MPAC responds to evaluation of National ICT Plan

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Above: The Honourable Maxie Cuffie, Minister of Public Administration and Communications, author of the following…

I wish to refer to Mark Lyndersay’s review of the National ICT plan ‘fastforward 11’ of August 22, 2017 under the headline, ‘$1 billion for ICT Wishlist’ which examined the pros and cons of the Government’s blueprint for the sector for the period 2017-2021.

Mr. Lyndersay’s comments are welcomed by the Ministry of Public Administration and Communications (MPAC) and will be considered as part of the consultation process before moving forward. I am pleased that Mr. Lyndersay perused the document and concluded that “This is actually a very good blue skies manifesto. I disagree with very little of its broad outlines, despite my obvious annoyance with its occasional stuffy silliness and deluded assumptions.”

However, please allow me to correct a few misconceptions espoused in his review. It must be noted that the Government’s telecom liberalization policy can be credited for many of this country’s advances in ICT. The creation of an enabling environment, legislative and otherwise, has removed many barriers and allows the private sector to pursue much of its development and expansion. For its own part, the Government approved Govnett NG which will boost network and connectivity for all Government Ministries and agencies.

Moreover, contrary to the assertion, “eDemocracy” is a legitimate academic term and topic alongside more popular terms such as eGovernment and Open Government. It should also be noted that this is an agenda pursued by many governments, including the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Additionally, information about ‘smartTT’ has not been removed and can be found on the Ministry’s website.

The Government has also put in train a number of initiatives that will re-engineer the public sector into an efficient body and one which can effectively drive the National ICT plan. Key to the transformational process is the shift to Government services online, while the reform of procedures and processes will ensure faster delivery of public services. Another facet of the plan includes fast tracking the operationalization of the Electronic Transaction Act to facilitate online transactions.

A strategic visioning exercise for the Personnel Department complemented by programmes of the Strategic Human Resources Management Division of the MPAC and the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IMPAC) are part of a holistic plan to reform the public sector. These are aimed at the institutional strengthening of the Services Commissions and address empowerment of the Public Service.

The e-Business Roundtable (eBRT), reconvened on December 6, 2016, will also help to drive the National ICT strategy and keep the agenda relevant. The roundtable includes key stakeholders such as the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT), the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce (TT Chamber), the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) and the National ICT Company (iGovTT).

Furthermore, shortly after Cabinet’s approval and its launch, the MPAC moved swiftly to begin consultations on the National ICT plan in order to ensure the process moves quickly.

As Minister with responsibility for ICT and the Public Service, I hope this clarifies some of the misconceptions and offers assurances that the Government will do all in its power to ensure the National ICT plan, ‘fastforward 11’ moves from strategy to implementation.

The plan is now available for comment.

Respectfully,

Honourable Maxie Cuffie

Minister of Public Administration and Communications

Member of Parliament for La Horquetta/Talparo

  • It’s always a pleasure to hear from readers, particularly those in high office.

    As the Minister observed, there remains a perfunctory presence representing the five years of work that went into SmarTT on the MPAC website. He is, of course, referring to the print version of this column. After submitting the column on deadline, I realised that there was, in fact, a copy of the SmarTT document online and adjusted the online version of the column to reflect that.

    I appreciate that the Minister is an old-school journalist and is prone to treat the ink and dead trees version of a document as the final version of it, but here on the Internet, and particularly on this piece of it, we have a more accessible pipeline to update and correct material as new information comes to hand.
    I encourage Minister Cuffie to read our reporting here, where it is kept up-to-date and revised on Internet time.

    His correction of my sneering reference to “eDemocracy” as “a legitimate academic term” is fair, as long as we can both agree that the entire plan, as configured is highly academic and bears no relation to any perceived reality, nor does it apply itself to any perceptible schema of execution, which I continue to argue should be part of any document that calls itself a plan.

    Had the Ministry of Public Administration and Communication offered this document more accurately as the whitepaper it is, the discussion surrounding it would be quite different.

    The word ‘plan’ implies implementation, yet in his response, he goes on for paragraphs quite proudly about what appear to be a never-ending series of meetings and talk shops which will advance the cause of ICT quite handsomely in documents, though not at all on the ground.

    To be blunt, “strategic visioning,” “holistic plan” and “institutional strengthening” are all buzzwords that seek to describe an endless cycle of nattering that forever holds down the pause button on actual, discernible action.

    Minister Cuffie’s “assurances that the Government will do all in its power to ensure the National ICT plan, ‘fastforward II’ (not 11, as he writes it) moves from strategy to implementation” seem sincere and impassioned, unfortunately, in neither the document nor in his response can I find any indication that any of this is going to happen in the time frame that it demands.

    • Marcus Basanta

      Spot on,Mark. We’ve heard this all before. I admire all efforts in the ICT space but wake me when we see cohesive actions instead of more buzzwords and jargon.

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