Government improves E-Government

Senator J. Kwasi Thompson

The Government of The Bahamas has increased the use of e-platforms, particularly since the worldwide pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.

In a statement issued by Minister of State for Grand Bahama, with oversight of Electronic Communication, Senator the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson on Tuesday, May 19, said, “This Government has tremendously increased the use of E-Government platforms and Initiatives since coming to office and particularly in response to COVID-19. We have made a firm commitment to embarking upon the latest technology taking into account our country’s unique situation.”

Referencing comments made by Former Attorney General, Allyson Maynard Gibson, Minister Thompson noted, “our Government is moving forward with implementing the latest in technology with respect to an electronic ID. While not the latest technology, we are also moving forward with respect to incorporating the capabilities of the existing NIB card.

“This Government has rolled out a new user-friendly website by The Office of the Prime Minister. The platform has been used to share the latest information on The Bahamas’ COVID-19 response and Emergency Orders with the public. The Grand Bahama Office has also unveiled its new services as a complement to Office of the Prime Minister, with a view to providing specified attention to Grand Bahamians.

“Information Communications Technology (ICT), as well as e-Commerce, are critical to our economic recovery and future growth. We have completed and approved a new E-Commerce Policy to assist in our economy recovering from COVID-19.

“In recent months, this government has for the first time established online presence and some online services (applications, payments, etc.). Our team has partnered with the Passport Office to launch its online process for the renewal of e-passports which have been extremely helpful and convenient for the public. The National Insurance Board recently launched its online application to accept applications for the new COVID-19 benefits and has introduced digital wallet payment platforms to pay out benefits. The Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health have established websites and social media platforms to keep the public informed and to stay connected with the public. Our team has ensured that the Ministry of Social Services for the first time is able to use online platforms to take applications for benefits and reviewing the implementation of payments by way of digital wallets.”

Listing some of the accomplishment, Minister Thompson referenced The Ministry of Education and its e-learning platform; the Disaster Recovery Authority Home Repair Program and their online application which has registered over 4,000 people; the Small Business Development Center with their website and online applications being able to disburse millions of dollars to assist small businesses; the launch of Central Bank’s own digital currency called the Sand Dollar, as well as approving many digital wallet companies; the Securities Commission approval of Crypto-Currency companies and the operation of these companies in The Bahamas, therefore building a new industry; and it is expected that the renewal of driver’s licenses and vehicle registration with the Road Traffic Department will soon follow.

He said, “This Government has also approved and implementing an E-Cabinet Online Platform for the Cabinet Office and Ministers. This will allow the Cabinet to function, paperless.

“Our Digitization Unit created by this Government is building and now testing its pilot of a historic interoperable platform modeled after Estonia’s which allows agencies for the first time to digitally talk to each other making doing business with the Government easier.

“This Government has also taken steps to improve Cybersecurity by embarking on a project with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that will provide a National Cybersecurity Strategy and establish for the first time a Cybersecurity Emergency Response Team.”

In closing the Minister added that “other Government Agencies have incorporated the use of technology with the assistance of the Department of Transformation and Digitization in the midst of the global pandemic affecting our nation such as the deployment of Ministry of Health COVID-19 dedicated website, Remote Hotline/ Call Center and the deployment of WebEx Meetings for Cabinet Ministers, and public servants.

“The world has already been moving in the direction of more digital services, less paper, and less face to face interactions, and The Bahamas continues its mission to increase digitization accordingly. The COVID-19 pandemic has only shed more light on the need for this, and the fact that many of our most basic needs can be facilitated via e-commerce (e.g. grocery purchase and delivery). As a result, Bahamians can expect an increase in opportunities for employment in the technology industry and are encouraged to seek out opportunities for entrepreneurship in this field.

“The Government remains steadfast in its mission to establish the Bahamas as a Technology hub, with Grand Bahama being its home-base. We believe the digital economy will be high on the priority list for the Prime Minister in the rebuilding and revitalization of our economy.”

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