Summary of ECLAC Caribbean DFS outputs (2014-2017) 

Report on ITU/ECLAC/TATT 2016 workshop; Exploring Innovation in Transactions & Financing in Caribbean

 

 

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), subregional headquarters for the Caribbean, is pleased to transmit for your attention, (LC/CAR/2017/11) entitled “REPORT OF THE SEMINAR ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT- EXPLORING INNOVATION IN TRANSACTIONS AND FINANCING IN THE CARIBBEAN” from the meeting convened in Port of Spain, 1-3 June 2016.

 

Below is a listing of the various DFS outputs produced by ECLAC from 2014 – 2017

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ECLAC Publications and Resources in “Digital Financial Services”

2014

2015

 

Digital currency and mobile money solutions are components of new industry classifications referred to as Financial Technology (FinTech) and Digital Financial Services (DFS).

2016

 

 

 

 

 

Instagram media by beascycle - UN Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean #digitalcurrency study finally publishedThis report examines the usage of digital currency technology in the Caribbean subregion with a view to drawing attention to the opportunities and risks associated with this new phenomenon. It discusses the broader context of an emerging activity at the global level and considers how this technology could address subregional deficiencies in the electronic payment infrastructure.The report also discusses mobile money solutions, and the relationship of that technology to digital currency.

 

The workshop is co-organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in partnership with the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC).

 

Its primary purpose is to provide Caribbean stakeholders from various sectors with interactive sessions along the theme of utilizing technology innovations towards the goal of improving financial transactions and financing arrangements.

 

 

Report of the seminar on science, technology and innovation for sustainable development – Exploring innovation in transactions and financing in the Caribbean (LC/CAR/2017/11) 

 

 

Event video recording

2017

 

Caribbean countries have been seriously impacted by the trend toward “de-risking” in the global financial system, and this is damaging to their economic security and the ability of Caribbean businesses to innovate. De-risking is the name given to the tendency of banking institutions to turn away from working relationships and lines of business for which the cost of regulatory compliance—and the risk of non-compliance— is deemed to be too high in comparison to the returns.

 

This is a phenomenon that is affecting developing economies around the world, but the small and vulnerable economies of the Caribbean have been hardest hit.

 

 

 

The primary purpose and objective of this workshop is to continue providing Caribbean stakeholders from various sectors with interactive sessions along the theme of utilizing technology innovations towards the goal of improving financial transactions and financing arrangements.

 

 

Programme & Presentations available from link above

 

 

Event video recording 

 

Caribbean Digital Financial Services (DFS), DRM & IoT

Peter Nicholls delivers his opening address on behalf of the UN ECLAC at the DFS workshop. Others; Selby Wilson (CTU; partially visible), Cleveland Thomas (ITU), Hon. Darcy Boyce (Barbados)

Post tropical storm Bret, the non-profit SEWATT partnered with local Subway franchise holders to utilize their merchant payment network across several branches, to facilitate donations which were ultimately distributed to beneficiaries as sandwiches. Reliable mechanisms for donations post disaster is recognized as a key element of disaster relief. and national Disaster Risk Management (DRM)  The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) recently published a report entitled “Strengthening cooperation between telecommunications operators and national disaster offices in Caribbean countries” citing the potential benefit of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) enabling donations via short codes post disaster.

  

This issue crosses over into other work which ECLAC has been involved in, in partnering with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) to jointly host the 2nd annual Caribbean Digital Financial Services (DFS) workshop over the period 27th – 28th April 2017.

DFS at its very core is about payments and value transfers via mobile and electronic channels. Several sub-areas are encompassed under this banner, including, but not limited to; mobile money, digital currency,  blockchain, regulation, digital ID, digital credit and donations.  It is recognized as an enabler for financial inclusion, banking the under banked, economic empowerment, economic development, strengthening participation in the digital economy and FinTech. It is an area at the intersection of financial and telecommunications regulation.

The agenda can be found at the link above which includes links to key speeches and presentations (videos coming soon).  This workshop follows on from the 2016 intervention where several key issues to Caribbean DFS were uncovered including:

A channel hosting the videos of presentations and panel discussions for the 2016 workshop has been created by UN ECLAC.

