Caricom Secretary General urges governments and private sector to work together for digital inclusion

Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett, has stressed the need for digital inclusion and proliferating digital skills across Caricom in a comprehensive, strategic manner.

She said the need for digital skills has come to the forefront due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The regional digital footprint has increased tremendously over the past year, with citizens doing what they can to adapt to the new normal way of living. However, COVID-19 has deepened the existing inequality of access, and further exacerbated the mismatch between income and education, training and job prospects,” Dr Barnett said as she addressed the launch of the Caricom Digital Skills Task Force on Wednesday.

“Before the pandemic, digital skills were valued, but now they are vital to keep up with the growing trend of the virtual world in which we live and must thrive.

“Strong collaboration is needed between the public, private and civic society sectors, to promote learning and skills delivery in different environments, and make it accessible and inclusive to all. The private sector is well-positioned to help meet and expand this increasingly urgent, and unmet need and demand.  At the government level, this will also mean developing comprehensive education, social welfare, and economic policies,” she added.

Dr Barnett contended that “addressing digital inclusion and proliferating digital skills across Caricom in a comprehensive, strategic manner will add another important layer to being ‘A Community for All’, as it will help to ensure that all Caricom citizens have the necessary skills and can participate meaningfully in society.”

The secretary general said the need to close the global skills gap is now urgent.

“While the full effects and numbers of this gap in Caricom are not yet known, I am happy to share that the Caricom Secretariat will embark, in 2022, on an ICT sector gap analysis across the whole of Caricom, with funding provided under the 11th European Development Fund. This gap analysis will support the recovery efforts of the region, through the identification and quantification of critical parts of our digital infrastructure, and help to fast-track digital transformation,” she disclosed.

The Caricom Digital Skills Task Force has been established to provide an opportunity for the region to deliver a more collaborative, coordinated and innovative approach to meeting the digital skills challenge.

The primary objective is to promote awareness of the importance of digital skills for students, business and governments. It is also to provide technical guidance on the development of digital skills and capability levels across Caricom.

Dr Barnett said the work of the task force will therefore be complementary to many other important regional actions.