2013 Outstanding Achievement Award: A Commitment to the Future
Bevil Wooding greeted the news with surprise. He had just been awarded the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor LACNIC reserves for those individuals who have permanently and significantly contributed to the development of the Internet and the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Yet Wooding should not have been surprised. After a detailed analysis of his biography, a judging panel made up by Ida Holz, Bernadette Lewis, Rafael Ibarra, Carlos A. Afonso and Rodrigo de la Parra concluded that there are more than enough reasons to honor him for his contribution to the Internet community.
An enthusiastic and tenacious entrepreneur, Wooding has played a leading role in driving Communication Technologies in the Caribbean, with special emphasis on the development of training programs and educational resources for young people and the creation of infrastructure for a region where many inequalities exist.
Wooding will be presented with his well-deserved award at the LACNIC 21 event to be held in Cancun, Mexico, during the month of May. The following is a preview of his interview with LACNIC News.
How did you hear about the award? Did it come as a surprise?
The announcement was completely unexpected. I consider it a privilege to have been selected for this prestigious award from LACNIC. .
What does this recognition mean to you personally and to the Caribbean community?
This recognition from an important regional organization such as LACNIC strengthens my resolve to continue serving the region. There is much to be done, and it is encouraging to know that more people and institutions are coming on board to advance the development of the Internet in the region.
Based on their positive feedback, the Caribbean community seems quite proud of the fact that the work taking place to increase awareness of Internet Governance issues and build technical capacity in the region is bearing fruit.
What do you think of internet access in your region? How can the digital divide be bridged in the Caribbean?
The region is it too diverse for blanket statements about specific challenges. However, it is safe to say that the region has not progressed as rapidly or substantially as it should.
While basic Internet connectivity is available, there is still significant room for improvement in areas such as Internet infrastructure, national penetration levels, broadband speeds and access rates to households and businesses.
On the technical side, the expansion of mobile broadband access and the proliferation of Internet exchange points remain top priorities. Both are connected to a growing emphasis on developing more local digital content and encouraging innovation in the development of Internet-based applications and services.
On the policy front, understanding and responding to Internet governance issues, such as cybersecurity, online privacy and regulatory policy, is becoming more of a mainstream concern.
These developments all point to point to the importance of increasing investment in education, outreach and public awareness activities. We have certainly come a long way as a region, but we still have a long way to go.
The development of Network Operator Groups, the proliferation of Internet Society Chapters and the increasing number of special fora for discussing Internet governance issues are all very positive signs.
The Internet landscape is evolving rapidly and the region has to do more than just keep up. I believe that the region has the creativity and the capacity to address local issues and to positively impact development of the global Internet. Now more than ever, collaborative, multistakeholder approaches are needed to ensure sure that Latin America and the Caribbean builds the Internet most appropriate to our societies.
Your have worked extensively with the Caribbean network operators community and other stakeholders in the promotion of technical models and solutions for the region. What can you tell us about that experience?
As a founding member of the Caribbean Network Operators Group, CaribNOG, I’ve witnessed its evolution from a handful of idealistic computer engineers, to a dedicated regional community of computer network operators and technical stakeholders.
From its inaugural meeting in St Maarten in 2010 to its most recent regional gathering in Belize, CaribNOG has provided a unique forum for builders of the Caribbean Internet to hone their skills and learn from their peers and other leaders in the regional and global Internet community.
Throughout the region, computer networks, hosted services and connected devices are being deployed at an unprecedented pace. The technicians, entrepreneurs and engineers responsible for these networks are under tremendous pressure to keep pace, and they are expected to master the skills necessary to design, operate and secure these increasingly complex systems. CaribNOG has been a major resource in helping address this need.
As its profile increases, we’ve seen the membership numbers increase. Attendance at each CaribNOG regional gathering has also grown steadily. LACNIC, ARIN, ISOC, ICANN and the CTU have all played a major role in helping CaribNOG develop. The consistent support and participation by these organizations has actually been a massive statement of the power of collaboration that has helped shape the culture of CaribNOG.
Engineers who saw themselves as competitors, now see themselves as colleagues. Those who felt isolated, now express gratitude for being part of a regional community. Our regional technical community is growing; it is collaborating; and it is supporting development of the Internet in the region. I am very excited about the possibilities for CaribNOG that lie ahead.
Check out CaribNOG.org to find out about our meetings or to join the various CaribNOG mailing lists.
You are an expert in developing applications specifically designed to meet the needs of local communities. How can social media be used to promote the education of children and youth?
The influence of social media on children is profound. The pervasiveness of electronic media in the lives of children makes it important for parents, educators, and civil society advocates to understand the impact and effect on their lives.
As Internet access increases, growing numbers of children, using a growing range of access devices, are joining social networking services. Some estimates show that young people spend more time using media than they do on any single activity other than sleeping. While some may see this as a point of concern, it is also an opportunity.
Social media tools are one of the most effective ways to reach young people. There is a tremendous opportunity for the region to innovate in the use of social media to transform the delivery of education, to promote social values, and to create new economic opportunities.
But taking advantage of social media requires radically different approaches to education. It also requires a fundamental re-think of the role children play in determining how education products are created and delivered to them.
Educators would have to implement research-based programs that use electronic media to enhance classroom curricula and teach students how to use electronic media constructively. Teachers will also have to receive training in the use of new technologies and in how to manage the use of social media in schools.
Governments should also support research on educational programs that explore innovative uses of media to educate students. There is a role as well for the private sector and civil society to ensure that relevant educational programming is available to children, online as well as via traditional media.
Obviously changing traditional approaches to education will not be trivial, but the potential rewards make it well worth the investment.