Information And Communications Technology

By INFOCOMM Technologies Ltd., Atiba Phillips

In 2013, Trinidad and Tobago, dropped a precipitous 12 places down the World Economic Forum’s Networked Readiness Rankings. In the three years that followed, there was a virtual flatlining of fortunes with a modest increase in ranking in 2016.

Network Readiness Data for 2017-2018 is not yet available, and the jury is mixed as to whether the moderate improvements will continue based on some of the missteps in the ICT space over the last 12 months as follows:
  • The term “ICT” did not appear in the National Budget of Trinidad and Tobago for fiscal year 2017-2018. This despite multiple calls from private sector and international actors for greater investment and emphasis on ICTs.
  • The substantive Minister of Public Administration, under whose purview the main ICT portfolio falls, had been absent from his post for an extended period due to health reasons. A substantive replacement Minister, the Honourable Marlene Mc Donald, has only been recently appointed.
  • The new National ICT Plan being called “Fastforward II” was drafted by the Government during early 2017. Since then, there have been no recent updates or announcements regarding finalisation or implementation.
  • The Ministry of Trade and Industry launched a new e-commerce strategy for Trinidad and Tobago in November 2017. However, it does not deal in any depth with the systematic and infrastructural issues which prevent the widespread adoption of digital payment modalities by the private sector and State institutions, which puts the Trinidad and Tobago economy at a significant disadvantage when attempting to compete in the ever-increasing and pervasive global digital economic space.
  • The Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce had scheduled a major ICT conference in Trinidad and Tobago for 15 & 16 May 2017 dubbed, “ICT Pro TT Conference – Ignite your Digital Transformation”. The affair was to have had 60+ content sessions and a wide array of local and foreign speakers. Unfortunately, the Chamber decided to abort the initiative after the anticipated level of participation was not achieved.

  • T&T Structurally Sound

    Notwithstanding all of these, Trinidad and Tobago is endowed with an enviable telecommunication environment, including a number of data centres, international fibre cable connections and best-in-class mobile coverage.

    T&T Structurally Sound
    • iQor who entered in 2015 and now has two contact centres in the country, growing from 60 seats to 600, with room for further expansion.
    • International technology consulting firm, Avasant, has also recently announced the launch of its Trinidad and Tobago operations to support its Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) practice. The launch was held on 15 May 2018 as part of Avasant’s Digital Innovation and Business Transformation Forum.
    • On the legislative side, the Cybercrime Bill 2017 and the Data Protection Act of 2011 (which was assented to on 22 June 2011 and which still has not been fully proclaimed) are currently before a Joint Select Committee process of Parliament wherein the concerns and feedback of affected stakeholder groups (including the media) are being heard. These bills criminalise the misuse of data collected or distributed online and are key cornerstones of the regulation of the digital economy.

      At the level of domestic institutions and businesses, due to commercial competitive concerns, a tightening economy and the phenomenon of younger persons assuming positions of leadership, it would seem that the business mindset is beginning to warm to the need to include technology in the discussion when engaging in strategy planning or seeking to address business problems. The Trinidad and Tobago ICT Challenge

      Yet while this is true, by and large the internal organisational infrastructures which support enterprise-level/potentially transformative technology projects in local businesses, are not in place. There is still no widespread understanding or importance placed on the need for highly skilled Chief Information Officer (CIO) role within organisations to fashion, inform and lead innovative initiatives on behalf of the company. Consequently, while more budget is being allocated for companies to try out new technology-driven ways forward, many of these projects are conservative in their reach comprising of communications infrastructure projects (more network cabling, routers, firewalls, servers, etc.) – the sort of way forward to drive greater efficiency that can be competently handled by a traditional IT Manager.

      Truly innovative or potentially disruptive projects however will remain in peril as these are often given to relatively junior “tech-savvy” staff to manage and they do not have the authority or enterprise understanding to drive digital transformation initiatives.

      The Outlook for ICT in T&T

      As such, the outlook for Trinidad and Tobago’s increased technology adoption and innovation is mixed.

      The leveraging of the country’s sound telecommunication infrastructure to drive transformation of the Government and the economy has been frustratingly characterised by fits and spurts of activity which have not caught the imagination of the population as a whole and have lacked sustainability. Trinidad and Tobago is in great need of knowledgeable and resourced leadership in the ICT space in order to be seen once again as the tiger of the Caribbean regarding ICTs.

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