The time has come to support the Caribbean region’s public safety community through access to a secure, dedicated mobile broadband public safety network. The network needs to offer ubiquitous regional coverage and must deliver associated video, data, audio and media services which allow them to take a proactive, information-driven stance against overarching national and regional security threats in addition to performing their daily duties. If we are to protect our reputation as a safe and secure destination for tourists and FDI, we must invest more heavily in our public safety community. They protect our economic safety by protecting our public safety and national security.
Modern mobile communications networks have brought with them extraordinary new possibilities, few of which have yet to be modified to the requirements of the public safety community. Yet the region’s public safety officials are each day being asked to do more, with less; and while the scope of the regional public safety mandate has grown enormously in the last decade, the technical resources and capabilities placed at their disposal has not kept pace.
The nature of regional security threats have grown in size and scope. The trans-national threat of the narcotics trade and associated illegal weapons and human trafficking, to say nothing of the catastrophic impact of a terrorist attack, means we need to better enable our public safety officials’ communication capability. Planning and preparation are at a premium. This is particularly true when considering the communications and logistical capabilities of organized crime and linked white-collar and financial crime. A robust, secure mobile broadband communications network, supported by customized applications is needed to address this asymmetry in information access and harness modern technology for the ultimate benefit of our own communities.
In tough economic times, it is particularly important to invest in national infrastructure assets which appreciate in value over time. The combined impact on the region of the global financial crisis, low levels of economic and job growth, labor market inflexibility and high public indebtedness combine to make forward-looking capital investment in public communications infrastructure difficult to fund from the public purse. Yet we have more to lose now as a society than we ever have, and must move to better enable our public safety agencies. Considering the mounting costs of not taking a proactive stance on public safety investment, it becomes even more important to focus on infrastructure which produces system-wide efficiency improvements and which delivers a multiplier effect by enhancing the value of assets already in place and accelerating deep organizational learning in our public safety agencies. In this regard, a purpose-built regional mobile broadband network is first among equals; communications capability sits at the nerve centre of public safety operations. Such a network would deliver ubiquitous broadband connectivity on a 24/7 basis across a robust network – hardened against the threats of natural and man-made disasters – for unprecedented communications capabilities and real-time situational awareness.
Public Private Partnerships are ideal vehicles to deliver these capabilities. PPPs offer regional governments the alternative to work with technically and financially capable partners to access these new capabilities. Neptune Mobile is proposing such a model with regional governments to provide public safety agencies with long-term access to the enormous benefits of a mobile broadband public safety network, but – critically – allowing these agencies to provide input into how the network capabilities and mobile applications and services can be tailored to meet their needs.
The peculiarity of the Caribbean region’s disconnected and aging public safety networks means our public safety officials have yet to benefit from dedicated mobile networking systems and from economies of scale which come from adoption of open standard mobile networking platforms. All too frequently, equipment intended for the public safety market is only available from a handful of vendors; is therefore more expensive than commercial equipment for the consumer marketplace; and is sold on a transactional basis (periodic) rather than on a relationship basis (long-term, mutually beneficial, collaborative).
The region can take little comfort from the fact that the vast majority of countries worldwide, including USA, UK and Canada are in similar positions of under-investment in public safety communications infrastructure. But Barbadian and regional policy makers can follow the example recently set by these countries to move emergency communications capabilities on to the shortlist of their national security priorities. What is more, our small size allows us to develop these networks and benefit from them more quickly. We could be world leaders in this regard and Barbados is poised to become one of the first nations worldwide to enjoy the benefits of nationwide mobile broadband public safety communications networks. And drive genuine technical innovation, technology transfer and sustainable technical jobs along the way.
Neptune Mobile is focussed on delivering critical new mobile broadband communications capabilities to the Caribbean region’s public safety community. (www.neptune-mobile.com)