**Leon Williams, President & CEO
Bahamas Telecommunications Company**
Addressing the 24th Annual General Meeting of the Caribbean Association of National Telecommunications Organisations (CANTO) in Suriname, BTC President Leon Williams said access to telecommunications region wide by 2015 is doable.
Mr. Williams, who currently serves as CANTO Chairman, confirmed the goal of the regional organisation to work in cooperation with other NGO’s, to work in cooperation with providers, policy makers and regulators to ensure that every child, every village, every citizen have access to ICT facilities between now and the year 2015. Noting the over 800,000 “villagers” in the Caribbean that still need to be connected through telecommunications, he said *“While it is a monumental task, certainly it is not something that is insurmountable because if we all work together the task is an easy task.”*
Suriname president Ronald Venetiaan officially opened the CANTO AGM, held 27-29 January. He noted the importance of the conference theme ‘Caribbean Unity Through Connectivity’ and called on governments in the region to design and implement policies to facilitate the development of affordable, accessible and effective ICT networks, services and applications. He said through cooperative initiatives with local and regional stakeholders, the region should be able to develop the required ICT networks.
One of the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is to bridge the digital divide. To achieve this, WSIS has set specific targets to improve access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), to be achieved by 2015.
**Connect the World** is a multi stakeholder initiative, which encompasses partners and projects globally intent on achieving the goals of WSIS through partnerships, collaboration and cooperation.
The **”Connect the Caribbean”** Initiative, is the Caribbean’s response. Consistent with the framework of Connect the World, the project will function as a partnership to mobilize the human, financial and technical resources required to bridge major gaps in ICT infrastructure development, enabling a harmonized policy framework and developing relevant and affordable services and applications. The expectation is that Investment in ICT will fuel economic growth and employment in the region and help fast-track targets to achieve broader development goals.
The initiative will be led by CANTO in partnership with other key public and private stakeholders, including the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) working with the Regulatory environment, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) seeking global industry harmonization and growth, and CARICOM, working for a Single Market Economic Community for the Region.