Technology, No Longer Homeless


Russell Williams

 

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Some days ago I publicly expressed my concerns that after the swearing in of the new cabinet ministers, that the ministry of technology appeared to have been dropped. I wasn’t unduly worried because I thought that perhaps it would fall under infrastructure along with telecommunications. However, after hearing Min. Ian Liburd explain his role it became clear that it didn’t fall under that ministry.

Some days had passed since my inquiry and that of another colleague went unanswered. By this time others were expressing their concerns on social media and other fora. Unfortunately, the IT sector have not yet formalized or organized ourselves as a collective as have other professions, so I ventilated a concern of many and thus as is usual put a target on my back. Not a problem as my back is broad and I have never shied away from fighting the good fight.

By Wednesday the PM, Hon. Timothy Harris affirmed that technology was an important sector and He was however, he was a little fuzzy on which of his ministers responsible responsible for it.

His concern was burdening his ministers with to many portfolio’s so technology which spans all ministries was not named specifically. The challenge of not over-stretching ministers, while having an effective government requires skillful management. So the all encompassing field of technology has been rolled up with Communications which falls under the responsibility of Hon. Senator Vincent Byron. Senator Byron who already holds the very substantive title of Attorney  General, Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

I think Sen. Byron’s portfolios  are the very definition of overstretched. Hence the government and the prime minister must commit the resource necessary and ensure that the right people are in post to support the Minister. Perhaps there ought to be a junior minister, just as with Health.

There are serious national issues that need to be addressed, which I won’t touch here but I will look at the issues facing us through a long distance lens in order to bring the point home.

The proposed merger of Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) and Columbus Communications has been getting a lot of column inches in the regional media. Listeners to the Weekly Tech Roundup would have heard me report that CARICOM’s Competition Commission, raised concerns that the merger has far reaching implications not only for the ICT/Telecommunications sectors, but for trade as a whole in the region!

The merger if successful may mean that in some countries that there would be just a single provider of fixed line telephone and internet service. The word to note there is single. This may lead to an abuse of power not only in pricing, but the quality of service offered. Further a single provider of anything means you also have a single point of failure. This, will weigh heavily on the minds of potential investors we are so keen to attract! Not only that, but existing businesses may have difficulty securing new clients because their business is at risk and the mercies of the single provider.

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is pushing for telecommunications and Internet to be treated as an essential utility.

Now, under the present arrangement, who will represent St. Kitts and Nevis at these negotiations? Who will attend ECTEL’s Council of Ministers meetings? Who is going to set our national ICT policies and priorities? I hope my point and concern is becoming clearer.

Now, as they say in the interests of full disclosure, I must declare as an IT professional and entrepreneur I am naturally concerned. These matters may impact the ability for my business to make money. However, as a parent and an educator at one of our high schools my concern is less about myself and more about those to come.

It’s imperative that we create an environment that our young people can be creative and carve out opportunities for themselves and others right here in the Federation and not be under any illusion that it can’t be done here. However, we become what we see, therefore we must ensure that viable local entities exist here and now for them to model.

So let’s accept that there was an error or an oversight and take the necessary steps to address it. To err is acceptable especially when we learn from it. It’s only when we fail to acknowledge the error and thus miss the learning opportunity that it becomes a mistake.

About the Writer

An IT Professional for more than 20 years and an entrepreneur for more than a decade, Russell Williams has extensive experience as an IT Trainer and facilitator and is happy to answer your questions. E-mail them to techbyte@kittivisianlife.com or follow him on Twitter @RwilliamsKN, or FaceBook facebook.com/RussellWilliamsKN and G+ google.com/+RussellWilliamsKN

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