Elizabeth Ammon

From left, Elizabeth Ammon, vice-president of C&W Business; Kurleigh Prescod, country manager/managing director at Columbus Communications Trinidad Ltd; Vel Lewis, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of National Security; Donna Cox, Minister of Communications and Asif Ali, acting PS, Ministry of Health at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain last Friday.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS operator C&W Business, whose parent company owns 49 per cent of majority State-owned TSTT, last week launched a unified communication platform named One Government, which is designed to allow employees of government ministries to call each other from any part of the country, region or world on an extension-to-extension basis for free.

Speaking at the launch event at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Port of Spain on Friday night, senior director of C&W Business, Elizabeth Ammon, said the communications solution allows the integration and interoperability across a number of ministries and government agencies “with diverse mandates, varying systems and technologies and a myriad of processes”.

She said, for example, that the One Government solution would allow the Ministry of Health to contact all the Regional Health Authorities in a critical situation by just a click of a button, which allow a message from the head office to be securely broadcasted to all relevant parties in the designated group.

For RHAs, incoming-call reports can use information on frequency of calls by the public to certain areas, e.g. with questions on non-communicable diseases. The communication team can start campaigns to inform the public pro-actively on avoidance and treatment.

The system facilitates the administrators and staff of all the RHAs to communicate with each other hassle-free and at no charge, including video conferencing and remotely out of the country, she said.

The technology allows the coordination of a video conference with up to 200 participants across ministries via video or voice using their mobile, laptop or phone line. The conference call can then be recorded and shared with authorised users.

The telecommunications’ executive noted that the technology facilitates the analysis of call information for more informed decision-making. This would allow, in the health sector, for better distribution and monitoring of extensions, for example around emergency calls and dispatching.

Ammon said the unified communication technology would allow a foreign service officer posted overseas to call the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs in Port of Spain and public servants in related ministries such as National Security and Ministry of the Attorney General & Legal Affairs.

Explaining the technology that operates the platform in an interview after the function, Ammon said: “It is based on a meta switch system that is in a virtual data centre, allowing users to access all of the systems and features remotely, from the Cloud.”

Asked how would C&W Business recover its costs, if the service is free, Ammon said: “There are different components of this system. There is the component that you have to use in order to get the system to work and then there is the toll component. It is on the usage component that the Government has free extension to extension.”

Questioned on how C&W Business would make money from the service, she said: “There is a charge that each ministry has to pay monthly, but it is not the toll charge. The monthly charge depends on the ministry and the number of users.”

C&W Business is a sister company to Flow, the cable company, in the Caribbean and both of them are now owned by Liberty Latin American, after that company’s parent Liberty Global completed the acquisition of Cable & Wireless Communications in May 2016. Cable & Wireless Communications acquired Columbus Communications, the parent company of Flow in March 2015.

Responding to a question on whether there had been resistance from the Government to the new service, given that it is a 51-per cent shareholder in TSTT and C&W Business is wholly owned by a US company, Ammon said: “From my area of the business, we do not. We do have a number of government clients.”

Another staffer at the function disclosed that C&W Business has between 55 and 65 per cent of the Government’s business “and that’s increasing.”

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