The final report and findings of a one-year long Caribbean study and national consultation processes conducted under UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Information for All Programme (IFAP) is now available for free download. This project was made possible with the financial support received from UNESCO’s Emergency and Multi-donor Fund. The study has provided the basis for developing several national implementation roadmaps, highlighted regional best practices and identified areas where improvements can be undertaken.
In November 2012 the study was launched by UNESCO’s Kingston Office with the assistance of two Caribbean consulting firms. The study examined such aspects as awareness levels, relevant policy and legislative support and the use of free and open source software, open data, open education resources and open standards by governments, the private sector, civil society and individuals.
The study revealed that countries in the region were at very different stages of development in this area. In Belize for instance, national training activities began as early as 1997 and this has contributed to the development of significant national capacity which has enabled educational institutions like the Corozal Community College to provide a range of services to high-school students and persons enrolled in adult education programmes. In Trinidad and Tobago, several open data portals have been established that support activities in the agricultural, financial and law enforcement sectors and through an innovative Fisheries Project, many families who depend on fishing have experienced positive benefits.
While most Caribbean countries and territories surveyed have national ICT policies in place, with the exceptions of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, they contain little if any explicit reference to FOSS and Open Solutions. The study however came at an opportune moment as it has served to sensitize several ongoing policy-reviews to the need and benefits of Open Solutions which in turn is paving the way for their incorporation into the national frameworks and strategies. Nevertheless, even among some countries without direct policy references there is active use of open solutions as was seen in Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Curacao and Grenada particularly in applications such as archive and records management, education and disaster management services.
The findings of the IFAP study were first presented at the Caribbean Open Data Conference and Code Sprint, which was held in April 2013 under the theme Developing the Caribbean. The event which was simultaneously organized in 7 countries provided an important opportunity to discuss emerging findings with regional practitioners and gain broader insights into experiences, lessons and possible remedies. Participants welcomed the IFAP initiative.
In July 2013, a consultation meeting attended by some 40 regional policy-makers was organized in St Lucia and this served to validate the findings and to support the development of national implementation roadmaps.
Through IFAP and other UNESCO programmes, these national plans and the recommendation of the study will be supported during the 2014-2016 biennium. Already the lessons and experiences from the Caribbean captured in the report are attracting the attention of countries and partners in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, supporting and informing pilot initiatives in these regions.
The intergovernmental Information for All Programme was established in 2001. It provides a platform for international policy discussions, cooperation and the development of guidelines for action in the area of access to information and knowledge. The Programme supports Member States to develop and implement national information policy and strategy frameworks.