Today, almost every sector of society is demanding information that is fast and accurate. As a result, telecommunications has become increasingly important. It includes e-government, e-learning, e-banking and video conferencing.
Barbados will join the rest of the world in celebrating World Telecommunications and Information Society Day (WTISD) on Monday, May 17, under the theme ???Better City, Better Life with ICTs.
The Telecommunications Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Investment, Telecommunications and Energy is actively engaged in the process of educating Barbadians about the benefits of information communication technology (ICT) development to fostering economic growth.
Chairman of the WTISD public education campaign, Thelma Clarke, explained that communication technologies are helpful to Barbados, "because they keep us connected to each other, whether we are in the same locale…or whether we are separated by great distances. So no longer is distance a problem staying connected, whether for business or social interaction".
For a small developing country such as Barbados, there has been a mushrooming of such technology, especially in the last decade, with almost every citizen becoming computer literate.
"She said: "The computer has really been the biggest invention for a really long time. It spans so many other possibilities including e-business, e-government and distance learning. Computers have really become a way of life for us in Barbados and elsewhere…They are convenient and they can be used at any time for business transactions or any other social interaction. Time zones don’t matter."
In terms of other aspects of ICTs, the Ministry of the Civil Service is currently in the advanced stages of implementing an e-government strategy. Its major features will include; the establishment of a Central Information Management Agency with responsibility for developing ICT strategies, policies and programmes geared at delivering governmental services through the use of ICT’s; the creation of a broadband wide-area network (WAN) linking all government departments and the implementation of an enterprise document and record management in the public sector.
E-government Development Officer Charley Browne defined it as "Government’s use of information and communication technology to extend and enhance access to the delivery of information and services to citizens, businesses and employees."
In the past, doing business in the public sector has been characterised by bureaucracy. However, efforts are under way to speed up processes to make everything cost-effective. He said: "Too often processes that could be completed in one step or one location are fragmented between different ministries or departments, or even between different sections within a ministry or department." The result of this, he added, was "the inefficient use of government resources and ineffective delivery of services".
In addition, Mr. Browne pointed out that the service had many benefits for citizens and enterprises, including streamlined processes for accessing information for convenient 24-hour availability; electronic delivery and the significant improvement in government-to-citizen and government-to-business interfaces.
The official mentioned the advantages for government included increased employee productivity; reduced system maintenance and training requirements, by adopting standard systems and processes; cost-effectiveness in the operation of Government agencies; and improvement in government-to-government interfaces.
According to Mr. Browne, government is fully committed to the process, and this can be seen with the computerisation of its financial and human resource management functions, called Smartstream. In addition, there is the ASYCUDA project, which involved the automation of processes at the Customs and Excise department to reduce the cost of doing business; increase revenue collection and generally, enhance the department’s efficiency and effectiveness.
Another feature that has received a wide degree of publicity is the government portal (http://www.gov.bb/). It was introduced by the Data Processing Department to give the Government of Barbados a single face, as well as to allow persons to have an electronic gateway to government information and services.
Other examples of the growing reliance on ICTs includes the introduction of the community technology project, which involves providing technology training and internet access at the island’s community centres. In addition, video conferencing is becoming increasingly popular for persons in different time zones to converse instead of having to travel thousands of miles to do business.
The implementation of these initiatives, it is hoped, will lead to a more contemporary public sector that is much more effective, productive and efficient and better equipped??for the demands of today’s world.