Barbados has always been at the leading edge of communications network development in the Caribbean. For example, in the late 1800s Barbados was among the first in the region to gain access to sub-sea transatlantic cable that facilitated telegrams and telephone calls internationally.
Today, Barbados has one of the highest access rates for residential and business telephone and cellular (mobile telephone) service. The latest data from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) put the number of mobile cellular telephone subscribers at 237, 119 in 2006. While these numbers are dated 99.9 per cent of the population were reported with cellular service. There were 134, 878 main lines in operation in 2005 and a teledensity rate of more than 50 per cent for many years.
An historic Flat Rate of pricing and un-metered usage has resulted in Barbadians enjoying one of the more affordable telephone services in the region.
The Blackberry is commonly used by business executives and other professionals.
Although Internet access is way below the cellular phone access numbers and ADSL is far from a universal service these numbers have been increasing over the years to the point that Dial-up Internet access is no longer an attractive option given the usage patterns which suggest that Barbadians have shifted to online television, social networking and generally widespread use of the Internet for business, social and entertainment purposes.
Competition has helped as LIME strives to provide ADSL to its landline customers and TeleBarbados offers wireless Internet access at various speeds. If Digicel follows through on its 4G plans in the Caribbean the access landscape could take on additional features.
To support Internet access and upgrade training and skills, Government has since 2002 opened resource centres across the island, providing free access to the Internet during the day and evenings as well as free training at basic and advanced levels of communication technology. The programme has contributed to a more technology skilled population and increased employment and career opportunities.
A new thrust is under way to add more Internet connectivity in schools and utilise them more under the Community Technology Programme (CTP). In 2009 a new programme was launched to provide teenagers with free training in computer-related areas at centres across the island. There are plans to broaden this programme in the coming years.
Although the island by its own standards still has considerable way to go in developing its human resources in Information and Communication Technology it has earned a reputation among investors for the telecommunications systems, which have been enhanced as a result of liberalisation and competition. Overseas calls have declined and there is more opportunity to shop around for services. An increasingly technology-educated workforce is another feature.
Barbados ranked 1st in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 36th Worldwide in the Networked Readiness Index of the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2008/2009.
Barbados also ranked 2nd in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 29th Worldwide in the Availability of Latest Technologies index of the Global Competitiveness Report 2009-2010, also done by the World Economic Forum.