Narrow band at eGov
Entity lags despite push towards digital transformation; chairman says low pay owing to high attrition rate
Independent consultant and advisor Christopher Reckord (third left) holds the attention of (from left) Dr Warren Vernon programme director, National Identification System (NIDS); Professor Gunjan Mansingh, senior lecturer and department head at the University of the West Indies, Mona; and Diane Edwards, director of the Mona School of Business and Management at the UWI during a panel discussion on digital transformation. Occasion was Wednesday's Jamaica: The Road to Digital Government forum hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on how digital transformation can strengthen the public sector and the Government at the AC Kingston Hotel in St Andrew. (Photo: Karl McLarty)

WITH the Government trumpeting plans to establish eGov Jamaica Limited as the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Authority by the next financial year, concerns are again being raised about high attrition at the entity and its inability to attract highly skilled talent.

The eGov entity (formerly Fiscal Services Limited), which is currently responsible for implementing ICT projects across government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), is to soon morph into the ICT Authority to improve the use of technology by developing a sustainable digital agenda, which will be observed across Government. As such, the agency will have primary responsibility for the country's overall ICT governance framework, acting as a major driver in the digital transformation thrust.

But according to Professor Gunjan Mansingh — senior lecturer and department head at The University of the West Indies, Mona, chair of eGov Jamaica, and deputy chair of the National ICT Advisory Council, while Jamaica is "on an exciting path", the progress so far has been "slow". Legislation to establish the ICT Authority was tabled in the House of Representatives on March 20, 2019 and passed by the House of Representatives that same June.

"We are on an exciting path but I feel we are very slow. Prime Minister Holness spoke about eGov becoming an ICT Authority for a number of years. It should have become an ICT Authority — that component is very, very important," Professor Mansingh said during last Wednesday's 'Road to Digital Government' forum — hosted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on how digital transformation can strengthen the public sector and the Government — at the AC Hotel Kingston.

"EGov has been having high attrition, especially in their technical staff. And not only attrition, they are unable to attract people too. Universities and various institutions are doing a lot in training these individuals but the truth is, there is a high demand for these skills so they are not just bound by the geographic location of Jamaica," she noted further.

Speaking further with the Jamaica Observer after the forum on what should be done to rectify the situation Professor Mansingh said, "Nothing has happened as yet; there is a little bit more to be done at eGov to make sure that it is happening quickly and to ensure that it is not lagging.

"The technical people are paid double in the private sector. That's where the country needs to come together," she told the Observer.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, delivering opening remarks at the forum, said digital transformation has been and continues to be a priority of his Administration.

"While we have made significant moves, the pace at which digital transformation is moving globally means that we have to accelerate our own transformation. This is why I recently appointed a new Cabinet minister, Senator Dr Dana Morris Dixon who has been given direct oversight for skills and transformation," Holness said.

In referencing two additional efforts underway he pinpointed the development of the first-ever national, digital, government strategy document which will serve as a guide to the whole-of-government approach to digital transformation.

"It will set ambitious but realistic targets about how we can harness digitisation to achieve things we all care about," Holness said, noting that he looks forward to its completion in several months.

He said the launch of the ICT Authority would be the second effort.

"In every leading digital country in the world there is an institution that drives digital transformation from the centre. For Jamaica, this will be the ICT Authority. This institution, which already exists in law, will be similar to the government digital services in the United Kingdom. In fact, persons are encouraging us to rebrand the ICT Authority as Jamaica Digital Services, to reflect the service orientation that the institution must have. The Jamaica Digital Service will be home to a series of cross-government tools that will make digital transformation right across the Government a reality," Holness said.

The tools referred to by the prime minister will include a single government domain, a data exchange platform, a payment platform, and a notification service, among others.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter

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