of Regulatory Affairs – Digicel and Board Director, CANTO. The CANTO C6 Committee comprises six organisations of CANTO working group: Digicel, Flow, Tele SUR, ATN International, Inc., Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) and Cable Bahamas.
Ms. Agard, in her presentation, declared, ‘Caribbean Telecommunications is in a Crisis’. Citing data to support her argument, she disclosed, “Google, Meta and TikTok alone account for 60% of Caribbean Internet traffic”. She continued, “Mobile Operators are finding it difficult to achieve price increases to fund networks – it is a race to the bottom. OTTs have no capex, pay no regulatory fees or taxes to Caribbean governments whereas the telco industry is overburdened with fees, taxes and charges.” She made an urgent appeal for governments and CARICOM Heads of Government to introduce appropriate regulation and taxation of OTTs and to establish a regulatory framework, among other recommendations.
The Executive Council also adopted the motion to Advance Gender Equality through Integrating Parity and Mainstreaming into the National ICT Agendas of CTU Member States. Presented by Ms. Francola John, CTU Focal Point for the ITU Network of Women, the initiative calls for CTU Member States to develop and implement national policies that promote gender equality and mainstreaming in ICT, among other recommendations.
Delegates from 17 of the 20 Member States attended the hybrid meeting, a new record for a Council meeting. Delegates attended from Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Island and Trinidad and Tobago.
In closing the meeting, the Chair thanked everyone in attendance for a successful meeting, which will assist in advancing the interests of CTU Member States and stakeholders, and build towards a resilient Caribbean.