PREPARED TEXT FOR ADDRESS BY PRIME MINISTER DR. KEITH MITCHELL TO THE E-COMMERCE SEMINAR ORGANISED BY THE GRENADA INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION AND NORTEL NETWORKS LTD., 11 JUNE 2001, ST. GEORGE'S, GRENADA
 
 

Mr. Noel, Chairman of today's Proceedings,
Chairman of the GIDC, Mr. Anthony Joseph,
General Manager of the GIDC, Mrs. Sonia Roden
President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Mr. Christopher DeAllie
Mr. Stan Phillip, representative of Nortel Networks Ltd
Distinguished Guests
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen

The Government is very pleased with this initiative. We support the initiative of the GIDC and we support its increasing attempts to promote developments in the information industry sector. The promotion of information and communication services represents, for the Government of Grenada, a vital part of our diversification effort, and our search for alternatives to commodity agriculture.

The decline of Grenada's commodity export trade has had a devastating impact on the country's capacity to earn foreign exchange, to generate employment and to pursue agricultural and rural programmes. Moreover, the liberalizing of trade and the reduction of tariffs levels in response to global requirements have seriously weakened the government's revenue-generating capacity, in some areas.

Given the narrow resource base of the Grenada economy, knowledge and skill offer the best resource alternative for economic growth, employment creation, and for the attraction of new service industries. The Government has determined that rapid development of the nation's capacity to exploit ICT will create opportunities for Grenada to develop service exports across a wide range of areas. Information and communication technologies render the size of the economy less important than its knowledge and skill competitiveness.

The development of Grenada as a knowledge-based economy, therefore, aims at exploiting digital technologies to stimulate the achievement of the country's development objectives.

The rationale for the use of ICT to facilitate the national objectives therefore lies in the advantages and new opportunities offered by digital technologies.

The acquisition of knowledge, information and skills as the basis for employment, new business development, self-employment, and service-based industries; the provision of service industries, which by nature are labour-intensive, and therefore employment generating; but which are also knowledge- and skill-intensive.

The wage rates and incomes generated by knowledge-based services are of a significantly higher level and quality than those of labor-intensive unskilled employees.

ICT technology facilitates competitiveness, and minimizes many of the known disadvantages and diseconomies of small size. The technology also facilitates exports of both goods and services, via the Internet, which facilitates both widespread as well as niche and personal marketing.

Grenada's small firms and small volumes can better take advantage of the low-cost marketing tool for their smaller volumes of exports of products and services. In this regard, the Government is pleased to see the joint exercise between a local Agency, such as the GIDC, and an important multinational corporation, such as Nortel Networks.

As a small developing economy, Grenada recognizes the importance of its linkages and interrelationships with the external environment. We recognize the importance of our relationships with friendly governments. Our diplomatic relations are cherished. We put a considerable amount of ministerial time and effort and taxpayers money into the maintenance and strengthening of our foreign relations.

We recognize our relationships with the multinational agencies. For us, the Agencies of the United Nations, within the Commonwealth, within the European Union and in CARICOM represent important and strategic resources that are integral to the development effort of our State.

Mr. Chairman, Grenada recognizes the importance of its relationships with regional and international corporations. As much as we seek to indigenize our economy, and strengthen local ownership, the Government welcomes the investments, the technologies, the expertise and the markets-access that foreign investors can bring, whether the investment comes in the form of joint venture or as stand alone investment.

We therefore recognize and welcome the initiative of Nortel Networks Ltd to be a participant in this Seminar, and a partner with Grenada in the development of the Information and Communication sector.

The Government of Grenada is totally committed to the development of Grenada as a Knowledge Society. The Government has already acknowledge that this is the decade in which we have to transform the Grenada society into an knowledge-based society; and to develop the economy into one built around knowledge, information and communication technology.

The establishment of a knowledge-based society is the platform on which Grenada must foster, accelerate and sustain long-term social, cultural and economic. The Government sees it as its mission to put Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) at the center of Grenada’s social and economic development as a dynamic industry sector in itself, and in support of the development of other sectors of the economy.

The Government has therefore embarked on the preparation of an Information and Communication Technology Action Plan as the basis for the pursuit of its development goals and objectives. The Plan was the subject of three days of examination just last week. Expertise was drawn form the domestic economy for this examination. But we also invited regional and international experts to join our efforts. The inputs will be the basis on a revised version that we expect to take forward.

