Dominica’s Director of Telecommunications, Bennett Thomas, (Above) at the Opening Ceremony of the Multi-stakeholder forum on the role of telecommunication/ICTs for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction for Caribbean islands this week.(Photo credit: GIS Dominica)
This week a multi-stakeholder forum on the role of telecommunication/ICTs for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction for Caribbean islands was hosted at the St Alphonsus Parish Hall, Pottersville, Dominica from December, 4th – 6th, 2018.
The telecoms forum workshop was an initiative of the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in collaboration with the Government of Dominica. Below is a Youtube recording of the Opening Ceremony and proceedings from the Government Information Service- Dominica (YouTube 2018).
ITU Emergency telecoms forum
According to (Itu.int. 2018) among the the objectives of the exercise were:
To stimulate awareness in paving the way for enhancing the use of ICTs for disaster management in the region.
To address key questions related to the best use of ICTs for disaster risk reduction and management.
To serve as a platform to exchange new experiences and best practices in the use of modern technologies for monitoring and early warning.
To provide an opportunity for policy makers and other participants to debate and adopt concrete strategies on how information and communication technologies support disaster risk reduction and management activities, contributing this way to the implementation of the Sendai Framework and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
According to Dominica’s, Director of Telecommunications, Bennett Thomas, speaking to DBS Radio News, one of the main decisions taken at the multi-stakeholder meeting was to prepare and present to regional governments, a framework for ‘Emergency Telecommunication and Disaster Management for the Caribbean’ to be known as the Parish Hall Declaration. (Listen.dbcradio.net 2018).
In this instalment, I will be reviewing some of the many issues raised by some of the speakers, and evaluating their contributions in light of the working title of my dissertation. and other related matters.
Emerging technologies can be used to save lives.
This high-level meeting saw presentations from heads of telecommunication regulatory authorities, executive directors of private sector entities, United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and other high-level participants from humanitarian organizations, regional disaster management organizations, academic institutions and media. According to the organisers, “the experts presented ‘state-of-the- art ICT solutions that will show how emerging technologies can be used to save lives.”
The taking place of this gathering of technological experts in Dominica, in my mind, makes Dominica one of the most exciting countries in light of the stated goal of Prime Minister, Dr. Roosevelt Skerrit to make his country, the first Climate Resilient country in the world following the utter devastation caused by Hurricane Maria on September 18th -19th, 2017. A sentiment that has since been widely adopted by the Caribbean as a whole and even internationally, forming a community of practice.
It is evident that there is a lot of research done in the area of disaster management in the Caribbean, but issues of finance, competencies and data storage and dissemination continues to plaque their efforts not to mention the added threats of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and eruptions that could occur at anytime and disrupt and destroy equipment such as monitors and gauges, and whole buildings housing studios and other laboratories and offices.
Even as I await the official acceptance of my synopsis of my research proposal:
“DIMINISHING UNCERTAINTY TO ACCELERATE THE EXECUTION OF CLIMATE-CHANGE ADAPTATION TECHNOLOGIES THROUGH A SYSTEMIC INTERVENTION TO STRENGTHEN THE INNOVATION STRATEGY, OF THE CLIMATE RESILIENCE EXECUTION AGENCY OF DOMINICA (CREAD)”
I can clearly see that there is a need for further research into the problems of adoption of climate change adaptation and maintenance of technologies such as
telecommunication/ICTs for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction that were discussed in the just concluded telecoms forum, and the role that Caribbean for the governments and residents have to play in order to make this a reality.
The proceedings commenced with a rendition of Dominica’s, National Anthem, Isle of Beauty, performed on piano and sung by Akim Ismael. This was followed by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, led by Rev. Father Cuffy, who read a passage from the Holy Bible starting from Ecclesiastes Chapter 1, verse 13. He ended the devotion with a prayer for blessing for the success of the seminar.
Permanent Secretary in The Ministry of Information, Science, Telecommunications and Technology, Mr Lucian Blackmore, gave the Opening remarks. He said, “in spite of the fact that Dominica may have been seriously devastated by Maria in terms of our worldly possessions and our natural environment, however, our spirit still remains very resolute.” He went on to draw an analogy to a line in the National Anthem, ‘We must prosper, sound the call’, saying ‘. Our National Anthem epitomizes the spirit of the Dominican people,” He said.
