Government is expected to set up a special bureau within a matter of weeks to ramp up digital transformation of the public sector.
Word of this has come from Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology Senator Kay McConney, who added that the Government was getting assistance from its Estonia counterpart to set up an e-services platform for the secure exchange of information between government departments here.
She said implementation of the system was significantly delayed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but promised it should be in place by June next year.
McConney was addressing a virtual digital conference on Friday, hosted by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) under the theme, Executive Mindset: Evolved Thinking for Business Leaders.
Providing a further update on the Government’s process of digitisation, McConney said several government services have already gone fully online and work was continuing apace to ensure all of them would be soon.
She reported that some 51 professionals who require certification or licences to practise are now able to submit applications to government online.
In total, more than 100 forms for a range of business processes with the Government have already been digitised.
McConney said close to 1,500 people have used the online drivers licence renewal since it was introduced more than two months ago.
“So we continue to move in the digitisation process. In fact, we recognise that Government now has to scale up its efforts to digitise its records, and we are in the process – we expect within the next few months – to have set up a new digitisation bureau that will allow us to scale those up and engage a number of persons who may have been retrenched during a previous restructuring of Government,” she said.
In relation to the highly-touted digital identification card, McConney did not provide much of an update, but reiterated that it would be used for several services and that the Government was engaging various groups to ensure they could have some special features.
“One of the things we have learned is that the approach to our digital transformation cannot be about the technology. We have to take a citizen-centric approach. That means we have to listen to what our citizens want and to what our clients are saying. We have started the process of engagement with them,” she said.
McConney acknowledged that there will be need for changes to several pieces of legislation, adding that a telecommunications working group was in place to help with the modernisation of legislation governing that sector.
“We have also set up a public-private sector cyber security working group that is helping to build the capacity of Government and helping us to move in the right direction as it relates to strengthening our ability to protect and respond to cyber threat,” she said.
She promised that the digitisation of Government will be done to make it easier, more affordable, safer and more efficient for individuals and firms to do business with the state.
“Our mandate also is not just tied to Government and digitising government services . . . but it is tied to the overall economic development policy of the country. We, therefore, have to support all ministries, departments, agencies, and especially the private sector, in laying new economic planks for growth and development. One of those areas is the financial technology industry,” said McConney.
During the discussions, officials explored the opportunities associated with e-commerce and advised that as companies move towards embracing new technologies, careful attention should be given to taking full advantage of various platforms that already exist.
Experts also advised that Government and businesses use data analytics to better understand customers’ behaviour.
President of the BCCI Trisha Tannis acknowledged that local firms were forced to pivot and adapt to continue to be competitive in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said a survey among BCCI members, in the first quarter of this year, assessing information and communications technology gaps and how businesses could improve and adapt, found that e-commerce and digital payment were two of the factors critical to the survival of businesses this year.
Tannis said the BCCI had conducted a survey to assess consumer behaviour and the adoption of online services, and the preliminary findings were “very interesting”.
The BCCI could release the findings of its consumer survey as early as next week. ([email protected])