GB minister presents govt’s digital transformation program at virtual conference

GB minister presents govt’s digital transformation program at virtual conference
Minister of State for Grand Bahama Senator Kwasi Thompson

FREEPORT, BAHAMAS — Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson recently outlined The Bahamas’ strides thus far in the country’s digital transformation, as well as the plans to expand that transformation as time goes on, during the 14th annual meeting of Red GEALC Sixth Ministerial Meeting of Digital Government.

Thompson, who is also responsible for electronic communication and the government’s digitization program, was one of the speakers at the virtual conference that was hosted by Costa Rica.

“…We focused on streamlining to reduce or remove the movement of paper or documents between customer and government and agency-to-agency to reduce or remove the need for the public officer to review and approve where it adds no value,” he said.

“Our challenge was to get public officers to ‘un-think’ how things are done and to ‘rethink’ a better way for themselves and their customers.

“Our Bahamas Electronic Cabinet Management Information System (BECMIS) is a good example of our ‘focused’ approach. It is a six-month project with releases in six-week intervals. Users, from clerks in the Cabinet Office to my cabinet colleagues, are involved from the design to testing.

“We are successfully battling through the elimination of steps, the rethinking process flow and redesigning documents. When completed, there will be end-to-end handling of information and proceedings electronically. We will see digital collaboration between agencies and collaboration between cabinet colleagues.”

Thompson also highlighted the government’s Proof of Concept Interoperability Platform, which he said would allow government services to share information from disparate data sources, securely.

“Due to built-in verifications and validations, the user provides little to no information for renewal services and in most instances, public officers will only have to review and approve requests or transactions that are an exception,” he explained.

“To reach this level of automation, the IT agency worked closely with the service provider to streamline processes, engaging them from design to testing. The platform in its POC stage will allow for renewal of driver’s license, renewal of passport, a request for customer’s own birth certificate or marriage certificate.

“Also in pilot mode is the launch of the Sand Dollar, The Bahamas’ digital currency. The Central Bank in partnership with authorized Payment Service Providers reaches the banked and the unbanked.

“The government has also put forward the Digital Assets and Registered Exchanges Bill, 2020 (DARE), aimed at establishing the framework for regulation of the issuance, sale and trade of digital assets in and from within The Bahamas.”

Thompson said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, agencies have accelerated their digital programs, including the Food Assistance program, the Bahamas Feeding Network, virtual school and parks and public spaces are being equipped to provide internet access.

He added that through all of these ICT initiatives there is a strong realization of the need for growing capacity in various specialized fields, in application development and IT operations, but also in business analysis, change management, procurement and public relations.

The Red GEALC Sixth Ministerial Meeting of Digital Government was held virtually from November 18 to 20 and brought together ICT ministers from the Caribbean and Latin America.