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The government is "keenly aware" of the complaints of the Bahamian public regarding the quality of government services, and Minister of State for Finance James Smith hopes e-government can improve that quality.

The Minister launched the Bahamas Government Online (BGOL) logo on Thursday afternoon, and gave an update on how the initiative has progressed thus far.

Mr. Smith said that improvement in efficiency through the use of information technology, improved delivery of government services to the public and improved use of government resources and reduction in the cost of doing government business are all advantages of e-government.

A more compelling argument, however, is customer service.

"Above all else, e-government can help to transform the traditional relationship between the public and the government. In that regard, the focus would now be on the customer and his or her needs," Mr. Smith said.

"The need for speedy, reliable and convenient services from the government would now be priority as a deliverable. This change of emphasis would be new for The Bahamas, where traditionally the public is required to wait until the government agencies are ready to deal with their matter."

Wayde Watson, deputy coordinator for Information Technology, explained that there are three phases envisioned in the five-year plan – the information phase, the interactivity phase, and the transaction phase.

Mr. Watson said BGOL is now in the information phase, and that it will be some time before the next phase begins.

"If you follow the trend, e-government is handled in stages. Right now we are providing information. In the second phase we look to be a little more interactive, and then hopefully in the third phase, where we are aiming to get, we want to be a little bit more transactional," he explained.

"So currently, we want to provide more information to citizens and residents and the business community via the ‘bahamas.gov.bs’ website."

Mr. Watson said the BGOL project is a five-year project, but noted that within 18 months the ministry hopes to have postal tracking, public access terminals and a labour skills bank.

Mr. Smith said that if the Bahamas government is to remain relevant to its stakeholders – the public – then it is imperative that the government modernize its communications techniques by expanding the use of information and communications technology.

E-government, Mr. Smith reiterated, should allow greater public access to government information while at the same time making the government more accountable to the citizens of the country.

Rowena Bethel, legal advisor in The Ministry of Finance, stressed the fact that e-government, through the BGOL initiative, will require more than just a technology shift. Cultural, business and legal issues must also be addressed.

Mr. Watson explained that one such legal issue is the need for Cabinet approval before the Ministry can launch an Information Technology Academy at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute. The ministry hopes to offer that IT Academy this fall.

Regarding the public access terminals, Mr. Watson explained that they would be located in six libraries in New Providence, plus the Chapter One Bookstore at the College of the Bahamas.

On another note, the Financial Secretary, Ruth Millar, advised that the budget for the initiative could be identified under the budgeted expenditures for the Ministry of Finance in the 2006/2007 budget.

Autor(en)/Author(s): Quincy Parker

Quelle/Source: The Bahama Journal, 14.07.2006

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