BRINGING TECHNOLOGY TO THE PUBLIC

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Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Business Development, Senator Lynette Eastmond.

Government’s drive to ensure that Information Communication Technology (ICT) is available to all Barbadians has been reiterated by this island’s Minister of Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Business Development, Senator Lynette Eastmond.

She was speaking last night in the hall of the Princess Margaret Secondary School, where her Ministry and the Information Society of Barbados (ISB), hosted the first in a series of town hall meetings “to promote the use and application of ICTs as well as to help build an all-inclusive information society”.

Senator Eastmond told her audience that government was seeking to “make sure you can see and touch the equipment and recognise really that it is no more complex that most of the technology you have been dealing with all your life”.

A section of the audience at Tuesday’s ICT town hall meeting.

She noted that there was a great concern which government had with respect to ICT and the use of computers and they wanted to ensure that technology and its use were equally and readily available to all Barbadians.

“We do not wish to go back to a period of time where there were only a few people in a community who could read or write or who had access to a car. We want for there to be a situation where everyone in the community has access to technology and feel comfortable using it, just as government intervention made sure that all people could read and write,” Senator Eastmond said.  

Over the past few years, government has introduced several initiatives to ensure ICT penetration was a reality. They include reducing and removing taxes from computer and computer related equipment, the introduction of computer enhanced learning in schools and the launching of a community technology programme where ‘ordinary’ Barbadians are being introduced to the computer and information technology, in general.

“If you have seen any of the graduation ceremonies of government’s Community Technology Programme, you would notice that participating individuals ranged from 18 to 75 years of age. The programme has also seen graduates who were 80 years old,” the Minister observed.

She went on: “A time will come when it will be second nature for you to go to the computer if there is an issue that you want to research or if you want to communicate with an individual.

She further noted that no one should be intimidated to ask questions they might have about ICTs, since, as she put it: “the more you ask, the more you learn”. 

The ISB has as one of its aims “to unite users, information specialists, suppliers, professional organisations and all other persons or organisations in the public and private sector, engaged in the use and management of information in Barbados.”

Vice President, James Corbin, in his presentation, outlined how businesses could enhance profits by using ICTs. He used, as an example, a small automart located in Four Roads, St. John.

“It has a full barcode system and we are seeing a really positive use of ICT. Through this system, the shop is becoming more efficient, it carries out transactions swiftly, there is better control of the inventory because everything is automated and the owners can at any given moment see what was sold and what was in stock, and also offer better customer service,” he said.

ISB Vice President, James Corbin.

The first town hall meeting at Princess Margaret saw members of the public making free international calls to family and friends using the ‘netspeak’ technology. There was also free internet access present for those who wished to surf or find out more about the Internet.

Other areas examined last night included: “How communities could take advantage of ICTs” by Hallam Hope of the ISB; “The application of ICT for market promotion” by Julian Greig, Managing Director of Caricraft.com; “The use of ICTs in everyday life and from a small business perspective”.

Free Netspeak calls will be available during the town hall meetings.

In his presentation, Mr. Hope said most people were willing to embrace ICT, however, there were some challenges which he believed could hinder such enthusiasm. According to him, “there are a lot of opportunities and at the end of the day it is up to us as individuals to decide how we are going to take advantage of these opportunities.

“The prices of most computer related and information technology equipment are falling and this is a direct result of competition and  liberalisation in the industry. However, there is need for more competition in wireless services, because, in my opinion, currently Internet services here, are still not quite affordable to everyone”.

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