Around the world, the operations of cyber criminals far outstrip the sophistication of national legislative frameworks. Governments are facing constant pressure to assess global cyber threats and formulate appropriate local cyber security strategies.
Across the Caribbean, governments are building strategic partnerships with regional actors like the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG) and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU). CaribNOG is the region’s largest volunteer-based community of network engineers, computer security experts and tech aficionados.
Recently, CaribNOG and the CTU were among the organisers of Internet Week Guyana, a five-day tech conference hosted by Guyana’s Ministry of Public Telecommunications, in collaboration with international bodies such as the Internet Society, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC).
Catherine Hughes, Guyana’s first Minister of Public Telecommunications, said that the five-day event was part of the national agenda to build the country’s technology capacity in cybersecurity and other key areas.
“We encourage Caribbean governments to develop legislative agendas and increase intra-regional cooperation, in order to strengthen the region’s overall cyber security capability,” said Kevon Swift, Head of Strategic Relations and Integration at LACNIC.
“As law makers, governments play an important role in the regional response to cyber security challenges. But they cannot do their work alone,” said Bevil Wooding, Caribbean Outreach Manager at the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), and one of the founders of CaribNOG.
“The private sector, law enforcement, judiciary and civil society also have a responsibility to ensure that the region’s citizens and businesses are safer and more secure.”
Throughout the week, representatives from participating organisations also demonstrated practical ways in which stakeholders could work together to strengthen and secure Caribbean networks.
Stephen Lee, another CaribNOG founder, translated global cybersecurity issues into Caribbean priorities, outlining some of the challenges and opportunities of special relevance to the region.
Albert Daniels, Senior Manager for Stakeholder Engagement in the Caribbean at ICANN, outlined that organisation’s work in supporting secure network deployments around the world.
Shernon Osepa, Manager, Regional Affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society, was on hand to formally launch the Internet Society Guyana Chapter, with Nancy Quiros, Manager of Chapter Development in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society, and Lance Hinds, Special Advisor to the Minister, who served as the chapter’s Interim President.
But it was a gathering of young people, hosted by the CTU on the conference’s closing day, that put the virtual exclamation mark on a highly impactful week. About 400 students from several secondary schools took part in the all-day agenda, which was packed with videos, interactive presentations and Q&A sessions, all designed to highlight the tangible dangers of unsafe online behaviour.
“The CTU continues to support the development of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in the region including an emphasis on harnessing the potential of the youth. There’s a concerted effort to get the youth more involved in and make them aware of ICT issues which affect them, to cultivate a mindset of innovation and entrepreneurship, and to educate them on how to effectively use the power of technology that lies in their hands,” said Michelle Garcia, Communications Specialist at the CTU.
The day’s success was most evident in its aftermath. Even after the formal close, a tangible buzz lingered in the meeting room, with dozens of students staying back to introduce themselves to the expert panelists, many taking the opportunity to accost them with follow-up inquiries on the sidelines.
By all reports, this Internet Week will boost Guyana’s efforts to deliver on the promise locked up in that generation of future regional leaders. Now the real work must continue, in order to convert Caribbean potential into Caribbean reality.
By Gerard Best