Region must develop robust, secure, digital infrastructure to take advantage of fourth Industrial Revolution – CARICOM ICT official


The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) must develop a modern, robust and secure digital infrastructure if it is to make the most of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to Ms. Jennifer Britton, Deputy Programme Manager, ICT4D, at the CARICOM Secretariat.

“This, coupled with the protection of CARICOM citizens from cybercrime, are key elements for development,” she said.

Ms. Britton was at the time speaking at the recent launch of the Grenada Cyber Security Incident Report Team (CSIRT).

The CSIRT provides a central point for support and advice to individuals and businesses facing cybercrimes including impersonations of public personalities, identity and credit card theft and email-based scams. Its main responsibility is to discover, expose and avert cyber-attacks targeting an organisation, or country.

Placing the cyber scenario in context, Ms. Britton highlighted some major cyber-attacks ranging fromthe Melissa Virus and the NASA attack in 1999 to the Yahoo attack in 2004, to what is reported as the biggest password leak yet, which occurred in June 2021, whereabout 8.4 billion passwords were reportedly leaked.

The attacks were varied, and the persons involved were also varied and alarming, she said.

Ms. Jennifer Britton, Deputy Programme Manager, ICT4D, CARICOM Secretariat

As the number of cyber threats grew daily, the importance of having a security team that was specifically focused on incident tracking and response and overall IT security including policies, compliance, governance, security of systems and applications, was fundamental, she said.

Under the Grenada National Cyber Security Framework and Implementation Plan, the CSIRT “envisages a united front where Public and Private Sector Information Technology professionals along with agencies such as Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Royal Grenada Police Force will collaborate to build and develop an acceptable profile at the national level, where citizens can attain high levels of competency to use and react in the most appropriate manner within the digital space.” 

Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, who launched the initiative on 19 May, said Grenada’s ultimate goal was to establish a National Cyber Security Agency, “but for now we are focused on the C-SIRT as a critical building block in our work towards the agency.”

Prime Minister Mitchell is lead Head of Government for Information and Communication Technology in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet, and he championed, and continues to champion, the CARICOM Single ICT Space.

Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Rt Hon. Keith Mitchell (Photo via GIS)

Cybersecurity was brought frontally into the policy framework of the Region, when CARICOM Heads of Government approved the CARICOM Single ICT Space Roadmap and Workplan in 2017.

“Conscious that dealing with cyber threats in an ad hoc manner would not serve the Region well, and that a well-crafted and implemented Cybersecurity Strategy can be the engine for growth, ICT ministers at a Council meeting in November 2019 – under the strong, astute chairmanship of the PM Grenada – agreed to work on building on the existing Cybersecurity Action plan (being implemented by CARICOM IMPACS) to develop a CARICOM Cyber-resilience Strategy – in keeping with global standards and to ensure that we have a common approach, increased collaboration, formal mechanisms for reporting- and be better able to prevent, monitor, respond to and mitigate against cyberthreats – as a region. We hope to have that strategy completed by the end of this year,” Ms. Britton said.

She encouraged the new team to reach out to the rest of the OECS and CARICOM to work on the formation of national and sub-regional/regional CSIRTS, as there were not yet enough formal teams in CARICOM.

“No CSIRT community can be successful in isolation – Just as no country can be secure on its own,” she said at the launch, as she pointed to the importance of maintaining constant dialogue within and between countries in the context of cyber attacks.

She extended congratulations to Prime Minister Mitchell and the team. She told the CSIRT that they were “now part of a body of guardians of the Caribbean Community in cyber-space and have to keep informed, learning and delivering every day.”

It is a sentiment with which PM Mitchell agreed.

“The National Cyber Security Response Team, being launched here today is not just an imperative of the Government of Grenada, but it is a shared vision of governments across the region, where in many ways, we are still playing catch up to more developed countries, in terms of laying down the legacy infrastructure to drive internet uptake within our countries.

“As small developing island nations, the region’s resilience is continuously threatened by external shocks and recurring natural disasters. The economic shocks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic represent a monumental disaster in its own right. It has also amplified the consequences of the digital divide between the connected and the unconnected. At the same time, we must take note of the numerous opportunities it has created. It is true after all, that in every crisis, there are opportunities,” the Prime Minister said. 

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