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


ECLAC Publications and Resources in “Digital Financial Services”




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







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



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 


OTT VoIP in the Caribbean: A Vexing Policy Issue

tatt open forum

The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad & Tobago (TATT) held their 21st ICT open forum on 18th June 2015 posing the question “Should Over The Top Services Be Regulated” to the three regulatory heads of the regional mobile providers Digicel, TSTT and LIME Caribbean, and the audience, no doubt, 100% comprised of mobile customers.

TATT’s representatives presented a summary of their consultative document “Towards the Treatment of Over-The-Top (OTT) Services” which remains open for public comment through till Monday July 6th 2015.  While the consultative document starts off speaking to Over The Top (OTT) services in general and mentions that OTT services includes other services including  video; within this forum (as within their document) there was a clear focus on OTT Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.  The focus on OTT VoIP was subsequently brought up in the Q&A portion of the proceedings with audience member, Mr Simon Fraser of UWI, posing comments around the future ‘can of worms’ scenario of which OTT services should be regulated or not.   In defining OTT VoIP, three categories were mentioned:

OTT VoIP Category Example
App to App Viber to Viber call
App to PSTN Viber to call terminating on mobile provider network
PSTN to App Call from mobile provider network terminating on Viber


In making a determination on regulation of OTT VoIP, TATT has to take into consideration the Authorised Service Providers’ (ASPs’) perspective and the threat posed by this innovation to their; (i) potential loss in revenues (ii) utilization of network resources (iii) having to compete with an unregulated service i.e. uneven playing field.  TATT also has an obligation to ensure that consumers are protected in this tango between ASPs and OTT services and indeed within their consultative document they note:

With the increase in demand for OTT services by the public, there may be a negative impact on the market if such services are removed

TATT offered few possible scenarios for resolution, including.

Solution Explanation
Aggressive Blocking of OTT VoIP services as was done by Digicel in Jamaica and Haiti
Collaborative Partnering with select OTT VoIP players to develop a mutually beneficial relationship
Opportunistic Creation of premium data packages which allow for OTT VoIP


Positioning to Block or Collaborate

In presenting Digicel’s case for possible regulation of OTT VoIP, Mr Kieran Meskell, Head – Regulatory Affairs, stated that OTT VoIP service providers had an unfair competitive advantage over ASPs as they had no cost to build and maintain networks neither did they have any obligations to fulfil as regulated ASP. They painted a bleak future scenario of Caribbean mobile network operator insolvency due to drastic loss of revenue from their mobile voice calls business and increased cost of upgrades and maintenance of mobile networks.  They highlighted that they had a contract in place with Viber to provide OTT services over their network, which Viber chose not to honour. This is what led to their action of seeking to block the service which TATT previously negotiated to stave off pending further investigation.

TSTT, who previously communicated the position that they will not block OTT VoIP services, took a more restrained approach, but stated none the less that they were concerned with OTT services which are in direct competition with licensed communication services.  Ms Christa Leith, Head – Regulatory & Policy Affairs,  noted OTT services as bypassing traditional distribution systems within their network and indicated their desired for a symbiotic relationship rather than a parasitic relationship.  While citing several regulatory imbalances in comparing ASPs against OTT service providers along several dimensions (including licenses, quality of service, fees and interconnection), they acknowledged that traditional business models in the telecoms sector needed to be re-examined.  TSTT expressed a position of “refining their OTT strategy” and stated they were open to collaborating with OTT services providers via “appropriate business models”.


“Vexing issue at the policy level…”

Head – Regulatory Affairs & Policy, LIME Caribbean / Columbus Communication Trinidad Limited, Mr David Cox came to the podium without a power point presentation but articulated the most thought provoking delivery of the evening.  Coming from a telecoms regulator background he had a perspective on the problem from both sides of the table and he chose to convey his thoughts as a conundrum facing the nation, and indeed the Caribbean, via a series of exploratory questions.  Grounding his delivery with a statement that his organisation has adopted an open internet policy (no blocking, no throttling), Mr Cox spoke less of OTT services and more about information and the differentiation between networks and information.  He acknowledged the need for proper regulatory balance in the telecoms sector agreed that money for the maintenance and upgrade of network will evaporate if this balance is not achieved.  However, he went on to question whether regulation of networks implied regulation of information and suggested at times, a light-handed approach to regulation is beneficial.

Some of his question included:

  • Are ASPs the best agents to manage access to information? Should this be left to consumers?
  • Is there a role for self-regulation? What if companies make their decisions to block and let market forces prevail (i.e. let customers express their dissatisfaction by moving to another provider)?
  • What regulatory approach best promotes competition in the market place?
  • Can premium rate charges for OTT services and market forces solve this problem?

Citing a deficiency of in-market data presented by TATT, he suggested the use of foreign data on usage of OTT services may not paint an accurate picture within the local market usage of OTT services.  He also posed a final question to Digicel querying if Viber had not reneged on their agreement, would such an agreement be considered as a solution to the OTT problem or would that have been a temporary fix until a regulated solution was gotten from TATT.   It would seem that this is the question which should have kicked off the proceedings, or any future proceeding on this topic, for that matter.


From the Floor

In taking to the microphone, consumers spoke of their reliance upon these services to overcome international rates and burdensome data roaming charges and questioned the network providers’ claims of delivering a level of Quality of Service, citing recent outages and call quality concerns. Other notable concerns included:

  • Mr Lassana Murray, Quenk Technologies, noted that the blocking of OTT services would lead to a lost market opportunity for local software developers to create applications in that space.
  • Ms Tamara Ragoonath of DirtecTV questioned why TATT was playing such a leading role in the OTT VoIP debate when they had an outstanding issue with respect to local subscription television services providers carrying international channels which they did not have the rights to broadcast, thereby placing DirectTV on an unlevelled playing field with these providers (…in response TATT stated that a final resolution on this matter, possibly in the form of cessation notices to offending service providers was coming soon).




There is no doubt the OTT VoIP has the potential to erode mobile operator’s revenues, but with two out of three mobile operators willing to at least explore non-regulated solutions, one is left wondering if the future is as bleak as Digiciel made it out to be.  Additionally, they all seemed to all agree that Telco business models need to be re-examined.  Hence possible solution scenarios include a light-handed regulatory approach plus collaborative mechanisms between ASPs and OTT services (as advocated by TSTT) or some combination of opportunistic measures via the use of premium rate charges and aggressive measures of allowing ASPs to block what they want and let market forces to prevail (as raised by Mr. Cox).

OTT services are but one innovation we are currently experiencing locally and in the Caribbean, but globally mobile operators are emerging from their traditional business models and immersing themselves into mobile money, payment systems and financial transactions. In fact, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) currently has a focus group examining Digital Financial Services which is seeking to standardize mobile money technology and solutions.  Hence mobile operators have the ability to derive revenues from new streams such as these and even begin competing with financial institutions.  One can only speculate the kickback local and regional Telcos will experience from traditional financial institutions once this round of innovation and perceived encroachment comes around.