23rd September 2016 Basseterre, St. Kitts
The St. Kitts and Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce continued their series of Sector Specific Round Table discussions and met with the IT Sector. A varied cross section of players including some from among the Chamber’s membership met with the Chamber’s President Jose Ramos and Executive Director Brenda John, at the organisation’s headquarters yesterday to discuss some the challenges they are facing and potential solutions to “increase the size of the pie” in terms of the Technology market.
Representatives from Digital Content Production, Financial Sector, IT Consultancy and Fixed and Mobile Internet Providers spoke on a range of issues, including the challenges of hiring suitable candidates with the right mix of Skills and Attitudes and how the private sector could engage in shaping the future talent pool.
A common concern was the level of taxation largely in terms of duties levied on investment on network infrastructure equipment which typically isn’t classified as “computer equipment” which is exempt of duty. However, even that classification is typically limited to Personal Computer related goods which coincidentally are more expensive now since the introduction of the 17% VAT which was in 2010. One attendee said, that successive administrations (like so many around the region) are quick to claim that ICT is a critical sector and vital for growth, but to paraphrase the song, “what have you done for us lately?”
With the long accepted reality that Technology – largely access to the Internet – underpins most businesses now and the heavy dependence on network infrastructure, businesses and service providers are having to take steps to ensure the availability of their system whether through the purchase of redundant network equipment, stand-by generators and the like, yet many of these attract high levels of duty. The cost of network availability is not limited to addressing physical risks. In a recent Independence Lecture Deloitte’s Global IT Chief Larry Quinlan cited a report by the Organisation of American States (OAS) that much of the Caribbean is not adequately protected from the ever growing threat from Cyber-Attack.
The Chamber’s membership suggested that there should be serious efforts to collaborate with the government and interface with the newly established ICT Advisory Board, to leverage the work begun between the Government and the OAS to establish a national Computer Security Incident Response Team – CSIRT.
In terms of moving to stimulate growth in the sector it was felt that implementation of the long awaited Internet Exchange Point (IXP) would go some way to improving Quality of Service and reducing the cost of Internet access, spurring the development of local content. Additionally, in a data driven business world, there should be greater efforts by government to move towards Open Data and the private sector should have some input as to priority areas for the availability of government data. The availability of some data-sets could spur the development of mobile application or web portal content.
The meeting was seen as a positive step and those present were keen that this should not be a one-off event, but the first step towards the IT sector organising itself to speak with one voice on national ICT development and committed to forming an organised body.