Senator The Hon. Darcy Boyce (Barbados) in his opening remarks outlined some areas of key concern for regulators in consideration of financial innovation and DFS, while continuing from the 2016 workshop, the audience was again presented with an examination of mobile money within the Caribbean. This time the emphasis was moved from Haiti to Jamaica where Dr. Maurice McNaughton (UWI) laid out the process by which interactions between the regulator and potential services providers eventually yielded mobile financial services products being brought to market which could facilitate, amongst other types of transactions, Government to Person (G2P) payments.

Within a panel focused on consumer protect in mobile financial services, Dr Kevin Butler of the University of Florida, provided insights into his research into application security (or lack thereof) within a sample of mobile payments apps from several providers. The audience also learnt of concepts which can be utilized to create an enabling regulatory environment for financial innovation, such as sandboxing as presented by Nikola Tchouparov, who has served within two distinct entities which were part of the two cohorts of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority regulatory sandbox.  Additionally, some of the essential points derived from the opening and closing panels where this author directly participated are listed below:

  

DFS Session 1:   Mini-case exploration: Encouraging participation in the digital economy

Panelists: Hon. Melford Nicholas (Antigua & Barbuda), Jason Julien (FCB), Robert De Gannes (Entrepreneur), Glynis Alexander Tam (InfoLink) ; Moderator Shiva Bissessar (Pinaka Technology Solutions)

There is an immediate market available to Caribbean entrepreneurs as comprised of 60M strong diaspora desirous of Caribbean goods which includes cultural goods digital or otherwise.  A better response is required to the needs of our entrepreneurs in having access to this market via the ability to receive payments.  We must leverage technology and innovation to provide for our entrepreneurs while taking into consideration international standards for compliance and controls
  
DFS Session 9:  Next Steps
Panelists: Hon. Darcy Boyce (Barbados), Vashti Maharaj (AG Office, GoRTT), Shiva Bissessar (Pinaka Technology Solutions); Moderator;  Kwesi Prescod

The proposal for a think tank initiative to provide further research into identifying problems and examining potential solutions (from multiple perspectives) such as how tech/innovation can assist the correspondent bank / de-risking problem, Caribbean intra-regional settlement (and FX challenges) and payment system deficiencies, must be examined further to identify potential sources for funding to make it a reality.

Next Steps

The efforts of the UN ECLAC in performing DFS research (digital currency in Caribbean report & prospects for blockchain in de-risking paper) and the efforts of the ITU in bringing enlightenment on DFS issues to Caribbean audiences needs to be applauded.

It is hoped that other actors can now match these efforts and play an active role in the research and development of DFS locally and regionally while identifying and utilizing Caribbean expertise, rather than ‘parachuting in’ foreign expertise, as we are often prone to do. Actors which can potentially play a role here includes:

  • Financial regulators (CBTT, TTSEC, FIU)
  • The National Payments Council
  • The Economic Development Advisory Board
  • The Chamber of Commerce

These parties should review their mandates in accordance with the benefits of DFS and create efforts to ensure Trinidad and Tobago is not left out of the opportunities afforded by FinTech and DFS, while simultaneously addressing risks.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Immediately preceding this workshop, these parties were also involved in the hosting of the Internet of Things (IoT) Smarter Living in the Caribbean forum over the period 24th – 26th April 2017.  Below are some of the key points from this event.

Session 8:  IoT Security + Privacy: policy, legislation, regulation and infrastructure

Panelists: Trevor Forrest (Government ICT adviser, Jamaica), Vashti Maharajh (AG Office, GoRTT), Julian Wilkins (CANTO), Bruno Ramos (ITU; remote conf.); Moderator Shiva Bissessar (Pinaka Technology Solutions)

An importation conclusion was formed by the panel which cited that IoT presented a unique challenge given the unique characteristics of having no user interface and lack of user agreement.  This demands re-examination of the policy and regulatory environment and the surrounding legislative context, with respect to user data privacy and societal security.

Light moment shared while discussing the unique challenges which IoT poses to user security and privacy in IoT session 8

IoT Session 9:  IoT Privacy and Information Security: Caribbean requirements and challenges

Panelists: Hon. Catherine Hughes (Guyana), Trevor Forrest (Government ICT adviser, Jamaica), Dr. Kevin Butler (University of Florida), Shiva Bissessar (Pinaka Technology Solutions); Moderator Nigel Cassimire CTU)

Government need to facilitate the development of opportunities which can foster the growth of an ecosystem of cyber security professionals capable of ising to the challenge of IoT cyber security.

