By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE government will be undergoing a "digital transformation" to strengthen the country's competitiveness, Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest said yesterday.
Known as the "Digital Bahamas Initiative", the project will be financed in part by a $500,000 non-reimbursable grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Speaking during the budget communication in the House of Assembly, Mr Turnquest said overall the purpose of the project is to help the government use technology to deliver public services at a cheaper, faster, and better rate.
Furthermore, it will result in a "reduction in processes and paperwork and the means to conduct government business more efficiently".
The project will also lead to the development of a "single national identity number [and] card" which can be used to facilitate business transactions.
Mr Turnquest also discussed the government's support of Central Bank and the commercial banking sector's move toward a cashless society.
According to the deputy prime minister, the main objective of the Digital Bahamas Initiative is to "foster the country's competitiveness by reducing the costs of conducting business with the government".
In order to accomplish the goal, first government procedures will have to be streamlined and published on the internet to "reduce the cost of government bureaucracy".
Additionally, the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in the public sector must increase.
Mr Turnquest added there must also be "increasing transparency of government activities and strengthening auditing and control mechanisms".
The project will focus on three principal components.
These are: "simplifying and digitising government procedures", "strengthening institutional capacity for a digital government", and "enhancing transparency and integrity in government".
The project's outcomes are expected to include a reduction the time and cost of government procedures.
Additionally, there should be an improvement in the quality and quantity of published government information, as well as its use by citizens.
Furthermore, the project should cause an increase in the data "shared and used across government offices for policy design and government management".
It is also expected to lead to the "establishment of a single national identity number and identity card - presumptively using the current NIB ID number - that will allow for ease in transacting business in the public and private spheres of the country".
In terms of financing, Mr Turnquest said: "The Government has a stated objective of pursuing the further diversification of our economy as a means of supporting more buoyant and resilient economic growth."
"To that end, we have secured a non-reimbursable grant from the [IDB] in the amount of $500,000 to finance a three-year technical cooperation project with a particular focus on the Digital Economy and the Blue Economy."
The deputy prime minister broadly defined the Blue Economy is an "economic activity that directly or indirectly uses the sea as an input".
However, this project will move beyond the traditional industries such as fisheries to sectors like marine biotechnology, ocean renewable energy, and deep-sea oil and gas production.
Last month, Mr Turnquest announced the Central Bank plans to roll-out a 'test' digital Bahamian currency by 2021. Doing so will be part of the regulator's strategy for an "accelerated shift" to reduce cash-based transactions.
Mr Turnquest reiterated these remarks yesterday.
"The government will also provide support to the Central Bank's current move toward a digital form of Bahamian currency, as well as support to the efforts of the Central Bank and the commercial banking sector to move toward a cashless society," he said.
The goal is to make The Bahamas a regional and then a global leader in the use of digital technology to benefit citizens.
"In so doing, we shall catapult The Bahamas ahead of many of its contemporaries and create opportunities and efficiencies for all Bahamians."