Author: Julie Carrington
The signing of the St. George’s Declaration Towards a Reduction of Intra-Caribbean Roaming Charges by Grenada’s Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, and telecom providers, Cable and Wireless Communications and Digicel, has been described as “historic”.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley stated this today, while addressing the signing ceremony via Zoom for the roll out of new roaming rates packages in the Caribbean.
Ms. Mottley also commended the coming together of “the industry, the governments and people, as one Caribbean, to make this first stride along this vital journey”.
She proffered the view that data and information had become the “new oil”, that drives the new modern economy.
“We are resolved that we cannot build a modern Caribbean economy. We cannot forge a single market and economic space. We cannot develop a Pan-Caribbean market in digital services across education, culture, business, trade and finance, if there are serious gulfs between our nations,” she stated.
Ms. Mottley continued: “We are already separated by the ocean…. We are trying separately to be able to deal with that through the building of air and sea bridges, but data bridges are absolutely critical, and more so, as a result of the pandemic we’ve just come through. We know that we need to be able to keep connectivity going. Information data and digital connectivity must be available…must be cheap [and] must be fast.”
Pointing out that she had been making the call for easy digital connectivity for more than a decade, the Prime Minister said she was heartened that CARICOM, and by extension the CARICOM Commission on the Economy, had reported that efficiency in a single market space would be achieved if the region followed the example of Europe and eliminated roaming charges.
“The reality is, our citizens would like to roam as if they were home because they are at home in the Caribbean Community. But as you heard from others, we are not quite there yet…. This is a large step, but we’re short of our destination to eliminate roaming completely. So that we today recognise, as do the telecoms providers, the heads of government, that this is a journey, and from today, there really can be no turning back,” Ms. Mottley underlined.
The Prime Minister thanked all involved in the negotiation process at every stage, adding that governments were not prescribing a single option for how costs were expected to fall or be capped, and that governments and consumer bodies would monitor the developments.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mitchell, who has regional responsibility for Science and Technology and ICT within CARICOM’s quasi Cabinet, believes that the reduction in roaming charges will help drive digital commerce, regional integration, and economic development.