In 1983, Tom Crowe reported enthusiastically to the Virgin Islands government on the prospects for computerisation reducing the territory’s dependence on tourism (see my May 28 commentary titled “‘Commuting home’ considered”) as business would be attracted by the VI’s good underwater cable and microwave links with the United States. He could not have foreseen the impact the International Business Companies Act, 1984 would have on our economy, even though its authors had been drafting it for some years.

On Oct. 25, 2018, President Donald Trump signed presidential memorandum 0-2518, directing the US Commerce Department to develop a long-term comprehensive national spectrum strategy to prepare for next-generation 5G wireless networks. He also created a White House Spectrum Strategy Task Force and instructed federal agencies to report on government spectrum needs and how they could share spectrum with private-sector users.


VI taskforce needed

I invite the VI government to set up a similar taskforce within the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to plan for this upcoming technological revolution, which has been foreseen for years. The revolution is being accelerated in response to the challenges Covid-19 has imposed on everyone. Uses of virtual reality alone could generate a whole new industry here.

Nokia has reported increased orders for its telecoms equipment by broadband clients racing to upgrade their networks to meet higher user demand, but it was already committed to provide Aruba with island-wide 5G coverage by the end of 2021, including mobile, cable TV, fixed and broadband communications, future-proofing its infrastructure, and offering new business services in areas like hospitality, healthcare and gaming. It will enable new mobile broadband users access to Augmented and Virtual Reality, Tourism 4.0 and Smart Cities.

Moreover, Apple’s gradual leaks of its plans lead technology experts to predict that it will release on Sept. 8 up to four new 5G-enabled iPhones with headsets providing “augmented reality” connecting to them just like a watch does now. They will require the ultra-high speed and low latency (delay) of 5G networks.

No doubt other manufacturers are racing to produce competing models. The International Data Corporation estimated that 6.7 million 5G-enabled smartphones were sold globally in 2019, but sales are predicted to rise to 123.5 million in 2020 and 401.3 million by 2023.

The VI could benefit from the everyday use of augmented technology generating an insatiable demand for streaming information, education, recreation and other programmes. However, new technologies are being employed here and now.


Thermal imagery

Over the last couple of years, I have commented to nurses at my regular medical clinic that just waving a thermometer in front of my face seemed very high tech. However, those at the hospital and other clinics to whom I described that procedure before the pandemic — who had placed a thermometer under my tongue or armpit — did not know what I was talking about. I immediately recognised what immigration officers now were using to take temperatures without contact.


Streaming wirelessly

“Scattered, Yet Together” and “I Am Shaking, Shaking, Shaking” are two new hymns a Virgin Islander was inspired to write by the way Covid-19 has affected churchgoing. They were set to music by Richard Irwin, an internationally renowned composer, and streamed to services around the globe on Pentecost and Trinity Sunday

During a recent newscast of protests against George Floyd’s killing, a pop-up notice on a corner of my computer screen informed me that I was watching a demonstration in San Diego, California, and that the cameraman and demonstrators knew I was watching. It was just like attending a gigantic Zoom meeting.


100 times faster

5G networks will become more than 100 times faster than current 4G networks and cut latency (delays) to under one-thousandth of a second from one-hundredth of a second in 4G, according to the US Federal Communications Commission, which has authorised opening five times the current spectrum in the 6 GHz band to use by unlicensed devices like Wi-Fi routers, connected home appliances, baby monitors, fitness trackers, garage door openers and cordless landline phones.