Skip to Main Navigation
Results BriefsMay 11, 2022

Building the Caribbean Digital Economy Bit by Bit

In 2020, the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (CARCIP) increased access to high quality, low-cost digital connectivity for 53.3 percent of the population of St. Lucia, 57 percent of Grenada, and 56 percent of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Prior to the implementation of CARCIP, 30 percent of the population in each respective country had access to such high-quality services. Through deployment of broadband infrastructure, a total of 68,286 people (25,200, 54 percent female, in Grenada; 22,500, 45 percent female, in St. Lucia; and 20,586, 53.7 percent female, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines) in the three countries have gained high quality internet services thanks to fiber optic connections to their residences or business (fiber-to-the-premises connectivity).


In 2010, telecommunications, in Grenada, in St. Lucia, and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was characterized by low bandwidth, high prices, and poor service quality due to a reliance on legacy copper networks. There were also several large coverage gaps. Governments were often paying high prices for obsolete services and equipment, and citizens had to deal with substandard services and limited access to global networks.

As a consequence, schools in Grenada and Saint Lucia had serious network capacity problems. Many had limited internet connection to support up to a thousand students per school. Weak connections made the service so slow that it was often unusable. In addition, the existing mobile carriers did not have sufficient capacity to offer 4G mobile services, a critical building block for online education initiatives, which had become critical after COVID-19 pandemic.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were becoming uncompetitive in the tourism industry due to slow speed internet services. Residents also faced a severe digital divide, meaning unequal access to broadband services.


The three governments recognized that an advanced, safe, affordable, and reliable access to digital services was essential for economic growth. They opted to jointly pursue high quality  fiber optic networks for their countries to be able to provide adequate digital public services, as well as digital content and internet services for the education community, including Government Wide Area Networks (GWANs) – internal networks connecting all government offices  through  fiber optics to high quality internet, Education networks, and a subsea cable.

To increase access to regional broadband networks and advance the development of an Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-enabled services industry in the Caribbean, CARCIP introduced an innovative contracting process. The resulting PPP (Public Private Partnership) structure was a first for developing digital infrastructure in the region. It was also the first of its magnitude, leveraging approximately $45 million from governments and private partners.

The innovative joint tender by three countries for wide-ranging digital infrastructure investments included deployment of the digital infrastructure, the upfront transfer of the GWAN assets to the governments, and service provision over a 15-year service period, under a PPP model.

The unique contracting approach allowed all three governments to obtain substantial economies of scale, allowing lower pricing and better quality of service than if they had purchased the networks separately. In addition, the governments will own the GWAN networks upon completion, guaranteeing access to significant capacity.

 The approach taken by CARCIP was well aligned with the Maximizing and Mobilizing Finance for Development approach, which entails working with governments to crowd in the private sector while optimizing the use of scarce public resources.


Deployment of fiber optic links between 2019 and 2021 connected 769 public buildings, including government offices schools and health centers


Research suggests a strong relationship between access to broadband services and economic growth. Especially in small island nations such as in the Eastern Caribbean, digital communications services are an essential lifeline connecting families, providing access to services, and linking people to markets.

During Year 2021, coverage of 3G networks expanded to over 95 percent of the population in the three countries, and nearly 70,000 people were connected to high quality fiber networks.

CARCIP contributed to lowering current and anticipated vulnerabilities posed by climate change, such as hurricanes or tropical storms and provided important adaptation co-benefits, through direct investments in high-speed fiber optic networks. In 2016, St. Lucia purchased and implemented a Unified Communications System (UCS), which can support emergency communications across government agencies in the aftermath of adverse climate events and response and recovery efforts.

  • In 2020, the percentage of population in each country with access to the internet passed from less than 30 percent to over 53.3 percent in St. Lucia, 57 percent in Grenada, and 56 percent in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
  • Deployments of broadband infrastructure led to a total of 68,286 people (25,200, 54 percent female in Grenada; 22,500, 45 percent female in St. Lucia; and 20,586, 53.7 percent female in St. Vincent and the Grenadines) to gain fiber-to-the-premises connectivity. Deployment of fiber optic links between 2019 and 2021 connected 769 public buildings, including government offices schools and health centers (184 in Grenada, 352 in St. Lucia, and 233 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines).
  • From 2013 to 2021, Training and certification program for information technology and information technology enabled services (IT/ITES) skills, together with a business incubation program, contributed to training 3,518 people (724 in Grenada, 1,210 in St. Lucia, and 1,584 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines), as well as 799 people certified after the training (161 in Grenada, 288 in St. Lucia, and 350 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines). People who were trained had excellent outcomes: employment of 2,924 individuals who graduated from the ICT skills trainings (204 in Grenada, 2,500 in St. Lucia, and 400 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines). A total of 102 businesses received support to purchase equipment or receiving consulting services (53 in Grenada, 25 in St. Lucia, and 24 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank, through the International Development Association (IDA), provided funding totaling $34.56 million to help finance this project. 


The following ministries implemented the project: the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning, Sustainable Development and Information Technology in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; the Ministry of Infrastructure Development, Public Utilities, Energy, Transport and Implementation in Grenada; and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Growth, Job Creation, External Affairs and Public Services in Saint Lucia.

The Caribbean Telecommunications Union provided support  through consulting services for the successful implementation of policies and regulatory frameworks in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to further increase competition in regional markets.

Looking Ahead

The digital  agenda remains critical to the region, and other projects have built or are building on the successes of CARCIP to advance the achievement of their development objectives and enable a safe, inclusive, and vibrant digital transformation for the region. This includes the Caribbean Digital Transformation Project approved on June 22nd, 2020,  and the Grenada’s Digital Government for Resilience Project, approved on August 29th, 2019.

Learn More