The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in collaboration with the Ministry of Digital Transformation has gifted the Tobago Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UVA) in excess of $700,000.
Addressing the handing-over ceremony at the Penthouse of the Victor E Bruce Financial complex in Scarborough, IDB country representative Carina Cockburn said the presentation was the culmination of conversations hosted a few months ago with TEMA’s team.
Cockburn said the IDB was pleased to be a part of the initiative and explained that the money was used to acquire more than just the drone.
“Actually, supporting computer hardware and software, some training has been done and TEMA has been preparing itself to put this drone into operation.”
With that, she called on the drone's users to protect it.
“The drone itself cost around $500,000 – let’s protect it. The additional hardware and software costs around $300,000 but the exact number is $728,000 in total that has been spent.”
Cockburn explained how the drone would be used.
“The drone is intended to quickly allow TEMA to access damage and speed up emergency assistance in the event of a disaster. It will also facilitate more effective data analytics, mapping and forecast modelling by TEMA’s planning unit.”
Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said drones had transformed the way that business was done in the world. He said the gift was about resilience and allowing TEMA to remain as resilient as possible.
“In our quest about making Tobago the greatest little island, that comes to nought if it is that our premier disaster response agency cannot be resilient.”
ICT, he said must be the way by which operations are viewed, adding that the drone could assist TEMA but it could also assist other units within the THA.
“This is a gift for the entire Tobago House of Assembly, to which TEMA is the agency that serves as stewards or managers of this expensive equipment.”
Minister of Digital Transformation Hassel Bacchus said, as expensive and capable as the drone was, it was useless without human intervention and the use of intellect.
“Even if you collect all that information, you still have to process it, you still have to be able to use it and you still have to apply it and you have to, in a lot of ways, trust it."
He said $728,000 worth of technology was absolutely useless without people understanding it's purpose."
"So this notion of technology taking over everything and people become useless is not something that you have to worry about, that would not happen.”
Training and skills, he said, is very important.
“This very expansive machine but without being trained on how to use it and the development of skills, it won’t work.”
He added that there were a number of facets to the equipment.
“Please do not pigeon-hole it into just one purpose, explore all of its possibilities and do what you can to make sure that it works.