 

Definitely one of the more memorable moments from IoT forum was the participation of several youth ICT innovators and entrepreneurs who showed off their wares in the area of IoT; in particular the audience appreciated the contributions from Cottage IT via Theo Boomsma and one of his proteges Julie Sundar, both hailing from Suriname.

Are we on track for sustainable Caribbean cyber security development?

 

 

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Government agency representatives share their nations’ experiences having participated in Commonwealth Secretariat’s needs assessment exercises. Left to right; Antoinette Lucas-Andrews (Trinidad & Tobago), Eric Nurse (Grenada), Bennett Thomas (Dominica), Clifford A Bostic (Barbados) and Luxmore Edwards (Antigua and Barbuda). Photo Credit, Caribbean Telecommunications Union

The Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) in conjunction with the Commonwealth Secretariat (Secretariat) recently hosted the Caribbean Stakeholders’ Meeting II – Cyber Security and Cybercrime (CSMII) in St. Lucia over the period 16th – 19th of March 2016.  The event sought to bring together senior stakeholders from various regional governments, international organisations focused on cybercrime and some members of the private sector to develop a “regional action plan” which would serve as a defined strategy for the development of programmes supporting a regional cyber security thrust when seeking donor funding.

The Secretariat has been playing a role in regional cyber security development via the Commonwealth Cybercrime Initiative (CCI) which has thus far administered interventions in the form of national needs assessments in five different Caribbean nations, as captioned above. Upon request from member states for assistance, a CCI mission team, including at least one technical expert and one criminal justice expert, is assembled from the CCI consortium of over 35 international organisations, such as; the Commonwealth Telecommunication Organisation (CTO), Council of Europe (CoE), International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Organisation of American States (OAS).  The mission team executes a gap analysis which leads to the production of the needs assessment report, the priorities of which are decide upon with guidance from the beneficiary member state.  An action plan is then produced for the beneficiary member state which contains commitments from consortium members towards specific identified needs.

Cyber security development needs to emerge from within

 

In the presentations by aforementioned regional representatives who were involved in these various national needs assessments exercises, three of the five representatives mentioned the lack of university graduates with cyber security training as a challenge.  During Q&A this author pointed out that an absence of university graduates with a degree specific to “cyber security” doesn’t mean that existing degree holders cannot be exposed to training and capacity building exercises designed to create such expertise at the technical, policy development or strategic levels.  It was also emphasized to the panel that when regional governments are seeking assistance from bodies such as the CCI, it is important to have local private sector subject matter experts participate in such exercises for the sake of building capacity outside of the public sector.  Contributing from the floor, Kerry-Ann Barrett of the OAS stated that they often encourage the national representatives with whom they interact, to have an inclusive approach with as wide an array of voices participating in national cyber security development exercises, even if the national representatives do not necessarily agree with the views of such voices.

The importance of adopting such an approach is that you tend to avoid the possibility of groupthink.  In relating the experiences of Dominica’s needs assessment exercise, Bennett Thomas related the experience of receiving a voluminous opinion from a representative of the CoE, which was critical of path being then defined for cybercrime legislation in certain Caribbean territories as manifest via the EGRIP model law exercise.

In commenting on the issue of where to find skilled resources, Anthony Teelucksingh of the U.S. Department of Justice encouraged participants to “leverage domestic expertise”, strive for cooperation from the private sector and seek solutions from within their own backyard.

Hence, bodies such as CARICOM IMPACS (which is the regional organisation charged with the responsibility for Caribbean cyber security), the CTU and ultimately regional governments need to do more towards actively supporting the development of Caribbean cyber security experts outside of the public sector.

 

Results for the various Caribbean needs assessments exercises showing recurring themes

Results for the various Caribbean needs assessments exercises showing recurring themes

 

Crypto currency features as risk and opportunity

*Within this article the terms crypto, digital and virtual currency are used interchangeably

 

In describing the emerging threat landscape, both INETRPOL and the Secretariat made mention of crypto currency as a challenge, while the former also singled out a greater use of the Darknet, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) cited Business E-mail Compromise (BEC) scams, as additional threats.  Both the Darknet, where illicit and illegal goods are bought and sold in online recesses, and BEC scams were described as utilizing crypto currency as payment mechanisms.  The Secretariat later presented examples of intercepted communications from online forums illustrating apparent Caribbean users seeking ways to launder money utilizing Bitcoin and trading Bitcoin for purchase of airline ticket using a stolen credit card. However, the Secretariat also emphasized the potential benefit of virtual currencies.

