The Caribbean region is exposed to a high level of vulnerabilities due to the structure of its economies. In particular, the region is exposed on account of the high trade/ GDP ratios, a heavy reliance on the foreign exchange earnings from the tourism sector, export-oriented resource-based industries, and financial remittances from diasporic communities which have been disproportionately impacted by loss of lives and livelihoods during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The telecommunications sector importance has expanded in the context of COVID-19. The sector has become indispensable in aiding the public health agenda of building public awareness through communications as well as providing the means for tasks like tracking and tracing coronavirus cases. It has also proven to be critical for facilitating increased business connectivity, digital trade and e-commerce and for scaling up of working-from-home arrangements and the expanded provision of online services in the health, financial, education and entertainment sectors.
Companies through the region have been assisting families by providing COVID relief in the form of hampers, free internet access for business continuity and education along with education content. Cases of support to SMEs, 54 percent of which operate within the informal economy and struggled in receiving public assistance during the pandemic, have been documented. Telecommunications companies became instrumental in connecting the informal sector with the information necessary to respond to COVID-19.
Ensuring that basic infrastructures, such as telecommunication, sustain during a crisis requires a level of investment from both public and private sectors. Investing in resilient businesses ensures that the economy is able to sustain through a crisis. Moreover, investing in proper basic infrastructure, ensures that everyone is able to withstand shocks and better cope with a disaster. That requires economic diversification and investment of all stakeholders.
The telecommunications sector has emerged as a key stakeholder in DRR. Publicprivate collaboration to ensure a resilient telecommunications sector can have important benefits for reducing disaster risks in the Caribbean.