I am honoured to address this distinguished gathering of some 200 delegates who are participating in ICT Week – St. Kitts and Nevis under the theme, 21stCentury Government – Enhancing Connections, Accelerating Progress.
On behalf of the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis, I would like to express our great pleasure over hosting this ICT Week in association with the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).
We are delighted that ICT Week – St. Kitts and Nevis will include the statutory meetings of the CTU’s Executive Council and General Conference of Ministers. There is also the 17th Caribbean Ministerial Strategic ICT Seminar, which will focus on critical issues, as well as key developments and trends in information communications technology (ICT).
Additionally, several workshops for Persons with Disabilities have been planned, highlighting our commitment to expanding access to technology for all sectors of our population.
Expanding access to technology is of special importance to me in my capacity as Minister of Education and Youth. I am especially proud that right here in St. Kitts and Nevis, the local Association of Persons with Disabilities conducts training on JAWS and other useful software. Job Access With Speech, JAWS, is a screen reader that provides speech and Braille outputs so that the visually impaired can independently use a computer.
Indeed, technology can make a significant difference in people’s lives. For instance, a person who has lost the use of limbs can use voice recognition software and a person who is deaf can watch closed-captioned videos on YouTube to gain new skills. Technology, like education, is therefore a great equalizer of opportunity.
I take this opportunity to commend the CTU, which – in collaboration with another regional intergovernmental organization, the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD) – has launched a campaign aimed at transforming the public service in the Caribbean. This campaign is specifically focused on moving towards 21st Century Government: Citizen-Centric, Seamless Government.
The 21st Century Government campaign initiative was successfully launched at a Heads of Government Summit in Antigua and Barbuda in January 2018. Following up on this was a workshop held during St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ ICT Week in March 2018. That workshop outlined a policy framework, as well as guidelines, for moving towards 21st Century Government. We are therefore happy that the thrust towards implementing 21st Century Government throughout the Caribbean continues with ICT Week in St. Kitts and Nevis.
The Caribbean Telecommunications Union defines a 21st Century Governmentas being “characterized by citizen-centric, seamless, open, interactive and efficient processes” and says it makes “effective use of information and communication technologies to deliver services to its citizens, internal and external clients.”
During the three and a half years since we’ve been in office, the Team Unity Government’s steadfast approach to maximizing the use of ICTs has resulted in other countries in the region looking toward the progress of the St. Kitts and Nevis Government as a model. I take this opportunity to recognize the efforts of our Attorney General, the Honourable Senator Vincent Byron, Jr., who heads up our e-Government initiatives in his capacity as Minister of Communications.
In November 2016, the Attorney General accepted two awards on behalf of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis for outstanding improvements in ICT development during the 14th World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium. In 2016, St. Kitts and Nevis climbed a remarkable 20 spots on the International Telecommunication Union’s ICT Development Index – by far the most improved country.
Just to give you an idea of what a remarkable feat this was – the second most improved country on the 2016 index was Myanmar, which jumped 13 spots to 140th place. Again, St. Kitts and Nevis jumped 20 spots in 2016.
On the ICT Development Index for the year 2017, St. Kitts and Nevis ranks #37 out of 176 countries listed – the best ranked country in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The only Caribbean country that ranks higher than St. Kitts and Nevis is Barbados, which comes in at #34 on the index. The third ranked Caribbean country on the 2017 index is The Bahamas at #57.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has also successfully rolled out of a number of mobile applications (apps), including one for the public to access news and information from the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS).
Our Ministry of National Security has also rolled out a multi-million-dollar Motorola radio project featuring GPS tracking capabilities, and drones are part of the overall crime reduction strategy in St. Kitts and Nevis. The Team Unity administration’s approach to crime-fighting in this respect has received high praise from the Regional Security System (RSS), which is also increasingly focused on building capacity in technology.
Our hospital-based electronic information system will also be fully implemented in 2018. Furthermore, all 17 health centres will be computerized within the next fiscal year through funding from the Chronic Kidney Disease Project, which is being supported by the Republic of China (Taiwan).
Earlier this year, we celebrated the commissioning of the Country’s very first set of traffic lights and re-opened an upgraded National ICT Centre that will contribute meaningfully to the realization of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We have also been working closely with Amazon Web Services, which is the clear leader in the cloud computing market, and the company’s Head of Central America and the Caribbean is here with us this evening. The Government has been in discussions with Amazon Web Services about ICT in education and healthcare delivery, and also concerning cybersecurity in the public sector and innovation in disaster preparedness.
We are therefore moving briskly towards 21st Century Government and the possibilities are endless. There is no better example of that than the vision that has been laid out for the CARICOM Single ICT Space. The Roadmap for this was approved at the 28th Inter-Sessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Georgetown, Guyana early last year.
The Single ICT Space is described as the digital layer of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) envisages that this Single ICT Space will further encourage digital entrepreneurship and empower all citizens as “digital citizens,” leading to increased Caribbean competitiveness, productivity and progress.
However, enhanced connections and accelerated progress bring along attendant risks that have to be checked with cyber security safeguards, such as building cyber security awareness among our populace, in order to empower customers and protect their privacy. To this end, the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) has been consulted in developing the Roadmap for the CARICOM Single ICT Space. So too have civil society organizations and those from the public and private sectors, considering the broad impact that such a space would have.
With increased risks and opportunities come the recognition that we must educate, train and prepare our people with the requisite skills to maximize the use of ICTs and maintain the safety of our Nation.
A Civil Servants Cyber Safe Programme facilitated by the Government’s Department of Technology already conducts training on all relevant technological matters. In the last quarter of 2017, for instance, more than 100 employees at the Inland Revenue Department were trained to deal with the threat of hacking during a week-long cyber security workshop.
In every area of the Government where there are critical data, we are committed to safeguarding that information by utilizing top-of-the-line equipment and software, as well as a cadre of trained employees. We are heavily investing in cyber resilience.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis is committed to investing in our people, our future, our security and our national reputation, and is also committed to working with our colleagues in the region to increase competitiveness, create an environment that’s more conducive to investment, and lower barriers to doing business.
Ladies and gentlemen I therefore wish meaningful impact for your discussions and trust that you will have a very memorable time here in St. Kitts and Nevis.