Shortly before the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) took effect on the 25th May 2018, the 14th Caribbean Internet Governance Forum (CIGF) considered the impact that these regulations could have on the Caribbean region. Organised by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and hosted in Paramaribo by the Telecommunications Authority Suriname (TAS), this Forum took place from 21st to 23rd May 2018.
In keeping with its theme, “Promoting secure, resilient and effective data management in the age of social media,” the 14th CIGF also addressed the positive and negative impact of technology and the use of social media.
The GDPR gives European Union (EU) residents more control over their personal data, which includes the right to be informed, right of access, right of erasure, right of rectification, right to object and right of data portability. Simply put, if someone in the EU wants his or her data to be deleted or to be provided with copies of their data, or even wish to have personal data corrected, companies subject to the provisions of the EU statute have to comply.
So how does this affect the Caribbean? Discussions at the 14th CIGF identified that British, Dutch and French overseas territories that fall under the EU jurisdiction must comply with EU regulations. The law could also affect Caribbean companies that provide goods and services to European companies, which is important to note because the GDPR has stiff penalties for persons found in violation of these regulations.
According to CTU Secretary General, Bernadette Lewis, who discussed social media during welcome remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the 14th CIGF, “The revolution in information and communications technology (ICT) has given rise to a plethora of social media that have transformed human communications and interactions, the implications of which are only now unfolding and becoming apparent.”
Concerned about ill effects that the growth in social media could potentially have on society, Ms. Lewis further cautioned, “The Social Media phenomenon has had many positive transformational benefits – giving a platform to the hitherto voiceless, increasing opportunities for debate, collaboration, and economic and political activity. The growth in social media is also raising issues relating to security – physical and digital; privacy; morality and ethics; psychology and the social construct. These issues are unfolding in our region and require appropriate responses.”
Presenters warned of both the positive and negative impact of technology, including the risk of becoming addicted to the Internet, the importance of cyber security and the challenges and opportunities of everyone having a voice.
In addition, in keeping with the capacity building and education objective of the CIGF, the CIGF Academy, i.e. the day 1 sessions oriented towards capacity building, provided an overview on Internet Governance in the Caribbean and globally. The Academy also addressed principles and mechanisms for data protection and, recognising the effects of climate change manifested in the violent impact of the 2017 hurricane season, it also raised awareness of and educated on the need for fostering service resiliency.
Initiated by the CTU and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat in 2005, the CIGF is a regional, multi-stakeholder forum established to coordinate regional approaches to Internet Governance (IG). It has developed a Caribbean Internet Governance Policy Framework the current version of which is available at http://www.ctu.int/projects/caribbean-internet-governance-forum-cigf/.