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Breaking News / Business / Caribbean / Exclusive / Featured / News / Technology / Top Stories / Virgin Islands / World / September 10, 2015

ST. CROIX — Imagine this island being the hub for the world’s major technology firms — Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Uber, and Apple, just to name a few. Ponder for a second the impact of these businesses establishing data centers and other ventures indelible to their global operations right here. Now, think of the jobs that would be created, the resources these companies would pour into the local economy and the opportunities instantly made available for a new generation of IT graduates.

You would have just birthed, in your mind, the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean, according to Dr. Tonjia Coverdale, the new CEO of viNGN, who confirmed to The Consortium that they’ve been in talks with the major U.S. tech firms to setup shop right here, armed with some of the fastest fiber optic speeds in the U.S., and Economic Development Authority (EDA) benefits attractive to companies looking to avoid high taxes.

viNGN boasts some of the fastest fiber optic broadband speeds in America through its fiber network that many of the territory’s Internet service providers feed from. Recently, the government-owned company upped its capacity to 10 gigabits per second for interconnectivity between the three islands by installing its sub-sea cables. Previously, viNGN only had intra-island connectivity — meaning it already had its network setup in the respective islands, however the capability to connect all three through the network remained a hindrance, forcing the firm to lease 2.5 gigabits of space from AT&T.

Dr. Tonjia Coverdale, CEO of viNGN.

Dr. Tonjia Coverdale, CEO of viNGN.

But the recent occasion saw the territory becoming the only 100 percent interconnected jurisdiction of all the 56 states and territories, according to Dr. Coverdale. The benefits of such an accomplishment stand to revolutionize the territory, with the epicenter of the operations being on St. Croix.

“I want people to understand what we have here in the Virgin Islands. We are a major player,” Dr. Coverdale told The Consortium last Friday following her keynote address at the opening ceremony of St. Croix’s first IT Academy at the St. Joseph High School.

Dr. Coverdale described viNGN’s service as providing true upload and download speeds. For example, some companies here offer 20 megabits of download speeds, but only 1 megabit of upload. viNGN offers true speeds both up and down because of its fiber optic network, and the firm has way more capacity than any other company in the territory. In fact, most of the major Internet service providers here — including Innovative Communications Corporation and Broadband VI — have partnered with viNGN.

“For example, what upload speeds can do is really encourage a community of filmmakers, and this can become a center for the film industry because no one’s able to upload speeds of  that capacity,” Dr. Coverdale said.

Dr. Coverdale, a former University of the Virgin Islands professor, revealed that operators of the telescope located on the east end of this island, across from Cramer Park, ship 40 terabits of data daily by FedEx.

“We’re working diligently with them now, and with viNGN’s connection, they can now upload that data in 5 minutes,” Dr. Coverdale revealed. “viNGN revolutionizes the way  we communicate, and what it does for the Virgin Islands is we become a haven for people looking for this kind of opportunity. Because we honestly are the only ones who have it.”

The exuberant energy costs in the territory pose a threat to the revolution, Dr. Coverdale admitted, but there’s a solution for that, too.

“We have a solution that I’m not ready to discuss at length yet, but I will say that it is possible for us to use the  natural resources that we have, especially on St. Croix, to combat some of those energy issues.”

She added: “I do want to say that St. Croix is going to be the epicenter for this technological revolution. We have targeted here, starting with the Cisco academy, and St. Croix is going to be the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean.”

And Dr. Coverdale said viNGN is “always in touch” with the major U.S. tech firms. She said the key issue right now is to identify how these companies want to get involved and what is possible. The IT major placed a self-imposed short timeframe to start seeing results.

“I want to see some movement,” she said. “So if we start with smaller projects and ramp up to the large ones, I’m fine with that.”

She added: “The companies are definitely aware of what we have down here. We are on the map.”


Image Credit: Wikipedia.

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Ernice Gilbert
I wear many hats, I suppose, but the one which fits me best would be journalism, second to that would be radio personality, thirdly singer/songwriter and down the line. I've been the Editor-In-Chief at my videogames website, Gamesthirst, for over 5 years, writing over 7,000 articles and more than 2 million words. I'm also very passionate about where I live, the United States Virgin Islands, and I'm intent on making it a better place by being resourceful and keeping our leaders honest. VI Consortium was birthed out of said desire, hopefully my efforts bear fruit. Reach me at [email protected]

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