Remarks by the Minister of Communications and WorksHonourable Mark Vanterpool
at the 13th Annual Caribbean Internet Governance Forum
Tuesday August 22, 2017
It is my pleasure to welcome you, regional and local delegates, to the Caribbean Internet Governance Forum (CIGF).
We, here in the Virgin Islands, place great importance on this subject that you continue to deliberate on and find solutions and pathways for us in the Caribbean to play our part on the world stage.
I want, first of all, to very sincerely commend Ms. Bernadine Lewis for her Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. I was particularly pleased in June this year, when I heard that she was also awarded this at the Barbados Internet Governance Forum. We sometimes overlook the tireless and most times un-rewarded work that persons like Ms. Lewis do in our region. I first met her in Miami in 2012 and realised that here was a lady working with her team over and over, under-funded, but still doing a marvelous work. We thank them for continuing in this vein.
Later this week, I will be signing an Agreement for Consultancy Services to prepare a National ICT Policy Strategy and Implementation Plan between the Government of the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union. This was approved by the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands last week and I thank the Premier and the rest of the Cabinet for supporting the Ministry of Communications and Works along these lines.
Those of you who are here, already know what the CIGF is, but for the benefit of others, the Caribbean Internet Governance Forum is a regional, multi-stakeholder forum, initiated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM Secretariat) in 2005.
Its objective is to co-ordinate a regional approach to Internet Governance, meaning the policies and mechanisms guiding the decisions made by stakeholders about the development and use of the Internet.
As we experience an increase in the use of the Internet and recognize its increasing importance to Governments, the business community, students, researchers and others, it is very appropriate for the CGIF to continue to enhance the capacity of this resource and manage the many issues that arise from the use of the Internet.
Premier of the Virgin Islands, Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith and his Government, support the CIGF, as it seeks to enhance Internet governance capacity and expertise in the Caribbean. Hence, we were pleased to host this Conference here in the British Virgin Islands.
The question is often asked and it presents a conundrum or problem in many instances, “who really manages the Internet, specifically as it relates to freedom of expression, trade, privacy, cybersecurity and sovereignty?”
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.
Therefore, I am happy to see the topics to be discussed during this forum, including Digital Commerce, How to Enhance Local Digital Content and The Growing Impact of Social Media on Caribbean and Local Society.
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.
We would encourage delegates to have open and frank discussions during this forum.
We here in the Virgin Islands, taking an example of us here in the Caribbean, when we face adversity and challenges, we rise to the occasion and find solutions.
This was the case just over a week ago when we were faced with flooding here in the Territory and we decided that we were going to rise to the occasion, face the challenge and try to resolve the issues and the problems. Thanks to all the citizens of the Territory of the Virgin Islands, we have come out well. We still have some work to do, but we want to give them a big Thank You.
Because of this type of attitude and approach as a Caribbean people, we don’t wait for…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.
Another example, 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 and it’s 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.
So, I want to give you that challenge as a group. As you sit in this forum, put your minds to it, put your hearts to it, put your backs and your souls to it and let’s get this problem solved as a Caribbean people.
I invite the 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.
Be assured of the support of the Ministry of Communications and Works and by extension, the Government of the Virgin Islands in your efforts today. We look forward to resolving our problems as we go forward.
Thank you very much and have a productive next few days here in the Virgin Islands.