TECH HUB ISLANDS SUMMITS(t.h.i.s.) 2021 – Welcome Remarks by Nirad Tewarie – AMCHAM
July 7th, 2021
Technology – Moving from NOW to BEYOND
The future is uncertain. I’m not sure what how to plan for Now far less Beyond
The issue is that the hose is tangled so the water pressure appears low.
So, they say that recession jamming
And so to foreign countries Trinis start migrating
They lose faith in their country, they say we gone down the drain
They say no more could we see happy times again
But the will to recover in my people I have confidence
Although many may seem to feel that I talking nonsense
Any time that we hear that Trinbago is facing a crisis
As loyal citizens it’s our duty to stay and assist
For we know to weself there could never become a day
When our debts to this country we can repay.
So, our people need us today more than ever
But in our fight to recover, if ever you feel to surrender
It have one little thing that I want you always remember…
We could make it if we try just a little harder
If we just give one more try, life will be much sweeter.
A very warm good morning
I am Nirad Tewarie – CEO of AMCHAM T&T. It is my pleasure to welcome you to AMCHAM T&T’s 3rd edition of the Tech Hub Islands Summit (t.h.i.s.).
I want to start by thanking all our attendees for joining us today. Your participation today, and over the next three days is very important to us. We believe bringing together tech companies, business leaders, and decision makers for dialogue and engagement on digital transformation, will help us to create a launchpad from which we will create a globally competitive tech ecosystem and soon after, hub.
I want to begin by extending our gratitude to all our sponsors of t.h.i.s. 2021. These are companies who believe in and who are supporting this vision:
For the third year running, Title Sponsor: Republic Bank – thank you for your valuable support and partnership on this important venture.
Also, our Partners from the inception Platinum Sponsors: PwC and Digicel Business
Gold Sponsors: Inter-American Development Bank, Guardian Group Trinidad and Tobago
Digital Media Partner: Trend Media Group
And today would not be possible with our AMCHAM T&T team. Everyone pitched in but I must make special mention of Rey Ann Paynter Mendez who organised this event; Neerala Boodoo is solely responsible for the look and feel; Hema Son Son and Michelle Laggan who did whatever needed to be done and Kennedy Maraj for all the communication support and hype around the event. Of course, the support of Melissa Pierre, Choy Durity, Kelvin Alleyne and Phyllis Johnson have also been invaluable.
This is a difficult speech. I must admit. Those of you who recognised the words of Black Stalin earlier, and I assume that’s the majority of you, would, no doubt, notice that I omitted the line about our darkest hour. That’s because I don’t believe that we’re facing our darkest hour. No at all. I am certain however, that our country is facing a crisis of confidence.
The hose is tangled.
Despite all our talent, our energy, our creativity, our adaptability and our dynamism, we are behaving as though we have lost faith in ourselves. We, the people who invented steel pan and limbo.
We, the people in whose country the first full television pictures were broadcast.
We, the people who created one of the largest petrochemical industries in the world.
We, the people who moved early into LNG, building the largest LNG plant in the world at that time.
We the people whose writers have won a nobel prize for literature.
We the people whose artists have won Academy Awards, Tonys and Grammys.
We the people whose athletes shine on the world stage.
We need to believe in ourselves again. We could make it if we try. Not only a little harder but a little differently.
I said earlier that the hose is tangled. How many of you have tackled a properly tangled garden hose? It’s daunting. At the beginning it feels like we will never successfully untangle it. So, we pass one end through a knot.
What we are doing here today and over the next three days is untangling some knots. Bringing people together. Highlighting key issues to move our country forward using technology and zeroing in on some solutions.
Those solutions will require collaboration. They will require critique. Criticism or calls for action are not unpatriotic. Indeed, constructive criticism and identification of solutions are some of the most patriotic actions. The Government cannot do it alone. Nor can the private sector. We need to work even more collaboratively in genuine partnership. And, at the very top, the Government and Opposition must find some common ground to chart a way forward.
Confidence will return once there is belief in a national plan. A coherent vision into which we can all buy. A vision with actionable steps. Technology will be a critical enabler to achieve this vision. Developing a tech sector in T&T must also be part of the strategy for economic recovery and growth.
So, let’s tackle another knot – digital policy, I’ll highlight a few of our recommendations.
The Government should facilitate an accelerated “digital policy” refresh for existing digital strategies, policies and frameworks to support innovation within the Government.
There are a number of digital strategies, policies and frameworks which impact GORTT’s digital transformation initiatives. A co-ordinated approach to the completion and adoption of the following policies should be incorporated.
