The American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham TT) recently launched its "Coffee Shop Conversation" webinar series on the topic, Accelerating the Digital Government.
Its aim is to push the digital transformation agenda forward within the private and public sectors.
The Accelerating the Digital Government is the first part of the series, envisaged and designed by Amcham TT’s Digital Transformation Committee, a media release from Amcham on Monday said.
It said Amcham TT has been advocating a transformation of Government to a digitally-enabled government for several years. This would result in greater efficiency, improved services, better accessibility of public services and more transparency and accountability within government.
Three of the main recommendations have been the implementation of a unique national identification number, the acceleration of the adoption of e-payment for government services and the acceptance of digital signatures.
"In this regard, Amcham TT CEO Nirad Tewarie complimented the Government for implementing e-payment for some services such as payment of taxes at the BIR and the acceptance of the need for the unique national identification number," the release said.
"However, even with taxes, companies are unable to pay their quarterly taxes online despite the BIR being able to facilitate online payments for personal income tax."
The release quoted Tewarie as saying there are two types of people: those who see a solution for every problem and those who see a problem for every solution.
Tewarie said: "Covid19 has shown us that we have to be the solution seekers. There is nothing but lack of will preventing the implementation of a Unique National Identifier, acceptance of e-signatures for government transactions, e-payments across ministries and government agencies, a fully computerised customs entry system and open data."
"We have been talking about these things for too long while our ease of doing business has been falling. Sure, there a million reasons we can hide behind to say ‘why?’ but let's be the people who say, ‘why not?’ and then go make it happen!"
The release also quoted Vashti Maharaj, Director of Legal Services at the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs. She said the recent amendments to various laws to digitise public services at the court, registrar general’s department and intellectual property office will give momentum to and create a crescendo effect across government.
"The amendments to recent laws to digitise certain government services will lay the foundation for other dynamic and innovative initiatives," she said.
These include the use of a unique personal identification number across government to access services as well as the launch of the national e-money policy "that will pave the way for the use of digital wallets and encourage the development of a burgeoning Fintech economy within TT. "
Former Chair of the e-Business Roundtable and CEO of Info Link Services Ltd, Glynis Alexander-Tam, in the release, called for a "common- sense approach" of accelerating the government’s ICT plan. The digitisation approach, she said, must be collaborative and should not reinvent the wheel on what already exists within the private sector.
"There are large companies that have digitised a lot of their services. The government should be engaging private sector companies to see what has been done before and where information can be leveraged, and partnerships developed to push some of that digitisation process into the market space. What we are talking about is not only work ‘SMART’ but also working smarter," Alexander-Tam.
Kirk Henry, CEO of iGovTT, also participated in the event. The current environment of a global pandemic emphasizes, he said, the need to move services online by preparing the supporting infrastructure in a manner that is sustainable and secure.
"This involves around managing risk associated with implementation to ensure availability of the system, to ensure accuracy in terms of processing the data that is captured, the agility to quickly respond and rollout solutions and finally accessibility," Henry said.
"We want to ensure the systems and the services that we digitise, provide and present in an online fashion is handled in such a way that the right people have access to it and we are always mindful of the bad actors who are attempting to subvert the process."
Amcham TT believes the aim should be for the entire population to fully benefit from the digitalisation of these services which would require digital inclusion policies to address digital literacy, access to ICT and enabling the digital workplace.
Therefore, the gaps need to be closed in ICT availability, affordability, and adoption for a large cross-section in society, through public and private sector policies and initiatives.
Amcham thanked its sponsors among them Republic Bank, PwC, Digicel and Trend Media for their support to host the webinar.