Thursday, October 25, 2007

Casting Our Net: The Caribbean Web Presence

It was not intentional to have two technology based postings follow one after the other, but over the past few days I have been pleasantly surprised to learn of two Caribbean based tech-themed blogs, Caribbean Web Development and Silicon Caribe. These are two blogs which cater to web development and general technology education, development and trends in the region. I learnt of these two blogs from the Caribbean Blog List posted on KnowProse a well-known Trinidad and Tobago based blog.

Since I started blogging, I have been fascinated learning of all the variety and wealth of information available about Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean on local and Caribbean based blogs. As an avid web surfer, one disappointment I have always had was the dearth of online content available on anything Caribbean apart from tourism based content. Surely I found the news sites, newspapers and radio stations, and regional bodies like the ACS, CARICOM (I have even found out that there is a CARICOM blog as well) the ECCB etc. but apart from such sites, I could hardly find any websites, say on Caribbean academia or professional and community associations etc.

Let me emphasise, I am not saying that there were not or are not any such sites but simply saying that by way of content outside of tourism, there was and is, still truly a lot to be desired on Caribbean based information by way of traditional websites. Many Caribbean based sites that I have found too are by travelers to the Caribbean who have set up Web sites describing their stay in the region. While I have no objection to non-Caribbean folk writing about and promoting the region it surely is refreshing to discover the blogosphere of Caribbean people writing about themselves and their region.

We have long sought to shed the perception of us in the Caribbean of being only about sand, sea and sun and the complementary motifs that go with these three S’s, rum, reggae, calypso and limbo. While we are and should be proud of these our cultural markers, we do need to escape the pigeonhole that many non-Caribbean people still place us in. Unfortunately now too, that hole has now incorporated the negatives of our high crime rates and HIV infection levels. Despite our many academics and college graduates spread far and wide across the globe, our achievements in sport, and the selling of our products on supermarket shelves abroad, I have had to spend many a time in my travels trying to present a more multifaceted view of Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean than the typical narrow perceptions that many non-Caribbean persons still have of us.

The local and Caribbean blogosphere has truly added a new facet of the region for us and others to look at. My still lingering thought though, is how much of a readership do these blogs enjoy. This is especially so, given now there are so many competing channels of information and entertainment available, with watching cable television at the forefront, taking up so much of our time. Just as there is the Pew Internet and American Life Project that tracks Internet usage in the United States, there should be similar local or regional bodies that do the same or at least one to track the readership of this parallel press which is not visible or available on any street-side news-stand but requires the purposeful clickings of a web surfer.

In terms of Trinidad and Tobago's technological transition, there is a project of the National Information and Communicatrion Technology (NICT) Plan by the government, set up to, as it says for “transforming the country into a knowledge-based society by 2008.” (There are NICT generated reports available on the NICT website). Yet clearly the country, at least on the government’s part and the manner in which, in the main, it provides public services, is in no way in keeping with the buzzword description of a knowledge based society, particularly too with 2008 just months away.

The thing we tend to forget in the region too, is that in terms of world presence we are still so small. With almost any type of global statistical presentation there is almost always an agglomeration of the figures for Latin America and the Caribbean. Even in terms of academia, with a look at North American and European university courses on the region, the focus is again almost always 'Latin America and the Caribbean:' we are seldom, if at all, given any singular distinction on our own.

Everyday, increasing amounts of people are using the Internet for their primary source of information and entertainment. Internet World Stats puts the current figure as just over 1.2 billion. The Internet now also includes network television and radio. New electronic appliances and gadgetry seem all to be configured assuredly with some Internet access included in their makeup. The leading search engine company, Google, is undertaking a massive effort to digitise perhaps as many as 30 million books to be made available online.

It thus seems incumbent upon us to go on generating online content about ourselves, to tell our stories and present our own vision to the world. And this is what must always be kept in mind: once you have content online your audience can be anywhere in the world. And for this, we must be more aware of maintaining a level of quality for what we present. There must be an adjustment too for being more culturally and globally aware. The Internet presents the world to us on a platter and likewise we, when we place content online, are made so easily available to the world as well.

Let the world enjoy us for the spiciness and flavour which we all savour so well in our cuisine. Let us spread our recipes of creativity and energy and leave a pleasant aftertaste of ourselves with the world.

1 comment:

  1. I would just like to thank you for being mentioned in your post and state that I share your desire for a "Caribbean Web Presence". I started Caribbean Web Development Blog with an intention to play my part.

    Thanks for introducing me to the website, I'll have a write a special feature about the program.


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