The Case For A Ministry Of Technology – Pt 1


Russell Williams

After the swearing in ceremony of the new government in February there were questions about the apparent absence of the Ministry of Technology. Apparently, I was foolish enough to air my questions and concern publicly, triggering a wave of criticism and seemingly stoking an already politically charged environment.

The reason I bring the matter up now, is that earlier this week I was quizzed by a businessman about the matter. “Do you still think there should be a Ministry of Technology, Mr. Williams?” he asked. I told him what I’m about to tell you, ‘when I didn’t hear technology named as a ministry, I thought they were going to put technology under the Ministry of Pubic Infrastructure’.

That to me would have been a progressive step, a recognition that technology and telecommunications was as important as electricity and water, and certainly more interesting and important than roads and vehicle maintenance, but then I might be a tad biased. However, not only am I biased I was wrong! Technology had been rolled up under Communications, which includes Telecommunications. One could argue that telecommunications is infrastructure, but I’m not going to second guess the perceived wisdom behind that decision.

I said to the businessman, let me ask you a question, “how long could you operate your business without access to the internet or phone before it became more than a minor inconvenience?” He chuckled and then rubbed his chin, before confessing that his business could not function without either.

You see too many people think that businesses and individuals only use the internet for minor matters, low level e-mail or Social Media. Granted that is what a lot of Kittivisian nationals do use the internet for. However, for the rest of us the lack of internet means missed deadlines, lost productivity and lost income! The businessman, a customs broker later revealed that clearing goods from Customs would soon be all online, hence the loss of internet may result in goods not being cleared, parts and equipment not delivered to factories and goods not sold.

To bring some additional clarity to the situation, the regional clearing house for all credit card transactions based here in St. Kitts and Nevis, processes all Point of Sale transactions for the regional banks. It’s a 24-hour a day operation, with a need to be able to process payment requests from around the globe. It might be a payment for dinner or for critical medical treatment overseas, and the lack of communications might hinder the processing of a card payment for medicine or treatment.

A little over 15 years ago, there was a nationwide fuel shortage in the UK, the only people who could get as much petrol or diesel as they wanted were emergency service personnel, medical professionals, fire and police. A friend of mine who worked for Cable and Wireless told me he was able to get as much fuel as he needed. When asked how this was the case, his response was, that he and other telecommunications workers maintained the phone infrastructure, and if you can’t make a call to the emergency services there’s no need for them to have fuel.

A pretty convincing argument, one which around the region we don’t seem to appreciate. If we did, we would not allow such patchy service from telecommunications companies and internet service providers. Many readers may recall the telecommunications outage the federation suffered in 2007, when most if not all C&W as they were known then suffered a massive failure resulting in the loss of internet connectivity for days, while some people were without land line services also.

If we are to develop the sector and move toward a truly knowledge economy, then we must have technically savvy leadership with a clear vision supported by competent and committed technocrats who set policy and enforcement to ensure that vision is realised.

Profile

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, G+ google.com/+RussellWilliamsKN

 

Photo courtesy freedigital photos.net

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