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The Power of Technology in a Time of Crisis

Maria Thompson Walters

The Power of Technology in a Time of Crisis

By Maria Thompson Walters

The current interregnum in public-sector operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need for greater use of information and communication technologies(ICTs) in the public sector.

The Government of Jamaica can no longer rely solely on hundreds of hard copy files to enable the provision of services, be that services to itself (internal), or to the public. Therefore, the government must accelerate public sector transformation as soon as the public health situation allows to ensure that, should a similar crisis land on our beautiful shores, the public sector can continue to operate at full throttle, powered by technology. The thinking here is that every government entity should include transformation of their operations in their strategic plans.

The fact is, the introduction of ICT systems in government should be embraced since we know that these systems are enablers of the efficient provision of public services. For example, the integrated HR and payroll system – MyHR+, being rolled out across the public sector, holds the potential to transform the way HR and payroll departments operate. The system is accessible anytime and from anywhere, with the requisite security protocols. What this means is that, in a time like this with non-essential public sector workers working from home, payrolls can be managed offsite and employees do not have to expose themselves to undue risk in order to undertake payroll tasks such as updating allowances, processing claims and running payrolls. Additionally, all HR and payroll approvals can be done online and the business of government can continue with minimal disruption to its process. For employees, they can access and request services through MyHR+ without leaving their homes.

In the meantime, ministries, departments and agencies must be connected in a seamless way to reduce the costs of ICT services and enable greater sharing of data and information in a secure environment. The long awaited single public sector network “GovNet” must be rolled out to ensure the much-needed ICT infrastructure for government.

GREATER ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY NEEDED

Every single government entity must examine their processes and procedures to make better use of technology. The undergirding principle should be focused on the customer and this principle should be built into processes, rules and guidelines. Staff must have access to technology and equipment to enable them to be innovative and comfortable with technology-driven service delivery.

A digital government is predicated on greater access to technology by the wider citizenry. It makes little sense to have a digital government when citizens cannot access the services because they are ‘digitally poor.’ So, the work of entities such as the Universal Service Fund is of great significance in bridging the digital divide.

Technology is not a panacea, but it holds the promise to revolutionise the provision of public services and with its proper use, we can do so much more as a country to serve the needs of every Jamaican.

Maria Thompson Walters is the Executive Director of the Transformation Implementation Unit. Email: letusknow@transformation.gov.jm

      This Post Has 4 Comments

      1. I embrace your comment that ‘staff must have access to technology and equipment to enable them to be innovative and comfortable with technology-driven service delivery’. However, Government often lacks the financial and human resource capabilities to quickly and efficiently develop digital tools that can support people. I suggest that the Government consider building partnerships with private technology companies, national and international organizations etc…. to soften the impact of any crisis. This COVID19 crisis has really put public services under much stress and has brought new needs for digital government services and more demand on existing services.

        1. We appreciate that you want to see a more technologically-driven public sector and we agree that better digital tools are needed to improve service delivery in the Government of Jamaica (GOJ). Under our Public Sector Transformation Programme, we have established the Public Sector Efficiency and ICT pillar that focuses on improving communication infrastructure across the GOJ. To execute all our projects, we partner with public and private sector entities. Two very important ICT projects set to come on stream are GovNet and the upgrade of the data centre. The Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology is also rolling out some exciting projects to assist the digital transformation of government and enable wider access to the Internet for ordinary Jamaicans.

      2. As an aspiring IT professional I can whole heartedly agree with the suggestions of this publication, and feel the need to express my delight in the light that is finally shone on the sector.

        Ps. This is really well written.

        1. We are happy to hear that you found this article beneficial. We have a lot of upcoming ICT projects and initiatives that will enable a more effective and efficient public service for all, so we encourage you to follow this space to see all our latest updates.

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