Junior Minister for Tourism Hon. Sharie B. deCastro is leading a delegation at the Seventh Ministerial Conference on the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Hon. deCastro is leading the delegation on behalf of Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie. The three-day conference concludes tomorrow, November 26.
In an address at the opening ceremony on Monday, November 23, Hon. deCastro explained that in March 2020, when the Territory, confirmed its first cases of COVID
-19, the Government had to develop an immediate response to prevent community spread. She said further consideration was given to the economic impact of the measures taken to prevent the disease from spreading.
The Junior Minister said that it became evident that a post-COVID
-19 environment would necessitate the digital transformation of Government and the Territory, a top priority on the Government’s agenda.
“For the Virgin Islands, we recognise that digital transformation must go farther, than e-services; it must enable the collection of relevant and timely data that can be used for management and policy decisions. It must be people-centred in order to genuinely impact the lives of the people of the Virgin Islands for the better,” Honourable deCastro stated.
She further added, “Therefore, the transition into e-Government will be accelerated so that we can enhance the services available online: e-billing, online payment and online bookings and eCommerce.”
The Junior Minister said looking at digital transformation of Government means going beyond the initial work undertaken to consolidate public-facing websites and developing some online service delivery. She said for the Virgin Islands, it means focusing on:
Enabling automation of our operations, yielding operational efficiencies, such as reduction of transaction costs, with an impact on productivity.
Enhancing the delivery of public services and the experience by ensuring they are customer-focused Improving the way our citizens, residents, businesses and tourists interact with Government, and, access to information whilst promoting transparency, accountability and giving our people a voice Impacting human relationships and behaviour by facilitating social inclusion and communication and Ensuring the digital space is accessible, safe and secure for everyone.
Honourable deCastro said the areas of focus will support the Territory’s economic and social development even in the absence of the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP), which is currently being developed under the leadership of the Premier’s Office.
She said as the Government of the Virgin Islands continues to move forward in this New Regular living and working with COVID
-19, its vision is to transform the Territory into a leading regional economy through innovation, entrepreneurship and local and foreign investment by 2025.
The Junior Minister further explained that the vision for the Digital Transformation of the Territory is being led by the Premier’s Office. She said and that the digital transformation of Government aligns with the vision for the transformation of the Territory and mirrors the wider Public Service Transformation Programme vision of delivering the digitalisation of Government ensuring it is respected, trusted, and efficient, and, puts people at the centre.
The virtual conference was organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Government of Ecuador. Countries represented include Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Costa Rica
, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, Peru, Barbados, Uruguay, among others.
The leaders are analysing the role of digital technologies in light of the COVID
-19 pandemic and are debating the policy priorities on digital matters and defining a new digital agenda.
The high-level discussions include digital technologies in recovery; universalisation of digital technologies for social inclusion; policy coherence and digital integration in Latin America and the Caribbean; productive transformation and skills in the digital age.
Other areas to be discussed include the potential of digital technologies for changing the dynamics of production in SMEs; data innovation for measuring the digital economy; the rise of e-commerce amid the pandemic and future challenges; Latin American Economic Outlook 2020: digital transformation for building back better; and, women's autonomy in the digital economy.
The other members of the local delegation include Senior Policy Analyst Lizette George, Director of Information Technology Mrs. Annabelle Skelton-Malone and Director of Communications Arliene T. Penn.