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Idb Loan To Go Towards To E-Government Services

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Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson.

By DENISE MAYCOCK

Tribune Freeport Reporter

dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

THE digital transformation of the Bahamas Cabinet and all government services will soon become a reality through a $30-million Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan that is expected to be executed within the next two to three weeks by the Government of the Bahamas, according to a cabinet minister.

State Minister for Grand Bahama Senator Kwasi Thompson on Friday said that government will be moving toward a paperless Cabinet system by implementing a programme called e-Cabinet.

He also said they will be adopting the model being used in Estonia to transform the country's e-government services.

Mr Thompson was speaking at the closing of “Consumer Week”, hosted by the Consumer Affairs Unit of the Ministry of Labour at the Harold DeGregory Complex, in Freeport. This year's theme was "Trusted Smart Products." He spoke on behalf of Labour Minister Dion Foulkes who was unable to attend.

"As a government, we must also be focused on digital revolution and digital transformation of our government," he told students and those attending.

"If the private sector is moving forward with digital services, the banks with online services, insurance companies and other companies are moving forward with digital services, but the government is still far behind, then it is a major problem for the country," Minister Thompson explained.

He noted that government is focused on advancing and expanding e-government services.

"Within the next two to three weeks, you will see the government execute an IDB loan for $30 million towards transforming our e-government services," he said.

Senator Thompson said that they will start transforming the way the government does business from the top level of Cabinet.

"So, in this day and age in 2019 where you may have 20 cabinet ministers and every week those Cabinet ministers have to lug a load of papers to every meeting where we discuss every paper, and make decisions on those papers, we made a decision and a commitment to move toward a paperless Cabinet system.

"Cabinet is the highest decision making body in the country, and if we can make a decision more effectively and more efficiently then that means that those decisions can be executed more (quickly) - so it has to start from the top down."

Minister Thompson said decisions in Cabinet can be done online where ministers are able to view and make decisions, and communicate with each other online and paperless.

"We have made a decision that we will be paperless when it comes to the Cabinet, and we will institute a programme called e-cabinet where decisions will be made online securely and with all the proper cyber-security. "

The Minnis Administration is impressed with Estonia's e-government system. Mr Thompson noted that Estonia – a country a little bigger than the Bahamas with about 1 million people compared to the 300,000 to 400,000 people in The Bahamas –- is one of the most advanced countries when it comes to e-government.

According to Mr Thompson, The Bahamas already has some good e-government services, particularly at the Registrar General’s Office, Health Records, and at National Insurance.

However, he stressed: "One thing we have not been good at is government agencies digitally speaking to each other."

With the adoption of Estonia's e-government model, Mr Thompson said that government agencies will be able to digitally access information about someone from another government agency.

"If a government agency has a piece of information about you, no other government agency should be able to ask you for that same piece of information. If we begin to move toward that one principle it will revolutionize and transform e-government services," he said.

"If you are going to the Road Traffic Office and a Birth Certificate and Passport are required, the Registrar General will be able to digitally transport the birth certificate, and the Passport Office would be able to digitally transport passport information to the Road Traffic – and that will immediately change the way that we do business and provide services to Bahamians."

In addressing concerns about hacking, Mr Thompson explained that when the government embarks on government services being digital, they will also have to embark on a cyber security programme.

He noted that they will ensure the public is educated about how to use the services and how to protect themselves in using the services.

"A huge part of the digital transformation is about digital education, which is also about cyber security," Mr Thompson said.

He noted that services today are not really secure. "How secure are your services today? he asked. “One aspect of the digital revolution, which will also change, is that whole mindset about how we view data and who sees your data and who is able to see your data will be addressed. So, today at the Registrar General's Office there is nothing stopping someone from copying that document and sending it off to whomever they want to send it to; the same thing with respect to health records. But digitally, you will know who is seeing your document and who has access to your document," he said.

Stephanie Ferguson, Deputy Director of Consumer Protection Commission, also spoke. Students and invited guests also viewed the demonstration of new smart cars with Carlton Bosfield of Northern Bahamas Utilities.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 6 months ago

Let me sum up in this instance the foolishness behind all such loans from the IDB:

1) These types of loans are intended to increase our already unsustainable foreign currency denominated debt, which is the primary mechanism by which the U.S. government, through its international lending agencies like the IDB, seeks to control and/or destabilize other countries for their own self-serving purposes. It is also for this reason that the terms of such loans are not that generous relative to general market conditions.

