The e-Legislative Agenda for T&T

The e-Legislative Agenda – Trinidad and Tobago

Atiba Phillips
Atiba Phillips

By: Atiba Phillips – Principal Consultant, INFOCOMM Technologies (ICT) Ltd (www.ict.co.tt). Reproduced here by kind permission of the author.

The Minister of Finance Larry Howai, on the July, 10, 2012 at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, stated that the four areas Trinidad and Tobago needed to focus on to make the economy more competitive are: tourism, downstream energy, financial services and ICT. On the October 10, 2011 the Minister presented a budget statement for 2012 entitled “From Steady Foundation to Economic Transformation”. At page 17 of his presentation under the heading of Broadband Infrastructure the Finance Minister stated:

“…the country-wide deployment of Information and Communications Technology is a key enabler of sustainable economic and social development in Trinidad and Tobago. This has been identified in two of our seven pillars proposed for sustainable development, namely the quest for a knowledge intensive economy and access to Information and Communication Technology.”

In order to achieve this agenda Trinidad and Tobago will be expected to have the appropriate legal framework to enable a modern, knowledge-based society and treat with ICT related issues such as cybercrime, data privacy, e-waste, e-commerce,   and telecommunications policy.

Some of the legislative items which are absolutely necessary to clarify marketplace rules and build confidence in Trinidad and Tobago as a preferred innovation / knowledge economy destination, and are currently in-process (some for many years) include:

  • Cybercrime Bill

 An Act to provide the legal tools to treat with cyber-crime (e.g., fraud through the Internet, hacking, manipulation of data, introduction of viruses, cyber-stalking etc.).

Some of these issues are treated with in the Computer Misuse Act 2000 and the Electronic Transfer of Funds Crime Act 2000. The Computer Misuse Act creates offences for unauthorized access to computer programs or data, unauthorized modification of computer programs or data, obstruction of the use of a computer and unauthorized disclosure of access codes. There are investigation provisions providing limited “lawful access” to computers.

The Computer Misuse Act may also be amended to include new but related offences. The Electronic Transfer of Funds Crime Act prohibits the unauthorized or fraudulent use of a credit or debit card, the theft of a card, forgery of a card, trafficking in counterfeit cards and use of information (e.g., lists, account numbers) about cards by a financial institution without the permission of the cardholder. The Children’s Bill 2012 / Act treats with child pornography and its publication.

  • Amendments to Exchequer and Audit Act

 A major objective of new legislation must be to facilitate Government’s ability to transact business electronically, including receiving or making electronic payments of money, maintaining records, collecting, storing, transferring, receiving or otherwise handling information and documents. This requires amendments to the Exchequer and Audit Act to allow for electronic monetary transactions with Government.

  • Amendments to Exchequer and Audit Regulations

See above: (i) E‐Payments (Gov’t Receivables) Regulations, (ii) E‐Payments (Gov’t Expenditure) Regulations.

  • Electronic Transfer of Funds Act

The Electronic Funds Transfer (“e‐money”) Bill to allow for payment of monies and taxes online. (As a comparison similar electronic transactions Acts were fully passed in Barbados (2001), Bahamas (2003), Antigua (2006) and St. Vincent (2007)).

  • Amendments to the Telecommunications Act

The Telecommunications Act has been in effect since 2004 and there are several amendments now for consideration to treat with Authorisation, Spectrum, Universal Service, Number Portability, Consumer Rights and Obligations.

Other legislation which will also be critical – which have been developed and deployed across the world incliuding the UK, Hong Kong, Greece, the European Union, Ghana, Mozambique and Mauritius –  but is yet to enter into our domestic drafting process  include:

  1. Technical Standards and Interoperability Frameworks for ICT infrastructure / Systems

This will allow for a standards based approach to enable further efficiency and enable services to be developed across Ministries and sectors. This is an essential pre-requisite for “joined-up” and Web-enabled Government.

  • Online Piracy (Digital rights management)

Laws/policies against online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.

  • Online Privacy

Internet privacy involves the right or mandate of personal privacy concerning the storing, repurposing, providing to third-parties, and displaying of information pertaining to oneself online.

  • Establishment of the Information Commissioner

Pursuant to the Data Protection Act.

  • Policy on re-use of Government Information (Open Data)

Policy / Laws on sale or re-use of Government information – e.g. statistical information, maps etc. For example, when the U.S. Government released weather and global positioning satellite (GPS) data to the public, it fueled an industry that today is valued at tens of billions of dollars per year. Now, weather and mapping tools are ubiquitous and help everyday Americans (and citizens around the globe) navigate their lives

The Issue of Governance

A recent World Bank Report on the Trinidad and Tobago ICT Sector stated that…

“The policy-making function for the ICT sector in Trinidad and Tobago is very fragmented, as it is currently shared among multiple ministries and agencies, with a weak coordination mechanism in the form of an ICT Inter-Ministerial Committee”.

