Caribbean governments commit to establishing 21st Century Governments

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Heads of Government and their representatives attending the 21st Century Government Summit endorsed and expressed their commitment to establishing 21st Century Government in their respective countries.

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, in collaboration with the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD), hosted a Summit to present to regional Heads of Government the principles of 21st Century Government, the goal of which is to accelerate government and public service transformation and thereby strengthen economic competitiveness and promote sustainable development.

A three-day Symposium, designed to prepare public sector practitioners for the work that has to be done to establish 21st Century Governments, followed the Summit from 17th to 19th January.

Delivering the feature address, and calling on his regional counterparts to take up the mantle to lead the transformation process, Dr. The Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell stated, “As leaders, we must lead the process. That is our responsibility. We must use our power to make the paradigm shift to break from our traditional mindset, practices and methods of engaging our citizens. We must embrace information and communication technologies to transform and make the relationship with our government and citizens more effective and efficient.”

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Hon. Gaston Browne, in his welcome address to his fellow Heads indicated his full support for the 21st Century Government initiative. Prime Minister Browne stated “The Caribbean Telecommunication Union’s focus on 21st Century Government, starting with this Summit, is timely, welcomed and important. My government fully supports this initiative, as is evident by the work already being undertaken through the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Telecommunications and Information Technology in Antigua and Barbuda.” E-government services introduced in Antigua and Barbuda include border control and visa application systems, ASYCUDA World System, digitization and automation of business registries, onshore and offshore, land registry system and the driver’s license renewal system.

Calling on Caribbean Governments to support and transition to 21st Century Government, with urgency, Prime Minister Browne further stated, “For the entire CTU Member States and territories, our future will be a journey with many steps; our future requires us today to take steps that are definitely current and, I dare say, urgent.” “Antigua and Barbuda therefore re-iterates and endorses this initiative and I encourage all of my colleagues to avail themselves of the guidance and support of the CTU.”

As she continued to sound the clarion call, Ms. Bernadette Lewis, Secretary General of the CTU, in her opening address, painted a picture of the current situation and state of technology in the region using the analogy of a horse-drawn carriage.

“Imagine for a moment a horse-drawn carriage moving at 20km per hour on the busiest highway where the speed of the other vehicles is 100km an hour. Imagine the chaos and peril that would result. One horse-drawn carriage on the highway would snarl all traffic and bring it to a crawl. The horse-drawn carriage is anachronistic in the era of modern cars and smooth highways.”
She continued, “This is what many Caribbean governments seem to be doing, to the peril of their citizens, they are taking their countries on the information super highway using horse-drawn carriages.”

She concluded by urging regional leaders to affirm their commitment to and adoption of 21st Century Government. “Heads of Government, at the end of this Summit, we would like to know that you are convinced in your mind of the need to embrace 21st Century Government. We would like to know that you are prepared to champion the move to 21st Century Government. We would like to be assured that you are prepared to collaborate and cooperate with your colleagues in the adoption of 21st Century Government.”

The representatives of Estonia, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Rein Lang, and of Georgia, Minister of Justice, Ms. Thea Tsulukiani, gave outstanding presentations on what has been achieved in e-Government in their respective countries, both of which are rated in the top e-government countries in the world.

The Summit ended on a high note with a round-table discussion of Heads of Government who endorsed 21st Century Government. This set the stage for the three-day Symposium that followed.