2) The U.S. government (IDB) decided on who would get this grossly inflated contract. In this case very costly foreign consultants, likely based in Estonia, will get a generous portion of the overall contract amount. In essence, financial wealth from our country will be transferred to Estonia. That's consistent with current U.S. foreign policy aimed at financially crippling the Bahamas, because we have allowed Red China a foothold on the door step to Florida, while at the same time strengthening the economy of a Baltic State that plays a vital role in NATO's defense of Europe from Russian aggression. This transfer of wealth from us to Estonia therefore kills two birds with one stone from Uncle Sam's point of view.

3) The contract will not result in the development of local expertise necessary to maintain the operability of the new systems on a long term cost effective basis - that expertise will remain firmly in the hands of the foreigners involved. The new systems will therefore have a very short useful life span, which means no economic payback for the hefty front loaded $30 million price tag. It's much like all of our government's borrowings for the padded costs of new buildings that are not maintained once built, and therefore quickly fall into a deplorable state.

4) Some lucky muck-a-muck crony of our political elite is going to end up getting a chunk of the padding built into the over-priced $30 million contract. The lucky crony will likely be set up as an unnecessary intermediary in the purchase of whatever equipment will be installed. Of course the crony will kick back something to the FNM party.

And various scenarios of the above go on all the time because of the insatiable borrowing appetite of our corrupt politicians who love nothing more than to have the lending teat ("tit") of an international lending agency placed at their constantly sucking lips.

This is how the U.S. government goes about meddling in our internal affairs, much to the detriment of the interests of the Bahamian people. Just look at what U.S. foreign policy did to the Venezuelan people over a couple of decades, simply because the Venezuelan people did not want to turn over control and most of the profits from their vast oil reserves to the U.S. oil companies like Chevron and Exon. And that's the type of unfair game the U.S. government and its deep stated connected corporate interests play over and over again all over the world.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 year, 6 months ago

Remember all of that IDB money that was borrowed to buy new systems to modernize our Passport Office. Symonette was the cabinet minister responsible for our Passport Office at the time. Where did that get us? The Passport Office today is as bad, if not worse, than it ever was in terms of the service it delivers to the Bahamian public. The same applies to most of our governments' many IDB and other ILA borrowings over the years, all falsely promising to upgrade government systems, processes and services that most Bahamians find have never been worse or more costly.

And didn't Minnis, like Christie before him, solemnly promise us that our VAT dollars would go towards actually paying down the total amount of our national debt as opposed to just reducing its uncontrollable rate of growth as a result of unnecessary borrowings borne out of corruption at the highest levels of government?!

Brace yourselves fellow Bahamians; both Minnis and Turnquest truly believe that VAT should be as high as 20%, notwithstanding its terribly regressive nature and most harmful and cruel effects on lower and middle class Bahamian families, and all small and medium size local businesses. Minnis is indeed a horribly nasty and arrogant monster!

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ohdrap4 1 year, 6 months ago

But I recall the e-govt of 20 years ago, cannot recall using it for anything. I remember a CRT terminal in the office to get police certificate. There was a printed sign that, "Once you fill in the form, we will send you an email to say it is ready". When 6 months? a year from then? I smiled and took my place in the line. I have not seen any more terminal there ever since.

As for the VAT, Peter Turnquest already mentioned the 'harmonization of vat rates' as a goal of the EU. I suspect it is to harmonize to 15%

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2019/m...">http://www.tribune242.com/news/2019/m...

Revealing that the Government was still on alert for developing international regulatory initiatives,

Mr Turnquest identified such initiatives as the taxation of electronic and digital transactions, plus the harmonisation of VAT rates,

In the late 1990's I had a boss who wanted us to have a 'paperless office', but it had to be done with the existing computers and software, what a joke.

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ohdrap4 1 year, 6 months ago

And this new passport snafu is happening all over the world.

The new software does not migrate data from the previous systems, so you are not "renewing your passport" you are getting a new one and need the documents all over again.

some people even need grandparents or parents birth certificates, so added bureocracy to find those things.

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TheMadHatter 1 year, 6 months ago

I've always said, if it's good enough for Estonia it's good enough for the Bahamas. In addition i would like to thank the government for increasing the debt on my grandchildren's shoulders. They're misbehaving little buzzards anyhow - they deserve it.

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banker 1 year, 6 months ago

The thing is that the government doesn't know what they don't know and Kwasi is at the top of the list. His paper-shuffling and do-nothing approach hasn't landed us a GB tech hub. And now they are talking about copying Estonia for eGovernment. Sigh.

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