Economic View

On Trinidad and Tobago’s stable foundations for continued ICT development and growth

How urgent is the need for a clear policy about data sovereignty and intellectual property in order to make ICT thrive? 

HERBERT LEWY: A better-developed legal framework is needed to reinforce local data protection and sovereignty laws when using cloud or hosting environments. In the Caribbean, many companies, government offices and institutions are already using cloud platforms.

The Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) and the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT) co-exist to register copyrights and patents locally for several industries. The Intellectual Property Act of 2000 focuses on patents and copyright but does not take into consideration the overlapping concepts of data sovereignty and intellectual property. 

T&T, along with the rest of the Caribbean, will need to review legislation to either create or reform data protection laws to have an impact on the ICT sector. 

What opportunities do you see for the private sector in assisting the government with e-services transformation? 

LEWY: There are tremendous opportunities for the private sector to assist the government with e-services transformation. For example, the governments of India and Malaysia have leveraged the private sector to implement e-services platforms and have effectively transformed government businesses. 
The burden of conducting government business is often seen as archaic, expensive, tedious and paper-based. The implementation of e-government business can improve the bottom line as it can be more transparent, convenient, and less corrupt while it increases revenue and reduces cost. 

There are many other viable reasons for implementing an e-government system, some of which include the possibility of cost-sharing projects, with a likely return on investment for the private sector, and often using the invaluable expertise of the private sector in the areas of customer satisfaction, work productivity gains and personnel efficiency for the government. There is the additional benefit of possible technology and knowledge transfer from the private sector to the public sector. 
Public-private partnerships can also re-invent the way governments operate, for example, by establishing and developing a central location for all government business.

How would you evaluate the degree of regional cooperation within telecoms and IT? 

LEWY: Regional cooperation within the telecoms and IT sector is progressive in nature and has potential to thrive even more. One of the outcomes of this cooperation is the establishment and the mandate of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), which is dedicated to supporting the development of the Caribbean’s ICT sector. The CTU formulates ICT policies, coordinates regional ICT projects and provides technical advice on ICT concepts and issues. 

To what extent has the economic downturn in the region affected the ICT solutions sector? 

LEWY: Currently, T&T is experiencing a recession and it is predicted that recovery will begin to take place in the second half of 2018. As a result, both the private and public sectors should see the deployment of cloud-based solutions as an alternative to save costs; companies do not have to invest in capital expenditures, only for the cloud computing service used. However, there is an opportunity for companies to experience greater operational efficiency and costs savings, and the recession should be viewed as a catalyst. 

Adopting IT solutions can help organisations innovate by enabling collaboration, improving communication and experiencing savings from lower overall storage costs as a result of not having to purchase, manage and maintain hardware. The return far outweighs the initial investment since companies also obtain benefits that include greater accessibility and reliability, rapid deployment and tighter security controls for emails and documents.

What main assets does T&T possess, and how can they be leveraged for further innovation? 

LEWY: T&T’s geographic location offers nearshore advantages to businesses, ports and hubs in Miami, Mexico, Panama and Guyana. This also presents an opportunity for local businesses to diversify and embrace modern technology with the aim to enhance efficiencies. 

T&T is already recognised as the Caribbean’s leader in financial services and investment and is being further developed as an international financial centre, allowing regional and international organisations to establish operations and utilise the local labour pool, thereby fostering employment, technology transfer and the use of global best practice models.

The country’s workforce is highly literate and English-speaking, and its bandwidth speed is up to par. It has a thriving energy sector, which focuses on the oil and gas industries, and it is continuing to improve its business-to-business approach.