Digital Transformation for the Caribbean

The Guyana Government, impressed by Estonia’s digital Government, will tap into that country’s experience to leapfrog the provision of Government services online, Cathy Hughes, Guyana’s Minister of Public Telecommunications announced recently.

“The Government has a very strong commitment and we’re actually going to do a consultancy with Estonia so that we can do and implement (an Information and Communications Technology) roadmap,” Hughes told the opening ceremony of the VIII Caribbean Annual Civil Society Dialogue organised by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Estonia’s Parliament conducts its business on an electronic basis, and the President signs passed legislation electronically. Over the past decade, Estonians have been able to vote electronically.

ICT is the fastest-growing industry in the European country and there is heavy demand for ICT workers in many sectors, including in medicine, education and agriculture.

Hughes was one of the speakers at the Tallin e-Governance Conference in 2017. The conference was targeted at decision makers and strategists from countries implementing national e-Governance strategies.
She told the IDB Civil Society Dialogue that the Government aims to make 200 government services accessible online by 2020.

Currently, she suggested doing business in Guyana was a time-consuming cumbersome process that could be frustrating for businesses and investors.

However, she said ICTs can change that. “As a Government, we are not interested in maintaining the development of the status quo; but we are interested, I am interested, in real transformation. This country will not transform on the strength of incremental growth, and that is why our discussion on exponential technologies is so important,” she stated.

She noted that many countries in the East have changed their fortunes in a short space of time, and they are now exporting ICT equipment, ICT services, as well as their human capital.

But that is not to discount the “amazing things” already happening in Guyana, with some local entrepreneurs making the leap to invest in ICTs.

She noted that the current behemoths in the ICT sector started in bedrooms and garages and on university campuses and urged businesses and organisations to forget their limitations and envision how they can collaborate “to remove shackles” to competitiveness.

The theme of this year’s IDB Dialogue is “Digital Transformation for the Caribbean: How technology and innovation are improving people’s lives” and the key topics to be covered will include digital transformation and industries for the future, innovation and the future of work, the use of innovative technology and data to assess the impact of climate change and the role of civil society in promoting digital economies.

The objective of the dialogs is to provide Caribbean Civil Society organizations including those that are members of the IDB Civil Society Consulting Groups (ConSOCs), an opportunity to exchange good practices and lessons learned on how the Caribbean can adapt to the new dynamics of the digital economy and exponential growth; explore potential areas for future partnership between the Bank and civil society to adopt innovative development solutions for the region.

The IDB Representative to Guyana, Sophie Makonnen, also cited the example of Estonia as an example of how countries can promote “smarter, more rapid development.”

She said “the development of countries rests on how agile they are in promoting the exchange of ideas and experiences and solutions to problems should not arise out of chance but by development and that new technologies are critical to solving today’s development challenges. Promoting technology is no longer a luxury; it is one of the most important and main components of successful development.”

A number of OECS and the wider Caricom Countries have been reviewing the e-Governance and ICT initiatives developed by Estonia and have traveled to the country to explore the possibilities of collaboration. The most recent regional leader to visit Estonia was Saint Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen M Chastanet. ¤