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Improving service

Minister Haynesley Benn speeking at the Caribbean ICT Roadshow Barbados.

by Julie Carrington

At a time when business transactions worldwide are done at the click of a mouse, the local public sector is following suit by making some of its services available from a virtual platform.

However, a few of these services are still fragmented and according to Business Development and Operations Officer with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, Rodney Taylor, government must play a leading role in the rationalisation and integration of all the “disparate pieces of government” into a seamless mechanism.

He made this observation earlier this week during the general interest forum of the Caribbean ICT Roadshow at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Taylor said a streamlined government was critical to the country’s advancement as an information communication technology hub.

“This [streamlined government] is something that the CTU has been advocating. If we are to advance as an information society, government has to play a leading role in this effort. In addition to the cost savings that can be realised, it would serve as an impetus to drive a lot of activity in the private sector to develop the industry further,” he added.

Quoting from an institutional framework document produced by Atos, an international information technologies company, Taylor said the objectives outlined in the report are: to support the national strategic ICT plan; coordinate and support government’s e-government activities; nurture information proficiency, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship; provide a secure information environment; and to develop human resources capacity to enable socio-economic and cultural development.

The report also outlined the Barbados situation, and found an ICT sector that: had several IT departments in government at different stages of development; a lack of coordination among departments; cost redundancies, duplication and wastage in the region of $1million a month on Internet connectivity and telephone line service based on the requirements of offices; and insufficient ICT skills.

In light of these deficiencies, the CTU Business Development and Operations Officer said the document also offered suggestions on how the situation could be addressed.

One of the ideas put forward in the company’s governance model for the institutional framework for the country, Taylor said, was a Government minister with direct responsibility for ICT development and the establishment of a national ICT steering committee, as well as an ICT agency management committee.

He added: “The ICT agency would give strategic direction through policy, legal and regulatory framework and I believe the agency best suited to carry out the function at this time is the Data Processing Department. It [ICT agency] would also be responsible for national strategy, policy formulation, programme implementation and coordination and developing partnerships…”

During the official opening ceremony, Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn, noted that whereas government was a champion for the efficient and enabling ICT environment, innovators and current practitioners in the development of the local ICT sector also had to play their part.

“I am, therefore, making a plea for our private sector ICT companies to embark on mentoring and incubation programmes for young students or fledgling youth businesses.

“Until we do these things, we may lose the opportunity of unearthing a young brilliant Barbadian who has the capacity to develop software or hardware products, a new smart phone, reader, application or some technology that is capable of undertaking a particular function in half the time or at a far lesser cost than now obtains.” he underlined.

The commerce minister said the challenge for Barbados and the region was to see the importance of embracing digital technologies as the “compelling way forward for our further progress”.

The ICT Roadshow, which has as its theme Harnessing the Power of Innovation: The Engine for ICT-Enabled Development, ended yesterday with a Cyber Security Forum and an IXP Forum at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

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