A yearly tradition - TTIGF 2024

Watching the TTIGF forum has become a yearly tradition for me. Somehow I did not keep myself in the loop and only realized this morning that this was happening this morning and yesterday. I normally blog about the forum (2021, 2022, 2023) and live tweet. I have always been pleased to participate in something that can only help the tech space and country move forward. I am relaxing this Friday morning in my quiet village in Trinidad and I have started this blog post. My mom made pigeon peas and chicken pelau for lunch today. Shortly I will fill my belly with a serving of that and then wait for the live stream to start. Meanwhile I will browse the TTIGF website.

The theme this year is "the internet we want". I want an internet that is open. I want an internet that is affordable. For example, the 2GB mobile data I sometimes buy used to be valid for a month but is now only valid for a week. This came like a thief in the night without much warning or concern. Stuff like this should not be allowed. The poor man is being squeezed out and the digital divide will forever be a thing. I know that my blog post can reach the powers that be and I hope that they are listening to the dialogue that emerges from the forum also. The website describes the forum as a multi-stakeholder dialogue on public policy issues related to key elements of Internet governance, such as the Internet’s sustainability, robustness, security, stability, access and development.

At the end of the day we all want to have a say that is valued. We want to know that we are valued and our needs are being met. The third session that I am going to watch asks some questions about what is on the horizon beyond fintech and the next financial wave. Buzzwords are nice and the latest tech is nice also but I think if we can get some of the basics right we would have made some serious progress. For example, why is it so onerous to open a bank account in Trinidad? Why have they stopped issuing prepaid credit cards? Why does it cost so much to receive a wire transfer? Why does the popular Paypal not work in Trinidad normally? I know we can do both, be future focused as well as fixing what exists. I saw on an email forum that someone suggested that the Jamaican CBDC would not be necessary if they just fixed the banking system and it would be easier and cost effective to do so.

The panel that I watched consisted of a diverse panel from the fintech landscape. They started the discussion by asking the pivotal question of what is fintech? Put simply, it is using tech for financial services and processes. I will now share my takeaways from this session. Fintech has the potential to be innovative and disruptive. It is a positive that we have a state agency mandated to promote fintech locally. Regulators are there to ensure that trust is built into the fintech space which helps all sides. Collaboration is key to ensuring that the public is protected and at the same time the ecosystem is not held back. Are we too risk averse here to be at the edge of the fintech space? I would say yes but there is hope for change. Carlos put it beautifully in that we can take calculated risks. We have to collectively decide what we want to achieve in the fintech space. The Trinidad market is not big enough and fintech startups should aim to capture the Caribbean market. Harmonise (across the region) is a word that comes to play.

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