Considering that Barbados is home to the person who not only designed the first Internet search engine but also steered a committee into setting standards for such cyberspace innovations, one might wonder why the island only a few months ago joined the Internet Society, an organization dedicated to ensuring that the Internet stays open and transparent.
Barbados in September entered the now 25-year-old organization that was part founded by Barbadian Alan Emtage to ensure innovations introduced to the Internet met a certain standard.
Now that it finally has its own chapter in the club that includes 109 other similar societies across the world, the island is pushing ahead, and last evening a cocktail reception was held to launch a two-day national Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The forum, which began today at the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business, aims to provide Barbadians from all sectors of society with a platform to discuss how they use the Internet and the most pertinent issues affecting them.
According to the organizers, one of the key outputs from the IGF will be a comprehensive report detailing the critical Internet Governance (IG) issues affecting business, government, civic organizations and ordinary citizens across the island.
The Barbados Internet Society used the occasion of yesterday’s event to honour Emtage, a pathfinder on the Internet, with the Contribution to Internet Development Award.
In 1989, while a student and working as assistant administrator for McGill University School of Computer Science, Emtage conceived and implemented the original version of the Archie search engine, the world’s first search engine, and broke the path for such notables in the search engine world as Yahoo and Google.
Emtage went on to work with others to create the Uniform Resource Locator (URL), the global address of documents and other resources on the World Wide Web.
The Harrison College alumnus is quoted as saying: “I wrote a piece of code that gave birth to a multi-billion-dollar industry. I didn’t make any money off of it, but I wouldn’t change anything.”
Emtage was unable to accept his honour in person yesterday, and was ably represented by his father, Sir Stephen Emtage, and mother Margaret Lady Emtage.
Also being honoured with a Contribution to Internet Development Award was Bernadette Lewis who has been Secretary General of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union since 2003.
Under her stewardship, the CTU has been transformed into a relevant and vibrant information and communications technology organization, according to her award citation.
Lewis is credited with taking CTU to the forefront of activities to harmonize policies and practices for the development of the Caribbean ICT sector. She led the way in ensuring that, in 2005, the Caribbean hosted the first Internet Governance Forum in the world, and her tireless work has seen the establishment of numerous Internet exchange points in the Caribbean.
CTU president and Barbados’ Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for telecommunications, Senator Darcy Boyce highlighted what Government considered key areas of concern that it hoped would be addressed – cybercrime and cybersecurity and the changing nature of cyber threats; the use of the Internet to drive e-commerce; child online protection; net neutrality and over-the-top services; and privacy and data protection.