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The public service must use the transformative potential of digital technology to change the way it does business, or be at the “double disadvantage” of being big and slow.

Minister of Industry, Innovation Science and Technology, Davidson Ishmael, said this was even more imperative now as people not only expected the delivery of services to be effective but also fast.

He was speaking this morning at the opening of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s two-day virtual digital conference entitled Adapt & Change: We Must!

Mr. Ishmael pointed out that his Ministry had already demonstrated the “huge potential” of public service transformation by rebuilding and delivering some of the most high-volume services and making them “digital by default”.

This includes the EZpay+ payment platform, where a number of payments to government can be made online.

He also touted MIST’s involvement in designing and developing the new online platform for the acquisition of liquor licences, which was launched on April 1, 2022.  Persons can apply online and pay through EZpay+.

The Minister emphasised that prior to the implementation of this online platform, it would have taken citizens in excess of five weeks to obtain a liquor licence.

Mr. Ishmael told those in attendance that the digital Trident National Identification Card was also another way Government was seeking to place Barbados on the road towards a digital society.

“The digital National Trident ID card, which is a partnership between MIST and the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (EBC), proposes the replacement of the existing ID card with a more secure, plastic ID card, which will possess a high degree of embedded security features.

“It is widely accepted that the existing laminated ID card that has been in existence since 1969 is no longer fit for purpose; is prone to fraud, and is not readily accepted outside of Barbados. The new Trident ID card, however, will not only facilitate everyday transactions where in-person identification is required, but it will also help to cut down on fraudulent use as it will be very difficult to replicate,” he stated, adding that MIST and the EBC were proposing a Digital Mobile Identity App, which would be downloaded on the mobile phone of the bearer of the ID card.

This would allow persons to use it to facilitate online transactions, in addition to using it for in-person verification.

The Minister said the Smart City initiative was yet another way the Ministry was seeking to use different technologies to manage public resources more effectively.

“The first phase will see the deployment of free public Wi-Fi in Bridgetown. Other phases include the implementation of smart services, such as parking, environmental monitoring, traffic management and others. The use of mobile apps for self-guided tours and information on places of interest in Bridgetown will also be a key component,” the Minister shared.

He noted that Wi-Fi access was already available in a few areas of Bridgetown, such as the Fairchild Street and Princess Alice bus terminals and around the Treasury Building. Other spots in The City should be added soon, he noted, including Cheapside Market, Jubilee Gardens, around Parliament Building, Swan Street and Suttle Street.

Mr. Ishmael added that free connectivity would also be extended to cover residential districts in Bridgetown.  “I wish to assure you that … Government remains committed to its mandate and will continue to work with the private sector and other stakeholders to drive the digital transformation effort in Barbados. Additionally, we intend to upscale Government’s programmes; move with pace, and make smarter decisions. We are making considerable progress,” he stated.

melissa.rollock@barbados.gov.bb

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