NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper criticized the country’s two leading mobile operators for poor service and the pace of digital transformation, as he urged them to find ways to improve service delivery, especially in the family islands.
Cooper, while addressing the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority’s (URCA) Digital Transformation Forum at the Margaritaville Resort, remarked: “It is still difficult to comprehend that the government owns 49 percent plus of each of these companies, but we find ourselves with the issues that we face.”
Alluding to the Davis administration’s digital agenda outlined in its Blueprint for Change, Cooper argued that the pace of digital transformation in The Bahmas is too slow and challenged BTC and ALiv to find ways to improve service delivery, especially in the family islands.
Cooper noted that the government seeks to implement a Department of Electronic Communications, adding that its Innovate242 initiative aims to advance the tech industry and re-create The Bahamas as the innovation center for the Caribbean.
Describing the government as being an “unhappy shareholder,” Cooper said: “It is most embarrassing to have calls dropped just as I get on my stride convincing a foreign investor who happens to be a billionaire and has invested in many places around the world.
“Just after I talk about our stable democracy, our politically stable environment, and the beauty of our country, I talk about the stable ICT infrastructure and the call drops. It is embarrassing to be a part owner of a company that cannot provide the services needed for children to do their virtual homework in the family islands.”
Cooper argued that connectivity issues have “gone on long enough” and charged the mobile operators to deliver on their service commitments.
Stephen Bereaux, Deputy to the Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, during his presentation following Cooper’s, noted that the government needs a centralized entity responsible for digital, with leadership at the highest level.
While indicating that his comments were his own and not the sentiments of the ITU, Bereaux noted that few countries do not have a minister responsible for digital development.
“That lack of a dedicated focal point for the digital transformation of the country means that the trajectory is not immediate and clear when you try to do something. Businesses and investors do not know who to speak to and a dedicated team of professionals who know what their mandate is,” said Bereaux.
He further noted that the government needs to formalize and finalize the national development plan, arguing that the development path for the country cannot change every five years.
“We need clear digital transformation goals,” said Bereaux, adding, “The government’s plans for digital transformation needs to be in the national plan.”