ACP-EU supports digital connectivity in the Caribbean in the face of COVID-19

In consultation with the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), the European Union (EU) is funding the DIRECCT (DIgital REsponse Connecting Citizens) program to strengthen the resilience of the health, Education and Small Business in the Caribbean to address current and future crises. A press conference was held virtually today, bringing together funding and implementing partners to launch the program in the Caribbean region.

Coordinated by the Direction Régionale Atlantique of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the bilingual event recognized the global and regional human development challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted the critical role of digital services in enabling people to stay in touch with their public health partners, educational institutions and essential businesses. HE Mr. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, Secretary General of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) opened the floor by stating that “through this timely collaboration, we will fund 10 projects that will benefit more than 50 states through the OACPS in the areas of health, education, and small business.

By prioritizing the needs of NGOs and reducing the gender inequalities still very present in the digital world, we can transform this COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to develop our countries. It is clear that the availability of digital services has mitigated the impact of the pandemic for citizens, patients, students and businesses in the region. In future crises, the ability to stay in touch with institutions and partners will be an essential and effective response that has been sorely tested over the past 2 years. “The EU has set itself a new ambition: to support and increase access to digital services and tools in developing countries”, said Luís Maia, Head of Cooperation of the European Union Delegation to Barbados, Eastern Caribbean States, OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM.

“Digital transformation and innovation are priority areas in the EU’s engagement with the Caribbean and the EU plans to step up its digital engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean through a Digital Alliance . The aim is to combine the interests, strengths and capacities of the two regions, in order to jointly fight against the digital divide and achieve an inclusive digital transformation. Responsibility for the implementation of this 15.4 million euro programme, financed by the European Union, lies with the French Development Agency and Enabel, the Belgian development agency. “The ACP-DIRECCT program is fully in line with AFD’s digital strategy” recalled Mr. Philippe La Cognata, Atlantic Ocean Regional Director of the French Development Agency, “the digital transition is one of the six transitions priorities of AFD’s strategic orientation plan.

Executive Director of CARPHA, Dr Joy St John

We will use digital as a lever to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. AFD is thus positioning itself as a digital donor in order to become a benchmark partner for developing countries to accelerate their digital transition for sustainable development. “The Caribbean region will benefit from this program through strengthened health information systems and increased capacity for early detection, response, surveillance and reporting of public health threats and emerging diseases,” said the Dr. Joy St. John, Executive Director of Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) as she presented a synopsis of the Improving Digital Integrated Public Health Surveillance in the Caribbean project.

The initiative aims to increase the ability of Ministries of Health in the Caribbean to access real-time public health surveillance data from a variety of sources using an integrated digital information platform (One Health approach ). CARPHA’s 26 Member States, many of which are dependent on tourism, will use this digital system to inform early and appropriate interventions to track and mitigate the spread of disease, and serve as a database for policy makers to address environmental determinants. and local social health. Ms. Seliatou Kayode-Anglade, Project Manager, Private Sector and Trade Economy Pole, Financial and Economic Governance Department of Expertise France presented the digital transformation project for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in West Africa and in the Caribbean. The objective of the project is to strengthen the resilience of formal and informal offline MSMEs by improving their digital skills.

Activities are implemented by partners in West Africa and the Caribbean. “Caribbean Export is one of our partners in the MSME digital transformation project and we are happy to collaborate with them on such an important subject for the development of the Caribbean private sector and economic resilience” reaffirmed Ms. Kayode-Anglade. In his remarks, Mr. Deodat Maharaj, Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, praised the cooperation with Expertise France and praised the conception and design of the Virtual Electronic Commerce Acceleration Program (VEAP) that the ‘Agency will implement. Maharaj affirmed the Agency’s commitment to working with relevant stakeholders to ultimately help Caribbean businesses and entrepreneurs leverage digital technologies to build their resilience and sustainability.

“Under the heading of the Virtual E-Commerce Acceleration Program, we will engage Caribbean businesses, Business Support Organizations (BSOs) and private sector e-commerce related businesses (such as web developers and dropshipping partners), over a period of 6 months, using a learning by doing approach to improve their e-commerce knowledge and implementation of e-commerce strategies. The accelerator will include a maximum of 2 BSOs in each country with 5 companies assigned to each BSO for support in the 15 CARIFORUM countries.

These BSOs and businesses will be overseen by a team of master trainers and coaches in the areas of e-commerce website development, product development, marketing, analytics, and general e-commerce operations. Mr. Frédéric Murat, Head of International Operations of Libraries Without Borders (Libraries Without Borders or BSF) presented the Offline Internet initiative launched by BSF in Haiti. While half of the world’s population does not have access to a quality internet, the need for the dissemination of digital content for training, education, information or leisure has never been greater in order to create stronger and more resilient societies in the face of contemporary challenges. (education, employment, global warming, migration, prevention of risks and epidemics, etc.).

In this project, BSF aims to promote access to information and education in 15 Haitian schools, libraries and local organizations for the most vulnerable through offline Internet solutions. DIRECCT projects aim to improve access to digital infrastructure in more than 55 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries by increasing connectivity, to support the development of sectoral digital services (education, health and business) by to their particular needs and then train people to use them. In the health sector, the main objective is to enable public bodies to quickly collect reliable data on the state of the current pandemic and possible future health crises, which are essential tools for institutions to provide immediate and relevant answers. The €15.4 million program is mainly implemented by AFD in coordination with the Belgian development agency, Enabel.

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