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THE ISSUE: Moving in right direction


Researched and written by Shawn Cumberbatch

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Based on several reports and indices on the subject, Barbados’ is not doing that badly in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
In fact, in some cases it is doing better than countries in and out of the region that are larger and richer. With these larger domiciles usually having the advantage of size of financial resources, ICT is one area where the experts say countries like Barbados can level the playing field.
One example of just how highly ranked the island is in ICT development was revealed in October last year when the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) announced that Barbados held the top ranking in Caribbean ICT development for 2012 to 2013.
ITU Caribbean representative Cleveland Thomas said the country was ranked 29th out of 157 globally, and was number three in the Americas, saying Barbados was moving in the right direction.
Presenting the findings last year at United Nation House, Thomas added, however, that while Barbados scored highly in a number of areas, including use, access and penetration of broadband wireless and other ITC technologies, there was room for improvement.
Ranking
The good news in this area had started a month earlier, when technology transfer and innovation coordinator at the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus, Professor Chris Hillier, said Barbados was one of the most innovative countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, and had achieved a ranking of 47 out of 142 countries in the 2013 Global Innovation Index.
The accolade included a high-ranking for ICT access and use and in relation to the number of international patents filed by residents. All of this suggests Barbados is doing some things right, although there have been concerns that not all is well where accessing and efficiently using ICT are concerned.
This was especially so in relation to the education sector and the use of technology in schools; even after the large sums of money spent on the Education Sector Enhancement Programme in the last 20 years.
One of those concerned about this is Minister of Education Ronald Jones, who as far back as September 2012 was saying that people’s attitudes and money were two main things standing in the way of Barbados’ using more modern technology in schools.
“The virtual reality is in fact almost like reality. Therefore school systems must not be afraid to utilise that which can accelerate learning as much as possible. We have not had the kind of purchase yet for open and flexible learning as we would want because parents are saying to us, ‘I want my child in a school’, a physical structure with somebody standing before them or walking through the class,” he said.
Then there are those like Barbadian software developer Curtis Padmore, who previously told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that authorities should pay more attention to mobile application development, which is emerging as one of the strongest growth areas in information and communications technology (ICT) globally.
The chief executive officer and founder of West Apps (International) Inc. said Barbados’ ICT policy should be focusing much more on mobile development with incentives for software engineers.
“The strength of IT business models is that you’re not producing a product so you’re not limited by scale, you’re not limited by shipping and exports but you are really allowed to compete globally by shipping electronically so anyone in India, China or the USA could download your app,” he said.
So why is all of this so important? Those trained and experienced in the subject area say there are many advantages to having a sound ICT system, including enabling business development, providing greater efficiency, and a more flexible workforce. Then there is the ability to do things that otherwise would not be physically feasible.
For instance, conducting a business meeting with associates in different parts of the world, or having a board meeting via video conference.
Latest figures from the ITU on the global use of ICT are expected to be released shortly, but almost a year ago the international body said ICT “has become a critical business enabler in today’s enterprises”.
“It enables greater efficiency, a more agile workforce and the ability to do business regardless of geographic boundaries. The term ICT refers to a multitude of different, disparate and increasingly complex technologies that share a single converged communication infrastructure based on IP or Internet Protocol,” it noted.
It had estimated that 2.7 billion people (39 per cent of the world’s population) would be using the Internet by the end of last year.

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