The term Information Communications Technologies (ICT) was coined to reflect the seamless convergence of digital processing and telecommunications. ICTs can be used to influence the productivity, cost effectiveness and competitiveness of a country. We live in the “information Society” or “Knowledge Economy”, in this environment abundant natural resources and cheap labour are no longer key competitive advantages, the current competitive advantage is the application of knowledge which is fuelled by an ICT rich environment.
Global experience has demonstrated that closed and monopolistic regulatory environments are less likely to attract private investment. Furthermore studies have consistently identified ICT as a requirement for economic growth and the improvement of social conditions.
Barbados is a small island state with a population of 300,000. It is heavily dependent on Tourism and Financial Services which are the main earners of foreign exchange. The Barbados government is keenly aware of the link between the development of ICT and the attraction of foreign investment and has developed policies and legislation which seek to improve the environment for ICT development and hence the attraction of private investment.
The telecommunications market was liberalised in 2005. Today with three major telecommunications companies (LIME, Digicel and TeleBarbados) operating in the island and with another major player (Karibe Cable) about to enter the market, there has been significant reductions in costs of Internet, overseas calling rates, a 100% penetration of mobile phones and keen competition.
The government introduced the National ICT Strategic Plan (2010-2015), “An Efficient Network Island: Exploiting the Power of ICTs to Benefit All Barbadians” The plan is designed to improve the quality of Life of all Barbadians and provides the necessary mechanisms and framework that will transform Barbados into a major information, communications technologies and services hub within the regional and international arena.
According to the Honourable Haynesley Benn, Minister of Commerce, the plan “has defined the type of environment that will stimulate entrepreneurial activity, innovation and creativity, spur the growth of the country and generally add value to the lives of all citizens.The vision therefore envisages the conversion of Barbados into an “E-country”.
The UNDP Human Development Report published on an annual basis demonstrates the association between ICT and human development. It is about how people can create and use technology to improve their lives. It is also about forging new public policies to lead the revolutions in information and communications technology in the direction of human development.
This report covers all the countries in the world and is divided into four categories each of which comprises 47 countries: Very High Human Development, High Human Development, Medium Human Development and Low Human Development.
The significant strides made by Barbados over the last decade is summed up in the UNDP 2011 Human Development Report which placed Barbados at position 47 and the only Caribbean country to be listed in the “Very High Section” The Caribbean countries closest to Barbados were Cuba (51), the Bahamas (53) and Trinidad and Tobago (62). Jamaica placed (79) and Guyana (117). According to the ITU global statistics published in December 2011, Barbados had an internet penetration of 70%.
The success of the development of ICT in Barbados has contributed to the more than 40,000 companies involved in international activities on the islands. These companies include international banking, International insurance, ships registration, treasury management, wealth management, trusts, call centres, animation and other ICT organisations. It cannot be overemphasised that these companies require a modern and reliable ICT infrastructure to run their businesses.