Better access to broadband

The World Bank said on May 22 that it has approved a US$25 million financial package to support the first phase of the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program.

The Washington-based financial institution said the program will provide 27 million people with access to better and affordable broadband services.

It said the infrastructure program is the first phase of a 10-year Information and Communications Technology (ICT) program, focusing on Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, “with other Caribbean countries joining at a later stage.

“By improving the communications infrastructure, the program aims at fostering regional economic development and growth,” the World Bank said.

It said the package includes a US$3 million grant to the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) to coordinate the regional program; a US$10 million credit to Grenada; a US$6 million credit to St. Lucia; and a US$6 million credit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“A sound regional connectivity and ICT-led innovation system is vital for the Caribbean region’s growth,” said Françoise Clottes, World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean.

“This program is a unique opportunity to put in place critical infrastructure and skills to capitalize on the transformative power of Information and Communication Technologies to promote growth and open new job opportunities to Caribbean citizens,” she added.

“It is my hope that other countries in the region will take advantage of this opportunity to join the program,” Clottes continued.

She said the Caribbean region is serviced by an “extensive, complex, and robust submarine network, but significant gaps remain, adding that connectivity disruptions are hindering economic growth.

Clottes said there is little investment in broadband networks venturing beyond the main urban centers, stating that many rural areas remain largely unserved.

In addition, she said the lack of emergency communications networks leaves the countries exposed to major disruptions in communications services in the face of emergencies.

The World Bank said the first phase of this new initiative will include technical assistance and funding to improve the regional connectivity infrastructure by expanding broadband connectivity and promoting ICT-led innovation and related activities that will leverage the regional broadband infrastructure to foster employment, as well as growth of a robust regional Information Technology (IT) and IT-enabled services industry.

The first phase will also build capacity of the governments to implement, coordinate and monitor the program at the national level, the bank said.