Previously, we assessed the merit of modernization via instituting E-Government and greater online technologies in the Caribbean. Today, we’ll continue along that same train of thought and attempt to glean ways by which the region’s governments and private sector can improve both the quality of life its citizens enjoy and its economic prospects via ICT Development in the provision of other services. Consider for a moment, the trappings of everyday life. Things like your travels to and from work, daily interactions and rudimentary duties. How innate is modern technology to these activities?
At first glance you may be tempted to say ‘a lot’ but take a closer look. Do you still need to indulge in the time consuming drudgery of waiting in lines to pay your bills or perform banking? Have you ever used a digital signature to finalize an agreement or full out paperwork from the comfort of your home computer? What about making appointments online? Odds are, the answer may be no, as these acts remain niche practices for the tech savvy, being both unknown where available or unnecessarily complex to initially implement. Despite varying degrees of development between Caribbean territories, the above examples likely hold true, even for the more advanced territories like Barbados.
Having smart phones stacked with features or trending gadgetry isn’t enough. The countries most steeped in the digital age, such as the Nordic nations, have populations that are highly networked and digitally acclimated. They are as much e-citizens as they are normal citizens. As a region we shouldn’t just aspire to play catch up with our Northern neighbors but rather, set our own examples as innovative, technologically driven developed island states.
Why do public transport workers still use clipboards and paperwork? Could this work be achieved via devices as simple as a tablet, something that grows cheaper with each passing year, a customized application and sufficient network security?
Indeed it could but the mention of security and encryption brings us to an imperative issue. If we are to delve into the digital world full on, proper security is tantamount, particularly if financial and personal information is to be involved. This responsibility falls on both the state and private organizations. In fact, technologies already present, such as online banking and bill payments, are likely still underutilized due in part to skepticism and a lack of confidence in the method’s security.
Are governments doing enough to nudge the populace in the direction of being tech savvy? Why not make IT a mandatory subject for CXC? We must ensure after all, that every step is taken so the introduction of greater technologies doesn’t add an extra layer of complexity for the unfamiliar. What about bringing WiFi to schools, implementing an all purpose electronic ID card that eliminates the need for various pieces of plastic in one’s wallet and ensuring citizens are well aware of the benefits lest they succumb to obscurantism and conspiracies about such developments. At the end of the day, after the initial investment costs, we stand to benefit vastly in terms of convenience, time, resources, and by extension productivity. The cost would thus repay itself in the long term.