Opening Remarks by the Honourable Kennedy Swaratsingh, Minister of Public Administration at the Opening Session of the ICT Business and Innovation
Symposium 2008, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Sunday November 16, 2008
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure to address you this evening at the launch of Trinidad and Tobago’s first ICT Business and Innovation Symposium.
The Ministry of Public Administration, in partnership with the University of Trinidad and Tobago and Evolving Technologies (e-TecK), is proud to be your host for the next two days as we explore the various dimensions of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and discuss how best to effectively utilize Information and Communication Technology to positively transform our country and indeed the region.
Effective and sustainable development can only be achieved through a collaborative partnership between all major societal stakeholders, and in this regard we are also pleased to be joined by eminent sponsors from the private sector, all of whom have been at the vanguard of their respective industries;
- First Citizens Bank
- Fujitsu Transaction Solution (Trinidad) Limited
- Memory Bank Computers Limited
- Tourism Development Company
- Metropolitan Networks (Caribbean) Limited
Partners and Sponsors: we salute your contribution to this examination of a societal revolution that is transforming the way we learn, work, communicate and spend our leisure time.
To our speakers who are joining us from abroad this evening:
- Mr. Bashir Patel, Director of Programmes and Business Development of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO); and
- Dr. Hamadoun Touré – Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) who will be joining us by satellite;
We are encouraged by your support and we thank you for your presence here today. And to the Honourable Patrick Manning, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago – the uptake of ICT to propel Trinidad and Tobago to Developed Country status
cannot be achieved without the leadership and commitment that you have demonstrated to this Initiative. We would also like to extend a very special welcome to our overseas delegates from the Caribbean, and also from Costa Rica, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States. The collective wisdom of the many different perspectives assembled here today will significantly enhance the ability of the Symposium to identify and apply international best practices and benchmark the Caribbean’s performance in the area of ICT, innovation, and e-Business. This will in turn help build local capacity and strengthen our competitiveness in global markets. Ladies and Gentlemen: This Symposium is a product of fastforward, Trinidad and Tobago’s National Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Strategy, which was launched by the Honourable Prime Minister in 2003.
The initial focus of fastforward has been on Connectivity, on putting in place the infrastructure and creating the enabling environment necessary for the transformation of Trinidad and Tobago into a knowledge-based society, thereby enabling ICT to contribute in fully to the achievement of Vision 2020, Trinidad and Tobago’s strategy to achieve developed country status by the year 2020.
We are happy to report that while much work remains to be done, many of the basic building blocks are now in place. For example:
As a result of the Telecommunications Sector being opened to full competition in 2005, Trinidad and Tobago enjoys the lowest mobile subscription rates and
Broadband Internet rates in the Caribbean, and a mobile penetration rate that is well in excess of 100%. Indeed, according to the World Economic Forum in 2007, Trinidad and Tobago is ranked 4th out of 127 countries surveyed for mobile subscribers and 9th in residential telephone connection;
All public libraries are fully equipped with computers and high speed Internet access and most schools have been outfitted with computer labs; A Government Communications Backbone (GovNeTT) has been established, that connects 20 Ministries and provides a number of common services (e.g. email, instant messaging, anti-virus, firewall) as well as enterprise-wide applications (e.g. human resource management, payroll, and electronic document management);
The Government Portal (ttconnect Online) currently provides information on over 400 Government Services. While invaluable, the ultimate goal of our Portal
is to make government services more readily available to citizens via the Internet. In this regard I am happy to report that a number of services are currently
available via ttconnect Online. These include applying for birth certificates, conducting company name searches, and applying for Government’s On the Job Trainee Programme, and for Government Housing. More significantly, in the coming months citizens will be able to file their income tax returns, apply for
drivers permits, and gain access to other service online via the Internet.
We are therefore moving into the next phase of fastforward, which emphasizes usage and uptake. In this regard the 2008 ICT Business and Innovation Symposium will be invaluable in sensitizing stakeholders to the potential of ICT, as well as presenting an opportunity to chart a roadmap for the way forward. We are therefore confident that this collaborative effort will go a long way towards resolving some of the critical issues and
concerns of the national community as we continue to work towards our goal of a knowledge-based society.
Indeed, the theme of the Symposium, ICT as a Driver for National Transformation accurately defines Government’s intention to utilize ICT as the key engine for economic and social development, and for diversifying away from our primary dependence on the energy sector.
The Symposium theme also reflects the extent to which we view ICT as being both:
- A fast-growing sector with the potential to generate significant growth and employment; and also
- A cross-cutting issue that is transforming all aspects of life and business.
As we meet we will therefore draw on global success stories and best practices in an effort to determine the critical success factors necessary to propel the economic transformation of Trinidad and Tobago. Amongst other concerns, the symposium will emphasize the power of collaboration, and stress the urgency for every stakeholder to actively participate as digital citizens.
Ladies and Gentlemen: ICT offers an opportunity to re-think the way we live, work and prepare for our future. This is in keeping with the mandate of the Ministry of Public Administration, which is working to change the way Government serves the national community.
The development of an efficient and effective Public Service that operates according to the best principles of Good Governance and Value for Money (VFM) is viewed as a critical success factor for the achievement of Vision 2020. In recognition of this, Effective Government has been adopted as one of the five developmental pillars of Vision 2020.
The Ministry of Public Administration has already been working on changing the way we serve the national community. We are in the process of implementing a holistic National Public Service Transformation Agenda to enhance the performance of the public service, and to improve the range, speed and quality of government service delivery, thereby increasing customer service and satisfaction. This will involve two broad categories of
- Enterprise-wide initiatives such as Leadership Development, Human Resource Management, Monitoring and Evaluation, and Customer Service Excellence; and
- Ministry specific interventions such as Local Government Reform, the development of a National Health Records system, and the issue of electronic birth certificates.
The basic premise is that the effective utilization of new technology is integral to successful Public Sector Reform. The Ministry of Public Administration has accordingly been given responsibility for driving Trinidad and Tobago’s ICT development agenda, in recognition of the potential of ICT as an agent of change and transformation.
What does this mean for our citizens?
- At the most fundamental level the people of Trinidad and Tobago will have greater to information, access to ideas, and most importantly access to people, both within the country and also within the Caribbean region and the rest of the world. Trinidad and Tobago will therefore be in a position to fully participate and benefit from the exciting changes that are ongoing within the international community.
- At the level of Government, this means a more efficient and relevant public sector which offers citizens and residents both at home and abroad the option to easily access the full range of public services in a variety of ways, whether via the 6 Internet, through self-service kiosks, a toll-free telephone hotline, or at service centers located strategically all over the country.
- At the level of Business, local companies will benefit from the increased efficiencies and opportunities for innovation that are offered by ICTs, and from conducting business transactions online. Significantly EnterpriseNeTT, an opportunity-matching online business to business e-marketplace, provides companies but in particular Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME’s) with a secure electronic doorway to the global economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen: ICT, both as a sector in its own right and as a series of technologies and applications which fundamentally affect all other sectors, will only be meaningful if there is full support and participation from the national community.
Accordingly, and in keeping with its commitment to full collaboration with all major stakeholders, Government has partnered with the private sector through the e-Business Roundtable, our private sector-led committee that explores synergies in finance, energy, tourism, agriculture, culture and entertainment.
Members of the Roundtable include senior business executives, technology experts, representatives of the Tobago House of Assembly and senior representatives of the Government.
It is our fervent wish, that the opportunities presented by this first ICT Business and Innovation Symposium will be seized by every citizen. We therefore look forward to learning about the concerns and recommendations from the national community on how we can continue to build the momentum of ICT in Business and Innovation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.