At Columbus, we live by one very simple yet powerful mission statement:
Don’t Predict the Future; Enable It.
That’s not just Columbus’ mission statement. It’s actually the first of the many proverbs spoken by our CEO and founder, Mr. Brendan Paddick, birthed in the company’s early days as a rural cable provider in the backwoods of Canada, when they competed against major international players like Rogers and Bell Canada.
Columbus Communications was born of Mr. Paddick’s entrepreneurial spirit. What started off in 2005 as a one man shop in the Bahamas is now one of the region’s largest telecommunications providers, with operations in 42 countries in the Caribbean, Central American and Andean regions. Paddick has a Bachelor of Commerce Degree and a Master of Business Administration from Memorial University, and graduated from Harvard’s advanced Management Program in 2000, the same year he was named one of Canada’s Top 40 business leaders under 40 years old in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, as president and CEO of Persona Communications, which provided cable, phone and Internet services in seven Canadian provinces. Before becoming a permanent resident of the Bahamas, Paddick was named one of Atlantic Canada’s Top 50 chief executive officers three times, and was named Memorial’s business faculty alumnus of the year in 2002. And these are merely a few of Mr. Paddick’s achievements.
Solid ICT Framework
It is inherent in our DNA to positively transform any market in which we operate, and that requires a high level of local involvement and overall dedication. And our investment in Barbados has been no different. In less than a year, the Barbados market has experienced a major transformation in the ICT landscape, with maximum download speeds increasing from 8 mbps to a whopping 150 mbps, the fastest speeds available to residential customers in the region. More importantly, customers are accessing this increased bandwidth for much less, with the price of broadband services dramatically decreased by as much as 42% in 2013.
In April 2013, our market was the first of Columbus’ residential subsidiaries to launch fiber to the home (FTTH) and Internet protocol television (IPTV) video services in the region. With an investment in excess of US $60 million, service is already available to over 50% of homes in Barbados and will expand to over 80% footprint in the coming months. Very soon, we will be launching Video on Demand and Personal Video Recording Services with Cloud Storage capabilities; yet another first for the Caribbean. As part of our investment, we recruited over 70 new staff members in 2013 alone, and recruitment will continue in 2014.
National ICT Vision
For an economy on the path to setting itself apart, the services that we bring to Barbados will enable us to achieve any national ICT vision. The recent report released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) ranked Barbados #3 in the Americas and 29th globally out of 157 countries assessed for the period 2012 to 2013 – an improvement of 7 places on the 2011- 2012 report. This shows that Barbados is on the right track to providing a solid ICT framework, all critical for the social and economic development and growth of any economy; yet another powerful weapon in the armory to strongly position Barbados as a lucrative investment opportunity for foreign companies.
Supporting Entrepreneurship Through ICT
Entrepreneurship is critical to every developing nation’s culture and economy as it benefits individuals and communities in so many ways. Generally speaking, entrepreneurship helps in:
- Enabling individuals to solve their own problems and create their own opportunities;
- Promoting and extending significant cultural events, histories and stories that define geographic areas;
- Creating independence, inspiring people to take risks and encouraging global involvement;
- And reducing isolation, as the “community” becomes extended on multiple levels without physical barriers (i.e. it promotes “globalization”).
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are vital resources that can allow the budding or established entrepreneur the opportunity to become serious global participants. Innovation is now dominated by user-generated content, crowd-sourcing or, put simply, the strength of a good idea. In one sense, Columbus enables this innovation by means of its network and services. For a robust broadband infrastructure ultimately creates an efficient platform for innovation. Though, again, having access to the technology is not enough; it is important we teach everyone in our region exactly how they can utilize this technology.
Targeted Educational Programmes
At Columbus, we do not simply invest in infrastructure; we invest in communities. And as we see it, that investment must begin with education. Programmes like the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation‘s (BEF) $20 challenge has proven to significantly enhance our youths’ entrepreneurial skills through targeted educational programs. The recently-founded alliance with the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) will allow students and teachers across the region to utilize Columbus’ fiber optic and broadband capacity in the form of cutting-edge classes and e-learning programs, a significant boost to the quality of education provided in the Caribbean. TechLink, another regional project, will widen the entrepreneur skillset by exposing innovators and entrepreneurs to internet-based tools, media and apps that could improve their productivity and business efficiency. This programme has already been piloted in Grenada, and will soon be available in Barbados.
Aside from these focussed initiatives, Columbus continues to support education in a general sense as well. We donate free broadband Internet, digital cable television and discounted telephony services to every school throughout the region that is passed by our network. Right now, more than 550 schools, libraries and community access points are benefitting from this programme. We also partner with community organizations to donate computers, provide access to online-learning platforms and other software solutions for technology-aided learning at school and in the convenience of our youths’ homes. These programmes have already resulted in smart classrooms, video conferencing exchanges and innovative use of education software throughout the region.
As Barbados and the region expand our ICT footprint, it is important that we also acknowledge the countless internet risk and threats facing our children while they are online. From online sexual predators, cyber criminals and other cyber related risks, we must ensure the online protection of our most valuable national assets, our children. To this note, Columbus recently partnered with the Caribbean Cyber Security Centre’s THINK, CLICK, SURF programme, designed to ensure that youth, parents, guardians and teachers are armed with the knowledge of how to use the internet safely and responsibly.
Columbus remains dedicated to raising the region’s infrastructural bar and aiming beyond the status quo. We deliver network capacities that connect the Caribbean region and the rest of the world and offer technologies that have the potential to transform lives, communities, businesses and nations.
In the words of our CEO, Brendan Paddick:
We are all in this together and we will all grow together. Don’t predict the future, enable it.