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The Registrar General's Department- the third largest government revenue earner for The Bahamas - announced last Thursday that it planned to fully incorporate e-commerce into its services, as it envisioned this technological advancement would augment its anticipated $30 million in revenue this year.

In addition to company services already available online, Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Minister of Financial Services and Investments, launched the first phase of a series of automation projects expected to be completed by January 1, 2006. She announced that the deeds and documents section of the Registrar General's Department was fully automated and would be available to the public online effective June 1, with records dating back to 1993. She said, "Customers will be able to perform electronic searches of the index of Deeds and Documents from 1993 to the present" - a service that would be available at "a bank" of terminals at the Registrar's department for public use or, of course, from a computer anywhere with Internet access.

In the future she said, "If you wish to access information from home, in the same way you would go to any website, you would use your credit card to buy access time." She added that the Central Bank of The Bahamas is working on making such real time payment methods available in conjunction with the clearing banks. However, in the meantime, payments would initially have to be made on an account at the Registry, and then users would have the option of accessing the information on a Registry computer, or elsewhere - for example, at home.

Mrs Maynard-Gibson also spoke about the conveniences of customers' ability to conduct business online, and cited more efficient networking. "If you live in New Providence, you will not have to come down here to the Registrar General's Department to conduct searches. If you live in Ragged Island, you will not have to fly to New Providence to conduct searches. You may do it from your own community.

"The biggest benefit [to the Registrar General] is to clearly demonstrate that The Bahamas is a leading international financial centre, serious about e-business in all of its aspects, and fully in the twenty-first century," said Mrs Gibson about the technological improvements of the department under her ministerial portfolio.

Although no conclusive studies have been undertaken to determine by how much the new online services will boost the revenue of the government department, Mrs Maynard-Gibson indicated that significant earnings are expected. According to her, "The Registrar General's Department is the third largest revenue earner for government, and we project this year that we will earn almost $30 million dollars, and that is without all of this online. I'm sure we will be able to significantly increase that once we have online facilities."

The minister felt certain that the automated system will be fully utilised by customers, based on the trend in the accessing of company information already available online. "Registered agents for the most part are using the facility online," which is currently also a free service.

Hundreds of thousands of documents by 2006

"By January 1, 2006, all of the services available at the Registrar General's Department will be available electronically and online," said Mrs Maynard-Gibson.

The minister outlined that a slew of automated projects is expected to come on stream by the end of this year, all of which would be launched and beta tested in phases. The roster for completion of these projects is expected to unfold as outlined:

  • June 1 - Deeds and documents
  • July 30 – Births
  • September 30 – Deaths and Adoptions
  • October 30 – Marriages
  • December 1 – Industrial Properties

By the end of the year, the completed launch of each phase will result in "hundreds of thousands" of documents being made available online, as well as an economic enhancement of the e-government initiative.

"The search fee right now [for Deeds and Documents] is $10 dollars [per hour for online users]," which the minister said will remain "for the moment." In the future, as service and technological demands grow, along with higher efficiency, she suggested that the fee could increase. "I emphasise "for the moment" because we are satisfied that once users see how wonderful it is, they will urge us to increase the fee, so that we can buy more IBM technology and better connectivity."

A committee was established to advise the Minister on the process and to oversee the efficient running of the automated system. The committee is chaired by Debbie Williams-Hancock, and also includes Bryan Glinton (co-chair and legal advisor), Maria Ferrere (connectivity committee), Wendy Warren and Phillipa Delancy (process engineering related to workflow), Al Dillette and Andrea Myers (publicity committee), Philip Simon (public awareness/education), and Sharon Brown (fees committee).

Autor: Barry Williams

Quelle: The Nassau Guardian, 30.05.2005

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