Mr. Blackmore revealed that following the passage of Hurricane Maria, September 18, last year, Dominica sustained damages of US1.3 Billion Dollars or 226 percent of Dominica’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which he said was the collective, productive, capacity of a country. He added that Dominica is very much committed to realising the objectives of the workshop. ” I hope over the next few days that the experience that we can bring to bear will really help to shape the policies, better strategies, better networks, better engagement of the emerging technologies in really turning around the adversities with which we have to bear. ”
Meanwhile, Mr. Sylvester Cadette, Program Officer, Regional Office of ITU based in Barbados said, “When disasters strike they have devastating effects on people’s lives and the economy, ” adding, “When we look at the latest statistics for just 2016/17, Not counting Irma, Harvey and Maria, we had 300 million people affected by disasters worldwide. “
“Let us engage in such a way that
after all is said and done this week,
more will always be done
than said- Sylvester Cadette”
Mr Cadette recounted anecdotes from his experience being in Dominica days after the hurricane struck, trekking from Roseau to Marigot over landslides and the importance of telecommunications equipment. “In all this, this is where ITU comes in,” he said, “ITU plays an important role in using ICTs for disaster risk reduction and management through the design of national emergency telecommunications plans, the setting up of early warning and monitoring systems, and the provision of emergency telecommunications equipment when disaster strikes.”
Cadette went on to explain that the ITU aims to bring emergency telecommunication equipment to a major disaster zone within 48 hours. He thanked Programme Officer, Maritza Delgado from the ITU Head Office in Switzerland for her speedy support in getting emergency telecommunication equipment to Dominica following Hurricane Maria’s landing and devastation. “ITU is forging partnerships with the private sector to finance activities related to disaster mitigation with the aim of saving lives,” he said.
Minister of Information, Science, Telecommunications and Technology, Kelvar Darroux in his remarks thanked the ITU for the opportunity to host the forum. He said , ” your deliberations I am sure will encourage the acquisition of new knowledge, a heightened awareness of the role of ICTs in disaster risk reduction management and the strengthen of approaches to using ICTs for disaster management.” The minister added, that governments and people of the Caribbean should take note that, “The themes to be discussed over the next few days are aimed at helping us to holistically look at disaster management and how it can be improved through the capabilities of ICTs.”
Darroux went on to confirm that the government of Dominica had learned lessons from Tropical Erica in 2015 and Hurricane Maria in 2017, “This has prompted the need for better preparation, to reduce the impact on properties and lives. The government of Dominica has recognised, ” he said, ” a key component of disaster management and prevention, is having a telecommunication network and information system that is well designed to be able to deal with any situation during and after a emergency or disaster.” The minister made reference to the hard work of local telecommunication providers in Dominica to rebuild their networks with greater resilience.
Minister Darroux told the forum that the Government of Dominica has out laid a plan and a vision articulated by Prime Minister Dr. Roosevelt Skerrit to make Dominica the first climate resilient country in the world. ” To this end, ” he said, “Dominica has since established the Climate Resilience Execution Agency of Dominica (CREAD) which has the mandate to make the vision a reality. This is the level of seriousness that is being placed on disaster management and preparation in Dominica.”
The featured speaker at the opening ceremony was Senator, Hon. Robert Tonge, the Minister for Tourism and Culture in Dominica. He said, “While Dominica has committed itself to becoming the first climate resilient country of the world, other similar endeavours are at work with the launching of the Climate Smart Accelerator programme in August 2018, in Jamaica.” He added, “This partnership consists of twenty-six (26) countries and over 40 public and private sector partners with the objective to support the Caribbean’s ambition of becoming the world’s first climate-smart zone,” he said.
The minister went on to say that, “The objective is to implement climate solutions for resilience, renewable energy, development of sustainable cities, oceans and transportation, ” he said adding, “This initiative will not only protect the region, but create sustainable jobs and a new economy in the climate-smart infrastructure. I therefore place a challenge before you this morning to provide us with the Parish Hall Declaration which will clearly articulate at least five (5) practical solutions which can be implemented soonest using ICT rated technologies and services to minimise damages and loss to small developing island states, ” he said. (Marpin News. 2018)