The Government recognizes that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to achieve our goal of developing the New Economy. We have to work in a number on fronts such as to:

  • Raise and develop awareness, build vision and generate enthusiasm about the advantageous use of ICT in everyday social and economic life
  • Design and implement policies to capture information and knowledge for development
  • Promote and build connectivity and the necessary infrastructure for access to information and development
  • Build human and social capacities and institutions, and provide training and education to impart requisite skills
  • Create new livelihood and employment opportunities;
  • Empower communities and disadvantaged groups; reinforce participatory approaches and good governance, and foster networking;
  • Build a public service that allows and encourages electronic access to public information, and facilitates low-cost electronic transactions with the civil society.

Accordingly, the Government will seek to create an enabling environment to attract local and foreign investors through appropriate policies, legislation and improved public sector efficiency.

Government's leadership and the commitment of resources in this matter is of primary importance. But, so too will be the need to forge smart partnerships with the private sector, with the labour sector, with the NGO's, and with external corporations such as Nortel networks.

The strategy that is being worked out will seek to pursue a sustainable process of action and review as we pursue development of:

  • Education and training to develop human resources in the necessary ICT and business skills;
  • Use of ICT to expand the horizons and capacity of existing businesses and recruit new business to Grenada;
  • Deepening the use of ICT in governance to increase its efficiency and transparency in particular in support of education and attracting new business;
  • The implementation of a focused promotional strategy, directed at the business and government sectors and civil society.

The strategic intent of the Government must be to enable affordable access to global information to all its citizens. A prerequisite of this must be the provision of adequate ICT infrastructure. In this regard, our desire is to enable a physical infrastructure architecture encompassing all the attributes and criteria that will allow ICT to be the medium through which Grenada will become a knowledge-based society within this Knowledge Enhancement Decade.

The key principles, governing our approach to infrastructure will include:

1.  Developing an appropriate infrastructure framework and access to meet the stated objectives consistent with our socio-economic environment.

2.  Securing fast and reliable connectivity and value for money by driving through the deregulation process.

3.  Ensuring infrastructure will have the capacity to support full E-Commerce capabilities and distance and on-line teaching and learning.

4.  Deploying scalable technology to accommodate new requirements.

5.  Ensuring transparency of process in licensing new carriers.

6.  Ensuring the availability of wholesale pricing from the incumbent carrier for the new carriers.

7.  Developing local online payment facilities for E-Commerce.

E-Commerce is important to the future of the Grenada economy. It offers the means by which small and medium sized enterprises and service providers can access the external markets at lower costs.

Accordingly, the Government would like to see the development of a virtual business park/incubator facility which would handshake to venture capital, provide business advice, help protect Intellectual Property Rights, audit and examine technology and access markets. This facility must have state of the art connectivity as well as 24 hours engineering support.

Nortel's technology progress in communication, and in Internet technologies are particularly attractive to Grenada. Its superior solution architecture in the Internet Telephony market can offer a valuable and low cost alternative to Grenada businesses. Nortel's strength in Wireless solutions, in networking, in optical infrastructure can lend themselves to several advantages in Grenada.

We have noted your partnership with Bell Canada. And we admire the work done with Lakehead University in Canada of convergence, integrating voice and data to lower costs and improve efficiency at that university.

The capital requirements for implementation of ICT for economic growth in Grenada will necessitate creative partnerships between government the private sector and other funding sources. The Government wishes to encourage our Commercial Banks and other financial institutions to take a pro-active look at their current operations and to innovate in order to assist the emergence of local businesses and entrepreneurs.

In addition to the traditional sources, innovative funding mechanisms such as the ICT training loans and the use of Mutual Fund (Unit Trust) arrangements to widen social participation in the new economy, should be explored. The Government will seek to encourage the development of venture capital, but we recognize the limitations.

The development of regional capital market must therefore be a concomitant of our domestic efforts.

We also ask our Commercial Banks and financial institutions to be particularly facilitative of foreign investors who wish to access the Grenada market. There is need to ensure adequate training for Bank staff who must interface with potential investors from abroad. Often such staff can discourage potential investment if attitudes are not accommodating and facilitative.

The potential for synergy should be a guiding principle in the identification of entrants to our markets and a strong element in promoting Grenada.

Mr. Chairman, we look forward to the successful launching of E-commerce awareness and developments in Grenada. And the Government pledges its support for positive outcomes and initiatives in this field.

Thank you.
 

 
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