St. Vincent and the Grenadines is currently being positioned to make better use of advancing technologies to strengthen the economy of this country through improved efficiency in the way government conducts business with the public.
This expected improved efficiency will come through the implementation of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines leg of the Caribbean Digital Transformation Project (CARDTP) which is also being carried out in several OECS countries, namely: Grenada, St. Lucia, and Dominica.
Over the past two years, significant work has been done on the 30 million US dollars, World Bank-sponsored, five-year project which Project Coordinator, Winston George, describes as the use of information communication technology to transform and deliver digital public services.
According to George, “it is envisioned that at the end of the successful implementation of this project, a farmer who may want to pay his drivers’ licence but is in his lands, would be able to do so without having to leave his field once he has the mobile internet connectivity.” In addition to providing digital public services to citizens and businesses, the project also aims to make government operations more efficient.
Stakeholders include: the government, citizens, businesses, and regional partners such as the OECS, ECTEL, ECCB, and CARICOM IMPACS who play a role in the implementation of the project. Several government departments also play a major role in the implementation of the project which is being coordinated by the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning, and Information Technology.
Departments that are directly involved with the implementation of the project include: the Information Technology Services Division (ITSD), Customs and Excise, the Civil registry, Land registry, Land and Surveys department, the Electoral and Passport offices and the Treasury. These departments are expected to contribute and benefit significantly from the implementation of this project.
Meanwhile, Vincentians have already begun making transactions under this project as they use the point of sales (POS) system at the Inland Revenue Department (IRD), and Customs & Excise Department where they can make payments using their debit or credit cards and at CIPO where they can use their cards as well as pay online.
Activities being done at the regional level which will impact what is being done in St Vincent and the Grenadines, include the development of the necessary policy, legal and regulatory frameworks, as well as the provision of other support to the project. George notes that “at the ECCB level, they are looking at the E-Payment system, the establishment of an instant payment system that would accommodate various modes of digital payment.” He says they are also addressing the matter of data protection and privacy.
The issue of cyber security is also getting attention at the regional level. However, according to the Project Coordinator, “at the national level, SVG is expected to set up a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), which will provide cybersecurity support and mitigate against potential security issues such as attempted hacking, etc.” He notes that at the national level, they are just about completing a digital transformation strategy. Consultations have been held with various stakeholders and they are now finalizing the draft Digital Transformation Strategy and currently doing some validation of the strategy.
The infrastructure network is being worked on; this includes the establishment of a data centre for which a site to house the centre is currently being looked at. Other major areas being looked at under the project include: the setting up of a tax information management system, and an electronic single window for trade facilitation to be operated from the Customs and Excise Department and rolled out across sixteen (16) border agencies. According to George, “we are in the process now at looking at the digitization of paper deeds, the land records. Construction is currently being done on a place to digitize those records. We are in the process of getting the delivery of the equipment to do that digitization.”
The Digital Transformation Project financing agreement was signed between the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the World Bank in June 2021. Work on the project commenced in November 2021. It is expected to run for five years.