► Open Source Policy
► Remote Working Policy Suite
► Data Strategy, Policy and Framework
► GORTT Asset Management
► Open Government Policy
► Cloud Computing (Cloud options for WoG)
► e-Government Omnibus Technical Standards (e-GOTS)
► e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF)
► Change Management Policy
We also recommend accelerating the implementation of the regulatory sandbox announced by the Central Bank. This will advance financial inclusion via technology innovations within the financial sector and will allow for local fintechs to roll out to beta users, before completing lengthy regulatory processes and allow them to attract funding from both local and international investors, thereby creating economic opportunity for the technology sector. While this has been announced, it has not been effectively implemented thus far. Collaboration with trade associations such as AMCHAM T&T will be important for this to be effectively rolled out.
Another important policy will be the revisiting of the framework governing digital and electronic signatures and fully proclaiming the Electronic Transaction Act, specifically the implementation of the Electronic Authentication Service Providers. Promoting the use of digital signatures with the general public is necessary to inspire greater confidence in the use of and reliance on digital signatures, as this will be key to facilitating legal arrangements going forward across all industries.
As we get set to discuss design thinking in a short while. We recommend that the Government establish a data interoperability framework.
The goal is to help the GoRTT find the optimal strategy that is sustainable and appropriate for a small island developing state and factors in resilience. An interoperability framework is a set of standards and guidelines that a government uses to specify the preferred way that its agencies, citizens and partners interact with each other vs. interoperability via architecture, e.g. national enterprise architecture which is a strategic planning framework that relates and aligns government ICT with the governmental functions that it supports. This will allow for greater participation from the private sector developing solutions to support citizen service delivery and accelerate the Government’s digital transformation agenda.
While we have several more recommendations, the final one I’ll highlight here is the implementation of a National Unique Identifier and Legal Digital Identity. This number should be used as the single citizen electronic interface and to track the State’s interaction with citizens from cradle to grave – i.e. birth certificate, death certificate, passport, IDs, schooling, vaccination etc. and the legal digital identity should give legal protection of the digital presence of the individual.
You see, we can’t afford to stand still. We can’t afford to make marginal and incremental steps. We need bold and decisive leadership and action to unleash our potential. We need to ensure that we use technology not just to solve our “now” problems. Technology is most beneficial when it helps us create solutions for the problems we cannot see or have yet to experience. It’s also pretty good at creating opportunities we could only imagine. These are the opportunities that lie beyond what our NOW realities are. That’s why the theme for t.h.i.s. 2021 is called “Now and Beyond”. And that’s why we need to create the enabling environment now.
To assist in highlighting and propelling this agenda, we have six dynamic sessions focusing first on design thinking. That is, how do we go about solving problems understanding that solutions will require inputs and actions from multiple actors.
One of the most important steps in our digital transformation journey is easier and cheaper e-payments. So, this afternoon’s session zeros in on FinTech.
Understanding the true value of the tech investment is why we move next to the Digital ROI tomorrow morning, with a focus on the private sector. In the afternoon though, we shift to the Government with our Digital Transformation of Governments session.
Of course, technology without people is useless. So, in looking at how we transform our economy and how we integrate the greater and more effective use of technology, we must look at people. So, we start Day III of t.h.i.s by discussing the future of work in both the private and public sectors; Our final session, we hope, will demonstrate that we are not starting from a blank canvas. In fact, there is much innovation happening in T&T already. So, we will hear from some of the people who are leading that in our final segment on Wednesday afternoon, Creating Tomorrow, Today.
These sessions will highlight and hopefully spark conversation and greater collaboration on where we are right now in our digital transformation journey, where we should be heading, and the steps we need to take now to ensure that we get there and move beyond!
We must thank our Session Sponsors: Caribel; Atlantic Lng; Visa; KPMG; SAP; PBS Technologies and The National Gas Company (NGC) for partnering with us this year on these sessions and recognizing the importance of these topics.
Ultimately, this is the challenge AMCHAM T&T has taken on particularly with t.h.i.s.
We want to build a national tech ecosystem and marketplace that will allow local businesses to export tech services to international markets.
We want to develop a critical mass of local talent and put the established businesses in touch with the young disruptors who are paving the way for the future so that they can work together on solutions that take us beyond the “now” problems.
So, we will untangle the hose. And, at some point, we find the key knot. The knot after which we untangle, the entire thing seems to come free.
Let’s dream, let’s build, let’s innovate and let’s lead with Technology so the lives of every citizen are made up of fewer inequalities and more opportunities in the future.
We could make it if we try just a little harder; a little differently.
If we just give one more try, life will be much sweeter.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.