Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn (centre), chatting with Ombudsman, Valton Bend (left), and Permanent Secretary responsible for the Civil Service, Alyson Forte,?? after the forum. (G. Brewster/BGIS)??

A more coordinated effort from ministries with Information Communication Technology (ICT) departments is needed in order to create linkages across the public sector.

Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn, made this observation while stating that in an effort to address the lack of communication regarding ICT matters across the public service, the establishment of an agency with overall responsibility for this area was required.

He was speaking this morning at the LIME Government Forum Today, Tomorrow – Security, Technology, Efficiency – Partnering with Government for Success, at the Hilton Barbados.

Senator Benn told attendees: "It is considered that the core functions of such an entity would minimise ???the lack of communication, an issue currently existing.

"The agency will also have responsibility for ICT standard development and policies and consequently, the challenges related to an inappropriate website protocol would be addressed."

Mr. Benn also spoke of government’s continued efforts to be a model user of the technologies through a number of projects.

"We have witnessed the proliferation of desktop PCs throughout the public sector with access to the Internet and the commensurate training for civil servants in ICTs.?? Online income tax e-filing, an initiative that is perhaps more widely known than any other in Government, can be highlighted as a success story.?? Notwithstanding the initial teething challenges, this has resulted in a tremendous increase in the number of persons filing their tax returns online during the last financial year," the Commerce Minister pointed out.

Noting his Ministry’s own role in this exercise, Mr. Benn added that Commerce had taken some action regarding ICTs, which they believed would stimulate aspects of the country’s economic development such as facilitation of commerce, entrepreneurship and the protection of consumers.

"Right now the Ministry of Commerce has approved eight new applications for financial assistance in IT projects, and we are encouraging young persons, young Barbadians to apply to the National Information and Communication Technology Funding Programme.?? The Fund has approximately $1.2 million, and we consider each project on a case-by-case basis, and, as it stands, we are looking at putting a cap of $75, 000 on each project," Senator Benn explained.

In lauding the efforts of LIME Barbados in that company’s quest to contribute to national development by enhancing ICTs, the Minister contended that the challenge for Barbados and the region was clear and that digital technologies must be embraced.

He said: "Digital technologies offer a compelling way forward for further progress.?? However, we must build our capacity, improve our infrastructure, and align our digital technology strategies with our development strategies," he advised.


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