by Nicole Leotaud, Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI)
Investment in COVID-19 recovery is an opportunity to transform Caribbean development models to address multiple intertwined global crises due to declining biodiversity and collapsing ecosystems, climate change and socio-economic inequities and injustices. How can increasing access to digital technologies accelerate a sustainable and inclusive recovery to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure a healthier planet for all? Research by the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) identified attention to digitisation and technological innovation in some public sector recovery initiatives, but there are opportunities to sharpen the focus on equity and justice for marginalised and vulnerable communities and sectors and to enhance participatory governance in the Caribbean.
Investment in COVID-19 recovery is an opportunity to transform Caribbean development models to address multiple intertwined crises due to declining biodiversity and collapsing ecosystems, climate change and socio-economic inequities and injustices. These occur at many levels and in many spaces but include those felt by:
The value of access to green and digital technologies to address inequities and injustices was recognised in one of the messages in a background paper for the United Nations Stockholm +50 conference on sustainable development. The message was that “Strengthened cooperation to provide access to green and digital technologies is fundamental to accelerate green recovery processes and to scale up, mainstream and monitor actions”. This emphasised building capacity, enhancing access to technology and financing, fostering co-creation and local solutions, and supporting transparency, accountability and stakeholder engagement.
So, are COVID-19 recovery initiatives in the Caribbean facilitating enhanced access to digital and green technologies to address inequities and injustices?
Research on 446 public sector COVID-19 recovery initiatives in six Caribbean countries and at the regional level was conducted by the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) with financial assistance from the European Union (ENV/2016/380-530), the MAVA Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. This found that only 38 (or 9%) aimed at using digitisation and technological innovation to support recovery across diverse areas (see Table 1). Support for the micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) sector was one of the main areas of focus, including support for business development via e-commerce platforms and digital marketplaces, digital financial services and capacity building, including particularly for female and youth entrepreneurs. The agricultural sector was another area of focus, with initiatives supporting the use of robotics, drones and autonomous equipment and other technological innovations. Digital information and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) tracking were featured for the fisheries sector. Recovery of the tourism sector included business development support and enhanced marketing using digital technologies. Other initiatives focused on enhancing digital technology in schools and training youths in digitisation, computer administration and repairs. National innovation hubs to support development of software and apps and increased use of digital platforms in government ministries and agencies were also presented.
While there is much to celebrate in these Caribbean initiatives regarding the focus on economic inclusion through digitisation and technological innovation, more attention can be paid to three specific areas to better address inequities and injustices:
COVID-19 recovery is an opportunity to transform Caribbean development to address intertwined development challenges – Caribbean public sector initiatives and investments must support this and explicitly focus on delivering sustainability, equity, justice and climate resilience. Bold action is needed to scale existing good practices and explore new approaches to increase use of digital and green technologies to deliver economic, environmental, social and climate justice for marginalised and vulnerable stakeholders.
This research was conducted by CANARI with financial assistance of the European Union (ENV/2016/380-530), the MAVA Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of CANARI and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union, MAVA Foundation or Open Society Foundations.