Back and forth from the future

Above: Trevor Libert, CEO of the National ICT Company (iGovTT) at TATT’s recent Leadership Roundtable. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

BitDepth#1056 for August 30, 2016

Last week, the Telecommunications Authority of T&T (TATT) convened an ambitious forum in support of World Telecommunication and Internet Society Day supporting it’s theme for 2016, ICT entrepreneurship for social impact.

Unfortunately, WTISD is celebrated on May 17, roughly four months ago, and there were no actual entrepreneurs among the speakers.

There also wasn’t an actual panel discussion, since one of the presenters was present as a patiently hovering Skype window while the other had been called away at the last moment.

TATT board member Nikolaski Ali drew the thankless task of trying to make the theme of the Leadership Roundtable, Back to the Future – now as determinedly retro as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – relevant to today’s digitally enabled business people.

In the service of that mission, Ali declared that today’s businesses must “set the course for digital entrepreneurship in T&T,” noted that “We are the past of tomorrow’s future,” and called for his audience “to dream and innovate T&T into the future.”

That desperate reach for relevance didn’t stop Albertina Navas, Director, Centre for Social Media Studies at the UWI – Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business from delivering a considered, on-point presentation about recent trends in online marketing to an audience expecting ways of “Taking Advantage of Digital Opportunities.”

Navas re-emphasised the notion of the company website as the headquarters or hub of corporate digital strategy, but called on webmasters to embrace mobile first web design as the next generation of responsive design.

In this iteration of design, the website acknowledges the primacy of mobile device access as the primary viewing port and content is arranged to maximise mobile display first, then desktop browser access.

There are currently 1,525,576 mobile subscribers who can connect to the Internet in T&T, which offers adequate incentive for such considerations

Quartz (qz.com) was the first major website designed to be mobile first. It’s functional and readable in the browser but looks best on mobile devices.

Navas also emphasised the value of marketing to influencers, calculating the value of such individuals based on their reach, relevance and resonance.

She also introduced the concept of ephemeral marketing on SnapChat, transmitting messages that exist only temporarily.

While T&T has not yet proven itself an avid consumer of locally created apps, Navas saw value in App indexing, which lists apps in search results and allows direct download from a search page.

Google thought this a good enough idea that it bought Firebase in 2014 to make this a more seamless experience.

The search company also offers Google Double Click Advertising Manager, which uses artificial intelligence and real-time bidding to deliver programmatic advertising, which uses algorithms to optimise online display, social media advertising and mobile and video campaigns.

Trevor Libert, recently appointed CEO of iGovTT had his own challenges in offering an overview of the activities of the national oversight agency for digital development.

A great deal of what he had to say about the agency’s work was already years in the past, with only WiFi on 13 buses and online tax filing and tender submissions to point to as recent developments.

“TTConnect portal has been the greatest success of iGovTT,” Libert said, “but it needs to get to the next level quickly. Online forms have to be improved with better backend processes to eliminate paper from the process entirely.”

Much remains in limbo with the continuing failure to completely proclaim the eTransactions Act of 2011, a national embarrassment that’s not only hamstrung government efforts at bringing more services online; it’s put any serious efforts at Internet-based business on ice for the entire 21st century to date.

Whatever TATT hoped to achieve with their retrofest, but it ended up raising questions, some by Navas, who signalled new demands for digital marketers and for Libert, who is challenged to find answers to questions that have bedevilled the sector ever since the first Fast Forward initiative was announced in 2006.