Computers, and now the Internet, have become ubiquitous commodities around the world. Even if one wanted to, its hard to avoid at least hearing references to the latest ‘net fad, such as Twitter, Facebook, and others. In terms of the Internet itself, it has become a mark of a nation’s technical prowess to be ranked among the “most wired” in the world. As of 2009, that honor belongs to Singapore, which boasts a 99.9 broadband availability percentage. Ironically, it is now even more in vogue to be known as the most “unwired” locale, as a measure of how many available wireless networks are present. One of the best measures, though, of how adept a nation is on computers and the Internet is the percentage of the population that is actively engaged in online activities. As might be expected, the world’s advanced economies sport the highest percentages: the US, 74.1% (2009); Canada, 74.9% (2009); Australia, 80.1% (2009); the UK, 76.4% (2009); and Norway, 90.9% (2009). As a whole, the number of Internet users as a percentage of population in the Caribbean region is lower than the countries already noted, and comes in at 22.6%. However, the percentage of growth in the number of regional users over the period of 2000 – 2009 is among the worlds highest, at 1,545.9%. So, just how Internet ‘savvy’ is the Federation? According to the already quoted stats compiled By the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), St. Kitts and Nevis comes in at 39.9% penetration, up 700% from 2000 – 2009. The country is in the mid- to lower-tier in the region, operating a level far below Antigua & Barbuda (75.9%), St. Lucia (68.1%), Barbados (66.1%), and a number of others, but above the USVI (27.3%), Puerto Rico (25.2%), and Aruba (23.3%), among others. ITU, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is the leading United Nations agency for the measurement of global information and communication technology issues. It is tasked with helping to foster higher levels of ‘connectivity,’ especially in developing countries. To compete effectively in the global marketplace, it behooves any nation to assiduously develop its computer users, as well as working to provide more citizens with affordable Internet access. This is particularly so among the young, some of whom will go on to become the leaders of the future. Having a highly computer literate population is also of great benefit in attracting foreign capital and investment, as corporations who want to develop niche business markets, such as call centers, need to know that when local workers are hired, training in the required computer systems won’t be too arduous a task. In the world of technology, the quicker that someone ‘gets it’ the better. For the Federation to considerably improve on the ITU-generated country user stats, a concerted effort to expand the existent number of computer training enterprises and facilities is a necessary step. Programs that target adult computer non-users would also be a welcome development. In February, during his monthly press conference, Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas reiterated his promise to provide laptops for the country’s young people. The planned initiative is to be executed among the Federation’s high school students. Certain details still need to be worked out, including the computer’s continued availability to a given student post-graduation, and the extent to which wireless Internet access will be utilized. This certainly represents a step in the right direction in empowering local youth and preparing them for the competitive local and global job markets.
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