Roughly one third of Caribbean small island developing States (SIDS) and territories can be described as multi-island jurisdictions, most of which encounter challenges which are less severe in single-island Caribbean countries. Their archipelagic nature means that their populations are dispersed over more than one island and that their already small economies are fragmented. In addition, they present various one-island governance structures and institutions, empowered with differing degrees of autonomy in decision-making.
Despite these challenges, ICT can help to support the efficient delivery of public services in multi-island jurisdictions in the areas of health, education and governance. This, according to a new study from ECLAC Caribbean entitled, ‘Strengthening ICT and knowledge management capacity in support of the sustainable development of multi-island Caribbean SIDS’.
The study found that the application of ICTs in government for delivering public services, can improve efficiency in the delivery of government services across islands. Moreover, it can minimize the impact of distance between islands, and the constraints of diseconomies of scale.
Governments in the region have already started to embrace e-government and implement regional and national initiatives to improve connectivity and access to technology. However, more than half of households in the Caribbean still lack access to the internet.
As a result, the effectiveness of efforts to use e-government to reach populations has been mixed and use of these tools inconsistent. The quality of such access is also an issue in the region, with connection speeds improving but not keeping pace with the rest of the world. Where internet access exists, use of this technology does not always follow due to lack of affordability, skills or relevant local content.
Thus, e-government still presents many untapped opportunities for improving public service delivery and governance outcomes in small or outlying islands of multi-island States. To seize these opportunities, the ECLAC Caribbean’s study highlights that systems and service delivery approaches must be tailored to local needs and to the capacity of existing ICT infrastructure and include adequate training and support.