The e-Legislative Agenda – Trinidad and Tobago
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:
- 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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org