Government transformation insight shared at first-ever Caribbean Digital Summit

By on 18/10/2023 | Updated on 18/10/2023
A picture of Davidson Ishmael, the Barbadian government’s minister of industry, innovation, science, and technology speaking at the Caribbean Digital Summit
Davidson Ishmael, the Barbadian government’s minister of industry, innovation, science, and technology speaking at the Caribbean Digital Summit

The inaugural Caribbean Digital Summit brought together senior public servants from more than 10 countries to share insight on the challenges of achieving digital transformation in public services and government operations, and the region’s success stories.

Organised by Global Government Forum and hosted by the prime minister of Barbados, the summit took place on 16-17 October in Bridgetown and was co-located with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union regional ICT Week.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Davidson Ishmael, the Barbadian government’s minister of industry, innovation, science, and technology (MIST), said the summit gave delegates an opportunity to speak “openly and honestly” about “their respective digital transformation journeys”.

MIST is leading on what Ishmael described as “an aggressive public sector modernisation and digitisation programme”, which includes the development and implementation of “online services, payment systems and conversion of paper-based records to digital documents”.

Ishmael warned that Barbados faced “an increasingly competitive global environment”, which placed heavy demands on the state to “encourage and promote through digital transformation the introduction of new and/or improved products and services for its resident population”.

Touching on the topics discussed during the summit, he highlighted digital ID as “the essential building block [for] creating, transforming interdepartmental services, and escaping the legacy trap”.

Keeping pace with technology and bridging the digital divide

Later, Rodney Taylor, secretary general of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, said the event’s delegates would be “very shocked” to learn how many government processes were still paper-based.

“One of the most pressing challenges [for government] is to keep pace with rapidly changing technology,” he said. “There’s a constant state of flux with new tools, platforms, and innovation. Artificial intelligence is opening a whole new world of possibilities for public service delivery.

“Staying up to date with these developments is not only challenging, but also critical for ensuring that government services remain efficient, secure, and accessible to all citizens.”

Read Global Government Forum’s digital leaders reports: Asking the experts: What do digital leaders need to succeed? and The digital leader’s toolkit: 21 ways to transform government

On the growing threat of cyber attacks on government infrastructure, he added: “Cyber experts will tell you it is not a question of if there will be a breach, it’s a question of when and how prepared you are to respond.”

He also touched on the digital divide. “Bridging the digital divide is not only an issue of equity, but also a fundamental matter of inclusivity. Government leaders must work to ensure that their digital services are accessible to all.”

Ishmael echoed this in his own remarks, describing one of governments’ keys lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic as the need for “continuous communication, the conduct of business learning, and the delivery of services to all citizens”.

He took the opportunity to praise the creation the Digital Barbados Youth Forum, established to stage workshops for young people and people living with disabilities so that government “has people at the centre of its planning” and to ensure “delivery of services and products are always citizen-centred”.

“It is my hope that many actionable recommendations will come out of this Caribbean Digital Summit… which will help to further advance the digital transformation process in each of the nations represented and participating,” Ishmael concluded.

The Caribbean Digital Summit was held on 16-17 October 2023 in Bridgetown, Barbados. It was supported by knowledge partners Canadian Bank Note Company, NetClues, Cable & Wireless Communications, and Symptia Consulting.

Find out more: CTU ICT Week 2023 – Barbados – Caribbean Telecommunications Union

About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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