Taking up downtime

File photo - People wait outside the Immigration Division office on Frederick Street, Port of Spain. -
File photo - People wait outside the Immigration Division office on Frederick Street, Port of Spain. -

With an enforced period of working from home for many citizens, sheltered people are discovering many things to do around the house that the normal demands of daily life might have interrupted or delayed.

For those at home with their families, it's a time to tidy messy cupboards and to sort clothes to figure out what doesn't fit anymore, among dozens of other neglected household chores.

Having been given a basketful of particularly sour limes, inventive Trinbagonians have turned their hand to making some quite palatable lime juice as the online Twitter parties, Facebook Live sessions and streamed independent broadcasts demonstrate.

So the announcement by the Minister of National Security, Stuart Young, that the Government might use this forced downtime to do some housekeeping of its own makes sense.

The minister announced on Friday that upgrades at the Immigration department to the software and hardware systems there would be undertaken, introducing facial recognition, biometrics, fingerprint ID and improvements to cross-border information sharing to improve security indicators for such challenges as potential terrorist movement. In July 2018, an automated border control kiosk system was launched at Piarco International Airport. Twelve kiosks were installed at Piarco with another three at the ANR Robinson International Airport in Tobago.

The system has been a particular challenge for the government, following the embarrassing revelations of running costs in the millions on the project and then having to answer the question of whether the system connected to any international verification databases.

For much of the time that the kiosk system has been in existence, it has been functionally useless, with travellers who use it still having to clear immigration officials.

It's certainly a good time to implement options for upgrades, system overhauls, security enhancements and installations there and elsewhere that do not require large numbers of people to congregate but can take advantage of the slowdown in government business to improve service delivery.

The Prime Minister should request reports from all his ministers not tasked with immediate covid19 workloads to submit plans for short and medium-term improvements that will refresh and advance the quality of all digital government services.

It’s also a chance for government IT services provider iGovTT to shine, by offering plans for opportunity-driven projects that upgrade and align government IT systems with its long-stated promises to embrace more customer-friendly digital solutions that improve its engagement with the public.

In preparing its lockdown lemonade, the Government should be mindful of the numbers of gig-economy, remote-work capable creatives and programmers who would enjoy an opportunity to participate in any digital remodelling of government service delivery.


"Taking up downtime"

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