Indeed while the Ministry of Public administration has historically housed the national ICT mandate (and continues to possess the mandate for Public Sector Reform and develop policies and standards which impact the area of ICT), other Ministries play policy-making and oversight roles.

The Ministry of Science and Technology has oversight of the National ICT Company (iGovTT) and the regulatory body for the telecommunications sector, TATT; the Ministry of Trade and Industry manages TTBizLink – the national single trade electronic window and oversees e-Teck, manager of Tamina technology park; the Ministry of Public Utilities oversees the state-owned telecommunications and electricity providers TSTT and T&TEC and the Ministry of Finance has been given the mandate to oversee the roll out of a national Broadband Strategy and advise on divestment options of TSTT.

The Requirement for the Road Ahead

ICT is a specialised area that requires subject matter experts to craft the necessary laws, regulations and rules which are best suited to our particular national aspirations while at the same time being informed by international experience and good practices.

To drive the continued development and diversification of the Economy of Trinidad and Tobago, there must also be a lead entity as well as a supportive institutional framework which is so empowered by statute and mandate, which is charged with ensuring that the fourth and fifth pillar of development (i.e. ICT, and the establishment of a Knowledge-based Economy) are soundly achieved as the alternative economy to the energy industry.

This would include driving a suite of legal enactments which will set up the necessary legal frameworks to enable a rapid transformation to a ICT enabled smart island. Such an enabling environment and governance structures will be crucial to T&T in delivering on the promise of economic diversification and the attainment of a knowledge economy within this decade or the next.

Atiba Phillips, an entrepreneur at heart, is the Founder and Principal Consultant at INFOCOMM Technologies (ICT) Ltd. (); a Strategy and ICT for Development Consultancy based on Trinidad. He is also the founder and Chairman of the Community HUB  – an innovative non-profit organization which leverages ICTs in service of Youth and Community development. Reach him at info@ict.co.tt or info@mycommunityhub.org

  • Kwesi Prescod

    Despite publication here yesterday, I think that this article may be a bit dated. While it provides a pretty decent overview of some of the things that should be on the Agenda of GoRTT, I think some of the descriptions are a bit off, thus muddling what these pieces are required for. I shall attempt to clear up that confusion.

    RE: Cyber Crime Bill – the GoRTT introduced a Bill in 2014 which lapsed at the end of the last session. To clarify there is no need to introduce a Cyber Crime law and amend the Computer Misuse Act (2000) as the former will necessarily repeal the latter. The Electronic Funds Transfer Crimes Act (2000) (or EFTCA for short) treats with crimes associated with debit and credit cards. These matters are not covered in the Cyber Crime framework as currently outlined. Further, the EFTCA is in force today. Any amendments required do not really overlap with the coverage of Cyber Crime law generally.

    RE: Amendments to the Exchequer and Audit Act (EAA) – these amendments were actually passed into law earlier this year (2014) with the passage of the Finance Act 2014. These amendments are only related to establishing the appropriate authorisation to collect and receive money electronically. To actually effect the collection and payment of money electronically, the EAA Regulations would require amendment. This is pending. Further for clarity, the other matters listed in the article, namely ” maintaining records, collecting, storing, transferring, receiving or otherwise handling information and documents ” are not the purview of the EAA amendments. These are already provided for in the Electronic Transactions Act 2011 (ETA), although Regulations are also required for the ETA to bring this fully into effect.

    RE: Electronic Transfer of Funds Bill (ETFB) – This is indeed required, although I think the scope of it is inaccurately hinted at in the article. “E-money” is already defined in the T&T Financial Institutions Act, and the receipt of money and taxes by Government is already captured in the EAA amendments. The ETFB’s scope will have to treat with some conceptual and governance lacuna unresolved even with the full establishment of the EAA, ETA and ETFCA.

    RE: Amendments to the Telecommunications Act (TA) – While the TA does require amendment, they have nothing to do with “Spectrum, Universal Service, Number Portability, Consumer Rights and Obligations ” as such has been provided for in the TA since 2001. These things will be enabled through the implementation of Regulations, of which early drafts of some are available on TATT’s website. The amendments to TA are related to Competition Management issues, enabling Net Neutrality oversight and other procedural matters related to the operation of TATT.

    RE: Online Piracy – most if not all of such issues are already provided for in the 2007 amendments to the Copyright Act.

    RE: Online Privacy – the framework for such considerations are already provided for in the Data Protection Act (DPA) and the Interception of Communications Act (ICA). While the ICA is fully proclaimed, the DPA’s full proclamation is delayed by the non-appointment of the Information Commissioners. Once that is done, and the Office of the Information Commissioner is established, Rules, Regulations and Codes will be established to treat with this issue.

    RE: Interoperability standards and Open Data Policies – these do not require legislative development. These are all internal to GoRTT, so these matters need to be defined (or in one instance updated) and ratified by Cabinet.

    On governance, the issues raised are on point, and pertinent questions for the administrators to answer.

    Hope this helps!