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Access 2 February 2018

5 Months After the Hurricanes, the World Must Do More to Reconnect the Caribbean

Shernon Osepa
By Shernon OsepaManager, Regional Affairs for Latin America & The Caribbean Bureau

2017 was one of the most active hurricane seasons in the Caribbean on record. Five months after the major storms Irma and Marie devastated parts of the Caribbean, there are still far too many people without access to the Internet and everything it offers. In our view, this is unacceptable. Today we published a snapshot of the current situation from the region in a new document, Report from the Field: Post-Hurricane Connectivity in the Caribbean.

The international response to this natural disaster has been mixed at best, and while several entities reached out to the region, a number of challenges impeded smooth and rapid assistance, such as lack of coordination. In some instances, the response from authorities has been either slow or insufficient, or both. The current reality that parts of the Caribbean are still without Internet connectivity this long after the hurricanes wrought their damage is a clear indication that the world’s response to this disaster has fallen short. The robustness of the telecommunications’ infrastructures in certain countries, which form the basis for Internet services, can also be questioned.

The world has the resources to do more.

We ask governments, businesses, educational institutions, NGOs and others, both in the region and around the world, to join together with renewed determination and commitment to reconnect the Caribbean – and to build a more resilient infrastructure that will help the region recover more quickly from the next round of hurricanes.

We believe that the reaction from governments should not be limited by political differences or formal barriers. People’s lives, pains and opportunities demand immediate action and all actors must work together to ensure that the response in future cases is timely and appropriate. It is simply unacceptable that so many people are still without both Internet access and electricity. It’s time to refocus and reaffirm our collective commitment to the Caribbean region.

The Internet Society will lead by example by doing the following:

  1. Partnering with entities that are looking how to enhance telecommunications and internet infrastructure resiliency. As part of this the Internet Society has been accepted as a member of the Commission for Caribbean Network Resilience charted by the CTU. Based on my telecom and Internet policy expertise, I will be joining as our representative.
  2. Partnering with Caribbean organizations focused on telecom infrastructure. In particular we look forward to working with CANTO’s Natural Disaster Committee.
  3. Developing a Disaster Relief Fund as part of our Beyond The Net funding program. This new program will enable Internet Society Chapters in affected regions after a natural disaster to apply for funds for projects that restore Internet connectivity. We will be announcing more information during the weeks ahead.
  4. Engaging our community in this effort. We will ask our Chapters, Organizational Members and individual members to join with us to make this a reality.

I will be attending the CANTO Annual General Meeting next week (4-6 February 2018) in Trinidad & Tobago where I look forward to discussing these ideas with many attendees.

At the Internet Society, we believe that the economic, social, education and communication opportunities made possible by the Internet are critical to our society today. We believe that Internet outages, either by natural disasters or government shutdowns, harm the people in the region and connectivity must be restored as soon as possible. Beyond that, Internet infrastructure must be made as resilient as possible to stand up as much as possible to these kinds of events.

We look forward to working with our members and partners to bring about a reconnected and more resilient Caribbean region. We are planning several activities over the next few months and will be posting updates and more information to this page:

https://www.internetsociety.org/reconnect-the-caribbean/

Please do share our new report and do all you can to help #ReconnectTheCaribbean.


Image credit:  © Commonwealth Secretariat on Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0

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