MAY 17th, 2017

Minister of Public Administration & Communications, the Honourable Maxie Cuffie extends his congratulations and best wishes to the thousands of persons involved in the telecommunications sector in Trinidad and Tobago, either as owners, managers or employees, on the occasion of World Telecommunications and Information Society Day (WTISD) 2017. 

Since 2006, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has celebrated today as an initiative to raise awareness among its members of the opportunities that can be leveraged through a more effective use of information and communications technology (ICT) to realize sustainable development goals.

According to Minister Cuffie, this year’s theme “Big Data for Big Impact” speaks quite appropriately to this country’s level of ICT development and the vision currently being pursued by the Ministry of Public Administration and Communications. He noted that Big Data had been instrumental in improving lives globally in areas such as education, healthcare, national security and government administration. He opined too that similar strides can be made locally through a more efficient embrace of ICT technology and applications in the daily routine of the public service. In that way, big data would certainly then have a big impact.

Minister Cuffie pointed out that although Government’s business has traditionally been paper-based, considerable work had already been done to digitize operations thus enabling greater use of data to improve service delivery to citizens. Nowhere is this more evident that in the implementation of several, award-winning, Government ICT and data-centric programmes such as ttconnect TTBizLink and e-TAX. The onset of the new motor-vehicle applications where persons will receive tickets for traffic violations via the mail, is also another significant step in that direction.

Acknowledging that evidence-based decision making was not just a fad but the future of how businesses would grow in the future, he nonetheless pointed out the distinction between evidence and data, indicating that data itself was not the solution, but rather part of the path to the solution.

According to him, like oil, data in its raw form is of little value, until it is refined and put to some good use. Finding value from data is much more a process of cultivation than it is one of extraction or refinement. One area in which the data/oil model is useful, is in the realm of personal data. Currently, huge profits are being made in the data world through the use of human-generated information. Our browsing habits, our conversations with friends, our purchases, movements and locations are all being monetized by individuals and organizations, not all of whom possess the noblest of intentions. The conversion of this data to valuable information though must be underscored by a basic understanding of who owns the data, the ethics behind the collection and dissemination of that data, and the development of an understanding that the refined data is not necessarily new oil, but rather an entirely new resource at our collective disposal.

It is based on the latter understanding, said Minister Cuffie, that the Ministry of Public Administration and Communications is currently engaged in process reengineering and citizen service delivery quality assurance initiatives which are based on internal audits and data analysis exercises. In this regard, the development of a National Government Data Portal which will serve as a repository for government information is to be pursued. It is anticipated that this portal would be particularly useful to persons interested in the work of government such as researchers, students and journalists. There are also similar initiatives taking place in other Ministries and Agencies which are also aimed at harnessing data that can benefit the wider society and improve service delivery and efficiency.

Minister Cuffie concluded by congratulating both the Caribbean Telecommunications Union and the ITU, and giving the assurance that work will continue apace to develop national policies and strategies that promote open data and big data analytics and which will establish a data-driven, decision-making, service delivery culture. This, he said, will ensure that data is generated, captured, shared and analyzed in innovative ways providing for the creation of an effective a national data ecosystem for sustainable development, and bring about improved operations within our government, institutions and ultimately, the lives of our citizens.