Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 24th 2017 Contents life A27
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Going global with local services
There were a lot of words spoken at
the "initiation" of the Global Servic-
es Promotion Programme, a project
of the Ministry of Planning and De-
velopment and the Inter-American
Development Bank (IADB).
Most of those words were aspirational,
seeking to spur the enthusiasm of both
the audience present at the Yara Audi-
torium of the Arthur Lok Jack School
for Business and the streamed video
audience and the target audience for
the development fund, set at $18 million.
Some of those words have already been
reported, notably Dr Terrence Farrell's
warning that by 2030 T&T will cease to
be a viable oil exporting economy and
that the same fate awaits our natural gas
export capacity by 2050.
What,he wondered, would the country
look like then? The other striking word
came from the programme's champion,
Tracy Hackshaw, who framed his clos-
ing remarks around "hope." Hackshaw
is absolutely on target with that senti-
ment. He is correctly placed in local ICT
governance to visualise the potential for
technology driven development of eco-
nomic drivers, and he's been around to
witness the stuttering collapse of pre-
vious attempts to do just what the new
Global Services Programme has been set
up to do.
Former Planning Minister, Dr Bhoen-
dratt Tewarie was praised by his succes-
sor in the role, Camille Robinson-Regis,
for his pioneering efforts in laying the
groundwork for the fund and setting T&T
on the road to ICT enabled diversifica-
tion. Unfortunately, we have heard some
of these words before from Dr Tewarie
himself, who rather notoriously confused
"innovation" with "new" continuously
during his tenure in the Ministry and pre-
sided over significant spending on pilot
projects and proofs of concept that have
largely gone nowhere.
But to single out Dr Tewarie is to ignore
the many successive administrations
which have tried to wring short-term
vote-winning tactics and attractive
soundbites out of the long term stra-
tegic initiatives proposed by the career
technocrats in the public service working
in the ICT sector.
Information technology development
has been crippled for the last two decades
by the emphasis on exactly that type of
narrowly focused thinking once an ad-
ministration realises it can't hope to reap
the dividends of any project that runs
longer than their likely term in office.
It's doubtful that a blue-skies project like
Point Lisas could even be done today. The
assurance of tenure in public office that
enabled the bold development arcs of Dr
Eric Williams and allowed the creation
of an "energy czar" in the person of Dr
Ken Julien simply doesn't exist anymore.
Dr Julien got to do things politicians
couldn't envision or readily exploit be-
cause he had the ear of a Prime Minister
who wasn't worried about losing the next
election. Virtually all the major problems
facing modern T&T have the same arc of
project time associated with them.
ICT development, like crime manage-
ment, can only be successful if it's un-
dertaken with a commitment to at least
ten years of continuous, unbroken focus
with no regard to cosmetic appeal on the
campaign trail. A project like Tamana
Park, the Point Lisas of technology, has
become a political football instead than
the oasis of cutting edge technology de-
ployment and industrial scale support it
was planned to become two decades ago.
No political tenure, no czar, no Tamana.
Senator Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minis-
ter of Trade and Industry, pointed to the
need to support and develop the services
sector, which she noted, employs 80 per
At the Global Services Promotion launch, Internet strategist Bevil Wooding,
Barbados project awardee Peter Edey, Dr Terrence Farrell and Carolina
Gonzales-Velosa, Labour Market and Social Security Specialist, IADB
respond to audience questions. PHOTO: MARK LYNDERSAY
cent of the national labour force.
She further noted the continuing
favorable rank in global evaluations
of T&T in the availability of tech-
nology and the consistently low
rank of the country in use of tech-
nology. The Trade Minister did not
mention the untidy fact that most
of the services sector is the public
sector, where technology adoption
has been spotty at best and, more
"Tamara Park is a priority for
the government, civil engineering
works are in progress with the 21
lots and the fibre optic broadband
connection has been implemented,"
said Ms Gopee-Scoon.
"T&T has sat back far too long
idly in the sector."
That's not exactly true though.
T&T has been quite busy in the sec-
tor. Of the 12 top websites visited
by citizens in this country accord-
ing to Alexa, four are search sites,
two serve digital ads, one offers
streamed pirated movies, the rest
are Amazon, Facebook, Youtube,
Wikipedia and Instagram.
A local website doesn't show up
until position 15. For a country that
takes pride in its creativity, we are
almost exclusively consumers on-
line and changing that is going to
take considerable effort.
As a nation governed, we have
learned to be landlords, drawing in-
come from a dwindling asset, taking
salary increases, and now borrowing
against uncertain future income.
The new programme is an effort
to leverage our remaining assets to
build our human capital and intel-
lectual capacity to create value, and
it's going to be necessary to take that
gamble across political administra-
tions with unified will.
Dr Farrell spoke of "the diversi-
fication of the spirit."
"If we want to transform this
country, we have to teach it to do
something else, perhaps something
it hasn't done before," he said.
"That's the challenge of trans-
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