As recognized in published reports by both the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC) and the Commonwealth Secretariat Working Group on Virtual Currencies, there are both opportunities and risk with the advent of digital currency in the Caribbean; hence, regional leaders would be well advised to avail themselves of  expertise on this topic.  This author is currently assisting the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) towards the design and execution of a three day workshop entitled “Exploring Innovation in Transactions & Financing in the Caribbean” which will be held in Trinidad and Tobago from 1st – 3rd June 2016. This event is designed to assist Caribbean telecommunications and financial policymakers and regulators understand how financial services innovation, including mobile money and digital currency, can benefit their territories while providing them with insights on how to contain risks.

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Opportunity for “twinning” of efforts and synergies between these UN ECLAC and ITU Caribbean based efforts and the Commonwealth Secretariat’s  own efforts in area of digital currency

Building Sustainable Capacity

 

Antony Ming of the Secretariat highlighted the fact that the various regional needs assessment exercises revealed there was a significant lack of awareness on cybercrime and lack of basic cyber hygiene both within regional governments and the private sector. Citing deficiencies in capacity building, he advocated for building sustainable capacity and urged participants not to engage in “drive by training” where someone is imported to perform a few training sessions, who then leaves, advocating instead for more sustainable programmes. He stated that IT professionals needed to be engaged and academic and technical/vocational institution need to integrate cyber security into their curriculum.

In presenting the DRAFT action plan, risks were highlighted which include:

  • Low political and administrative priority by member states to implement programs.
  • Lack of capacity and capability by member states to implement and sustain the programs
  • Change in Government resulting in changing priorities

The presence of such risks supports the need to divest the impetus to develop cyber security beyond the lead governmental actor and involve the private sector; both large entities and Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) alike.

 

Conclusion

 

The CSMII meeting was a success, yielding a regional cyber security action plan which was presented to, and endorsed by, several regional government ministers present at the meeting.  The draft plan reviewed contained very interesting ideas which would be beneficial to Caribbean cyber security should they become implemented; however, is this enough?

Cyber security demands international co-operation and assistance and the CCI etc. are willing and able to assist; however we continue to look outward for international solutions to our problems while not investing enough in the future growth of our own experts internally.  Capacity building does not have to be an end state deliverable; instead, it can occur simultaneous to the development of these efforts by including local and regional private sector subject matter experts within the present dialogue being undertaken by government and quasi government agencies and aforementioned international organisations.  We need to be creating opportunities for development of nascent cyber security specialists.

One of the issues I had with the forum was that the time allotted to reviewing the already prepared draft action plan was extremely short and the use of workgroups for such review created the appearance of detailed review and consensus which isn’t necessarily the case.  For example, one member of the workgroup I participated in called out another member of the group for what seemed to be attempts to hijack control of the session away from the group leader.  Do we really want poor group dynamics to upstage beneficial output?

CARICOM IMPACS and the CTU need to build out a network of regional private sector subject matter experts they can utilize to review and provide feedback to proposals they receive from international organisations or towards the scoping of their own requirements, within an adequate timeframe.  Such an approach will add an extra layer of legitimacy to the outputs of such future meetings and agreements while also creating opportunities for development of Caribbean cyber security experts.  They also need to address public outreach on such matters to ensure the public is engaged and that stimulating conversation continues in the public domain long after these events occur. Public written record of such events will be read by the next set of emerging experts; hence, there should be defined mechanisms for quality reporting and dissemination of such record of events. There is an appetite for such material; however I’ve noted a lack of corporate support for such activity, unless there is a specific product pitch.  These two points are essential components for any regional push to develop a functional cyber security ecosystem.

We must plot a course which will move us past seeking assistance to actually being in a position to provide assistance to international efforts.  For example, the Secretariat’s Working Group on Virtual Currencies has issued recommendations which calls for member states to provide consumer awareness and calls for education and training of law enforcement and the judiciary, on the matter of virtual currency. Given the significant work completed by UN ECLAC in this area, the Caribbean is well positioned to provide assistance to the Secretariat and its member states desirous of following these recommendations.  This is but one example of how the Caribbean can contribute on a global scale in the area; can you think of others?

 

CSMII photos

CSMII presentations

Related Articles:

T&T Cybercrime bill demands multi-stakeholder input (July 2014)

Are Caribbean Cybercrime bills based on flawed model law (June 2015)