Forum discusses rural connectivity in Latin America, Caribbean

    Minister of Health, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT), the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett.
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    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — A Study on “Rural Connectivity in Latin America and the Caribbean – A Bridge to Sustainable Development during a Pandemic,” was launched on October 29 in Costa Rica to strengthen regional connectivity.

    St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Health, and Information and Communications Technology (ICT), the Honourable Akilah Byron-Nisbett was invited by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to join the webinar to share ICT information related to the topic. The minister used the opportunity to share the Federation’s gains and future ICT plans.

    Minister Byron-Nisbett said the event was quite timely given the challenges faced by COVID-19.

    “The timing of the study and this event is significant, considering the unprecedented challenges that countries the world over have been confronted with as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic,” said Hon. Byron-Nisbett. “To contain the spread of Covid-19, countries were forced to institute measures including stay at home orders, total country lockdowns and border closings to name a few.

    “The COVID-19 Pandemic has triggered all economies to fast track e-commerce and digitalization plans,” said the minister in welcome remarks. “The hard truth is that businesses and jurisdictions that fail to adapt quickly will suffer severe economic hardship and/or extinction.”

    She noted that the sub-region must adapt to seize growing opportunities.

    “Latin America and the Caribbean have a small window of opportunity to quickly deploy digitalization strategies. They need to remain relevant to foreign inward investment; increase access to markets for our local producers such as farmers; and create a new niche for ourselves as the top place to work remotely or even set up new businesses.

    “In St. Kitts and Nevis, we have seen an increase in the number of new tech businesses,” she said. “These include website developers to mobile application developers and even mobile payment solutions, which offer payment options and services to small businesses to help those small businesses mitigate costs.”

    Minister Byron-Nisbett used the occasion to update members on St. Kitts and Nevis’ position where digital transformation is concerned. She noted that the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis “embarked on a strategic path to accelerate towards an innovative digital economy through the implementation of a Digital Transformation Strategy 2020-2022.”

    Speaking specifically to rural connectivity, the minister said that plans are in place to ensure everyone has access to affordable internet.

    “One of the aims of our transformation at the structural level is to strengthen our government-wide area network and ensure broadband connectivity across the whole of government,” said Byron-Nisbett. “Equally, through public-private partnerships with local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) our aim is to also deliver Fibre-to-the-Home, as well as to boost the Wi-Fi hotspots within communities in a way that is robust and deliver high quality at affordable prices to the consumers. Currently, Wi-Fi is provided within the city, but we want to ensure that no matter where you are in the Federation and no matter the community, our citizens and residents have access to reliable and affordable internet service. No one should be left behind.”

    Minister Byron-Nisbett commended the IICA in collaboration with Microsoft and the Inter-American Development Bank for “undertaking such an essential research work on rural connectivity” in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

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